How to become an Archaeologist

Archaeologists study past human societies by recovering, recording, analysing and interpreting material remains and other important evidence, such as cultural artefacts, food remains, skeletal remains, environmental evidence and landscapes.

Personal requirements for an Archaeologist

  • Patient, determined and able to persevere
  • An eye for detail
  • Enjoy science and history
  • Enthusiasm for research
  • Strong writing skills
  • Aptitude for working with computers
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Prepared to endure potentially rough and isolated living conditions for extended periods while involved in fieldwork
  • Able to remain objective

Education & Training for an Archaeologist

To become an archaeologist you usually have to complete a degree at university with a major in archaeology, followed by a postgraduate qualification in archaeology or cultural heritage. To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.


Duties & Tasks of an Archaeologist

Archaeologists:

  • Liaise with Indigenous and non-Indigenous community groups
  • Survey, map and record archaeological sites
  • Organise and carry out excavations, field surveys and surface collections
  • Clean, conserve, restore, reconstruct and display material found at archaeological sites
  • Photograph or draw features and artefacts on site and during post-excavation analysis
  • Analyse findings through a variety of means, including physical and chemical techniques and documentary research
  • Document the information obtained from the findings in a concise report
  • Advise individuals and groups on heritage matters, including conservation options and legal provisions
  • Prepare material for publication.

Tasks

  • Carries out examination, documentation and preservation of artifacts..
  • Uses aerial photography to locate sites that are suitable for excavation and/or digging (for artifacts)..
  • Writes reports about the data and findings for publication..
  • Plans and organises surveys and excavations within a particular archaeological site..
  • Creates virtual simulations of how artifacts or archaeological sites would have looked in the past..
  • Conducts field work (digging for artifacts) using tools such as pickaxes, brushes and bulldozers..
  • Performs analysis and interpretation of archaeological data and findings..

Working conditions for an Archaeologist

Archaeologists may work with a variety of people on excavations, including Indigenous groups, academics from related areas, technical staff, people who live in the vicinity of the archaeological sites, labourers and other workers under their direction. Archaeologists are increasingly using technologies such as geophysical survey devices, geographic information systems (GIS), web-based communication platforms and global positioning system (GPS) devices. Archaeologists work both indoors and outdoors, in varying locations across Australia and internationally.


Employment Opportunities for an Archaeologist

Traditionally, archaeologists were mainly employed as academics in universities and museums. Many archaeologists in Australia are employed in the cultural heritage management field and use their expertise to minimise the impacts of development projects on sites of cultural heritage significance. A variety of government departments, Indigenous groups and representative bodies employ archaeologists in this capacity, while some are employed as researchers in universities. Although competition for positions is strong, in recent years there has been an increasing demand for qualified graduates. Most of this demand comes from cultural heritage firms working in the development industry. Undertaking voluntary work during your degree may increase the possibility of gaining a job in this field. Many universities offer field schools and volunteer or work placement opportunities to help students gain such experience.


Specializations

Archaeologists may specialise in particular geographic regions or areas of study, such as the identification of animal skeletal or plant remains.


Archaeologist

Archaeologists study past human societies by recovering, recording, analysing and interpreting material remains and other important evidence, such as cultural artefacts, food remains, skeletal remains, environmental evidence and landscapes.

  • Average age
    Average age
    41 years
  • Future Growth
    Future Growth
    Moderate
  • Gender Share
    Gender Share
    51% female
  • Average full-time
    Average full-time
    44 hours
  • Weekly Pay
    Weekly Pay
    $1,942
  • Skill level rating
    Skill level rating
    Very high skill
  • Unemployment
    Unemployment
    Lower unemployment
  • Full-Time Share
    Full-Time Share
    76% Full-Time
  • Employment Size
    Employment Size
    430 workers
  • Employment Size
    Employment by state
    ACT: 6.1%
    NSW: 39.0%
    NT: 0.0%
    QLD: 8.2%
    SA: 3.1%
    TAS: 3.1%
    VIC: 29.8%
    WA: 10.8%
  • Employment Size
    Age brackets
    15-19: 0%
    20-24: 5%
    25-34: 27.7%
    35-44: 27.9%
    45-54: 21.7%
    55-59: 8.5%
    60-64: 5.4%
    65 and Over: 3.8%
  • Employment Size
    Education level
    Advanced Diploma/Diploma: 0%
    Bachelor degree: 56.4%
    Certificate III/IV: 0%
    Post Graduate/Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 40.9%
    Year 10 and below: 0%
    Year 11: 0%
    Year 12: 2.7%
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