What can you do with Archaeology?

So, you’ve received your offers to study archaeology, and you may have already decided on your firm choice. This is when you start asking yourself… but what can I do with archaeology? Or at least, that’s what I started thinking when I was at your stage. Granted, this was mostly a result of friends and family asking me questions like “so, are you just going to be digging in the mud then?” or “oh archaeology, that’s interesting… what will you do?”, and as I hadn’t studied archaeology before, I was at a somewhat panicked loss at what the answers were.

It’s a good question, and the obvious answer is “well… I guess I can be an archaeologist”. Perhaps if you gave it more thought, you might return with an answer related to having a career in museum work, or teaching.


This is where I must be the bearer of bad news… unfortunately we don’t become Indiana Jones.



Don’t get me wrong, those are great choices (and if you can master wearing a fedora and using a whip – by all means follow your dreams). What you might not be aware of, are the vast amount of skills and experience you can gain through studying archaeology, and the number of careers this can lead into!


Archaeology has helped me develop some really valuable skills, which are crucial for future employment. Here are just a few I feel I’ve developed over my time studying archaeology:

  1.  Teamwork – this is a key one, and something that the department really focuses on. We’re encouraged (particularly in first-year) to work in groups, from a presentation in a seminar to excavation.
  2. Communication – the course aims to build up our confidence in communication skills to the point where we feel capable to chair a seminar. This seemed really daunting to me in first year, but from contributing in seminars and presenting, my communication skills have really improved!
  3. Self-motivation – this is so important, and develops as a result of being set certain amounts of reading per week, with a few labelled ‘key reading’ and others ‘further reading’. I always try to complete some of the further reading, to get a better grasp of the topic, and trust me – it pays off!
  4. Organisation – the course tends not to ‘spoon-feed’ you, which is great in getting your organisational skills in check. As a result of being responsible for ensuring I complete all of my work in time, I’ve become much better at time management!

Careers and Alumni:

The High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) is set to turn archaeology into a boom career – with a large number of archaeologists required to excavate as part of the project. However, archaeology can lead into a number of other careers. To those who’ve attended one of our visit days, you may remember from the welcome talk the following alumni from our department who have gone on to work in a variety of careers!


Greg Jenner – Media Historical Consultant for Horrible Histories


Sophy Charlton – Researcher at the Natural History Museum

 Rebecca Morris – Finds Liason Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme

If you want to find out more about careers in archaeology, check out the alumni profiles.

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I'm currently a third year archaeology student at the University of York. I'm a member of several committees, such as the Archaeology society and RAG and I enjoy involving myself in the amazing events these societies put on! As an archaeology student, I also enjoy immersing myself in the incredible history within York.