Archaeologists Job roles, responsibilities, descriptions and duties

Date of posting: 13 Jan 20

What are the job roles and responsibilities of an Archaeologists?

Archaeologists study past human activity by excavating and interpreting objects and sites of historical interest. They implement excavation projects, informally known as digs, preserve archaeological remains and collect data that tells them about their understanding of the past.

Major responsibilities of the job include:

  • using methods to locate excavation sites, surveys and aerial photography

  • examining, documenting and preserving artifacts

  • using computer applications such as geographical information systems (GIS) to interpret sites

  • Producing and maintaining written drawn records

  • writing reports and papers for publication

  • mathematical, statistical and computational modeling

Although archaeological fieldwork usually takes place in teams, it is possible to work on a self-employed basis. Temporary contracts are common. You could be doing your work outdoors at an excavation or site inspection or indoors in an office or museum.

Typical employers of archaeologists

  • National organizations such as English Heritage, National Trust, Historic Scotland and Cadw (the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly)

  • Museums

  • Professional and commercial developers and consultancies

  • Educational or research institutions

  • Archaeological field units or trusts, which could be attached to universities, local authorities or commercial organizations

  • Archaeological societies and organizations

Archaeologists may work in many different roles and specializations according to practical expertise or particular periods of the past. These specializations may, in turn, allow archaeologists to work in other fields, such as forensic investigation of modern crimes.

Qualifications and training required

While academic qualifications are not always required, most paid employees have an archaeological degree. Many careers in archaeology require outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications due to the fierce level of competition. It is also worth noting than earning a good salary in archaeology without a degree may be difficult. Whatever the role, the archaeological experience is essential. 

Key skills for archaeologists

  • Meticulous attention to detail

  • Written communication skills

  • Accurate recording and reporting skills

  • An inquisitive mind

  • Ability to extract and analyze data

  • Presentation skills

  • Good time management

  • Flexibility in terms of location