Archaeologist Degree: Careers, Salaries and What To Expect

Updated 19 April 2023

Studying archaeology may be ideal for you if you enjoy history and learning about ancient cultures. Getting a degree in archaeology makes you qualified for pursuing many interesting careers or gives you an option to stay at the university as a lecturer. Understanding what can you do with your degree is critical to successfully planning your career and accomplishing your professional goals. In this article, we explain what an archaeologist degree is, explore how long it takes to become an archaeologist, show you what you can expect from studying archaeology and list some careers that you may pursue.

What is an archaeologist degree?

An archaeologist degree is a degree that can help you expand your knowledge of ancient cultures and strengthen your skills in processes, analysis, computing and methods related to archaeology. It covers everything that has to do with the human past, from origins to contemporary archaeology. As an archaeology student, you may get involved in conducting research, writing reports and essays. You can also expect to take part in fieldwork and complete placement programmes at various facilities, such as museums.

Related: A Beginner's Guide To Earning Your Undergraduate Degree

How long does it take to complete a degree in archaeology?

Typically, an undergraduate archaeology degree takes three years to complete, but some universities also offer a fourth year during which they offer you a professional placement as a part of their internship programmes. Most undergraduate courses have a similar first year, which teaches you basic methods and theories. Starting from the second year, your university may give you the option to choose which modules you'd like to study. For example, they may require you to choose between studying prehistory or historical archaeology.

If you're thinking about getting a Master's degree in archaeology, universities may require that you have some background in a related subject, such as history. Most graduate courses in archaeology take around a year to complete, but graduate courses at some universities may take up to four years.

Related: How To Apply for a Master's Degree in 12 Simple Steps

What to expect from studying archaeology?

If you're considering studying archaeology, you can expect to attend a combination of lectures where you'd learn the theory and seminars where you'd work in small groups during hands-on learning activities. You may also have a chance to participate in excavations. Studying archaeology often involves engaging in individual research, for which you'd spend a lot of time in the library. Most universities offer their students opportunities to travel abroad, for example, to Greece and Egypt, where they learn about ancient history.

You may consider studying archaeology as a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BSc (Bachelor of Science). Choosing a BA course typically means that you'd learn more theory and spend more time in lectures, whereas a BSc requires you to do more practical research and lab work. They both prepare you for working in an independent role and teach you how to assess, collect and analyse primary excavation data. Here are some core undergraduate archaeology modules:

  • Introduction to archaeological science

  • Introduction to Roman, Greek or social archaeology

  • Early Mediaeval archaeology of Britain

  • Deep history of human societies

  • Texts in archaeology

  • Essential archaeological methods

  • Prehistory to the present

  • Artefacts and materials

  • Patterns of the past

  • People and environments

  • Archaeological theory

  • Field archaeology and methods

  • Current issues in archaeological theory

  • Archaeological illustration and imaging

  • Palaeobotany

  • Business law

Related: What does an archaeologist do? (Duties, salary and careers)

Advantages of studying archaeology

Here are some advantages of studying archaeology:

You can gain a deeper understanding of the humankind

Essentially, working as an archaeologist requires that you expand your knowledge to better understand cultures from all around the world. Studying archaeology may give you a chance to learn about the cultural differences of ancient civilisations and how those differences reflect on today's societies. In other words, it's a great way to gain a deeper understanding of human nature.

It's an unusual degree

There aren't many degrees that allow you to travel to foreign countries and take part in excavations. As an archaeology student, you may have a chance to travel, assist historians and archaeologists during excavations and learn about ancient cultures through hands-on work. If you choose a course that offers a professional placement programme, you may find yourself working alongside some of the most accomplished professionals in the field and assisting them as they perform their day-to-day duties.

Related: 8 Popular History Degree Jobs (Salary, Duties, Requirements)

It allows you to build a great academic degree

Archaeology is an inspiring and broad subject that gives you a chance to continue your education even after you've obtained your graduate degree. It's usually a great choice if you aspire to work towards a doctoral degree. Staying at the university gives you a chance to conduct research independently while having support from the academic staff, including more experienced archaeologists and researchers.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Academic CVs

Careers to pursue with an archaeology degree

Consider these interesting careers if you're working towards an archaeology degree:

1. Archaeologist

National average salary: £25,077 per year

Primary duties: Archaeologists study human history and cultures through participating in excavations. They're often responsible for identifying and interpreting objects that they find, preserving historical remains and educating others about human history. Although working in this profession may require you to take part in different types of fieldwork, it's also critical that you enjoy more theoretical work, such as conducting research, reporting on your findings and analysing archaeological data.

2. Museum curator

National average salary: £27,495 per year

Primary duties: As a museum curator, you may be responsible for buying and organising exhibitions. Your other common duties would involve working alongside conservators, other curators, art dealers and contemporary artists. If you're interested in working in this profession, getting a degree in archaeology may make you a better fit for working at a museum because it makes you qualified for arranging and overseeing the restoration of artefacts.

Related: How To Become a Museum Curator (Plus Salary and Job Info)

3. University lecturer

National average salary: £33,736 per year

Primary duties: A degree in archaeology often gives you a chance to stay at the university as a lecturer and teach students about various subjects related to your specialisation. As a lecturer, you'd be responsible for developing and delivering lectures, preparing exams and learning materials or helping your students while they learn how to conduct research. It's a great career if you enjoy working with people and supporting them to accomplish their academic and professional goals.

Read more: How Much Does a University Lecturer Make?

4. Historian

National average salary: £49,392 per year

Primary duties: Daily duties of a historian involve researching and studying the past. They analyse historical information to better understand the present. Many historians regularly engage in academic research and publish their works. If you're interested in pursuing this career path, you may consider choosing a specialisation. For instance, as a historian with a degree in archaeology, you may specialise in ancient history or focus on one territory, such as Asian or European history.

Related: What does a historian do? (Plus skills)

5. Heritage manager

National average salary: £31,855 per year

Primary duties: As a heritage manager, you'd conserve, manage and provide access to heritage sites, including landscapes, buildings, museums or ancient monuments. Your main responsibility would be to maintain the site in good condition and ensure visitors can enjoy it for years to come. It's important to note that many heritage managers oversee the work of other people who work at the building or museum, which means that to succeed in this role, you may need strong leadership skills.

Related: 10 Good Manager Qualities That Help Teams Succeed

6. Archivist

National average salary: £27,416 per year

Primary duties: Archivists are professionals who specialise in evaluating, selecting, retrieving and arranging historical materials, such as papers and records. They may work at research facilities or historic sites, where they answer enquiries and support the daily work of historians, researchers and archaeologists. Some archivists may also be responsible for organising talks and exhibitions or educating the public about the importance of preserving original documents and other materials.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.


  • What does a heritage manager do in their job day to day?


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