archaeological surveyor
Heritage, culture and libraries

Career outlook for archaeologist

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would dig up buildings and objects from the past and share what you learn from them so people can learn more about the past.

You'd carefully uncover old buried buildings, settlements and objects in archaeological digs. You'd look for traces of the people who lived there - things like pottery, jewellery, bones, coins, seeds and animal remains.

Your discoveries would help people understand more about how the past influences our lives today. You'd help to preserve the past by assessing what impact new developments will have on historic sites.

You would:

  • Identify possible sites to study with aerial photos, field-walks and surveys
  • Excavate old buried buildings, settlements and objects
  • Record finds and sites with photos, detailed notes and drawings
  • Identify, date and classify finds
  • Clean and preserve finds in a laboratory
  • Use laboratory analysis, for example carbon dating
  • Use computers to produce simulations of the way a site or artefact would have looked
  • Preserve industrial buildings
  • Check planning applications and identify the impact of development on archaeological sites
  • Make sure that important sites, buildings and monuments are protected and preserved
  • Classify, display and look after artefacts in a museum

You might also carry out research, write about your work for publication in books and journals or teach at a university or college.

You would probably focus on a particular geographical area, for example Ancient Egypt, a period of history like Roman, or a type of artefact such as pottery or coins.

Archaeologists work for a range of government agencies, public sector organisations and museums. Others work for small, independent units or are self-employed as consultants.

Working conditions


You will usually work around 37 hours a week, although this could vary if you are working on a dig. Temporary contracts are common.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Cooperating
  • Working with technology
  • Written communication
  • Observation
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Filtering
  • Developing a plan
  • Managing resources
  • Understanding

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


A degree (SCQF Level 9/10) in a relevant subject and postgraduate qualification (SCQF Level 11) in archaeology.

To enter an archaeology degree requires National 5s and four to five highers.

To enter an archaeology postgraduate qualifications usually requires an Honours Degree at 2:1 or above in a related subject.

Useful subjects

  • History
  • English
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Science subject

Helpful to have

Entry to an Archaeology degree is competitive. You will need qualifications and experience that show a strong interest in history, physical fitness and involvement in an outdoor activity such as involvement in Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) or volunteering on an excavation site.

See the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and Archaeology Scotland for more information.