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What do archaeology graduates do? If you’ve never studied archaeology you might wonder what jobs are out there for those who take Archaeology as a subject at university. The fact is, an archaeology degree opens up a wide range of career opportunities in a variety of different fields. Archaeology is a uniquely broad subject that draws on methods used in the arts, humanities and sciences and includes both theoretical and practical perspectives. As an applied subject, our students learn to collect, analyse and interpret data using a range of analytical techniques and computer applications, as well as learning how to bring together different sources of information and analyse them critically to make your own conclusions. The collaborative nature of the subject also gives students experience of working as a team, and fosters a greater sense of responsibility for managing your own work. These are transferable skills that are valued by employers in many sectors, but what many people don’t realise is that an Archaeology degree can lead to a career in archaeology itself.

Archaeology is a thriving industry which since the 1990s has been integrated into the planning process in the UK and, as such, most archaeological work today is carried out in advance of development. As a result, many graduates gain employment as professional archaeologists, working for commercial companies (or ‘units’) on archaeological surveys and excavations ahead of major construction and development projects (such as national infra-structure projects like HS2). The range of roles open to graduates is incredibly varied and not limited just to ‘digging’ - a huge team of archaeologists with different skills are involved in these projects - from those specialising in surveying and geophysics, the analysis of human or animal bone, and artefacts such as pottery or coins, to photography, 3D photogrammetry and laser-scanning applied to objects, buildings or whole landscapes. Roles such as these provide an incredibly rewarding and exciting experience, developing your skills as an archaeologist and placing you at the forefront of new discoveries as they happen.

Several of our own recent graduates have been working for Oxford Archaeology on the Highways England A63 Castle Street road improvement scheme in Hull which requires the sensitive excavation of burials from the former Trinity Burial Ground. Chester Archaeology graduates, Sophie and Bronwen explain how their degrees prepared them for this role.

“After graduating from the University of Chester in 2020 with a BA (Hons) in Archaeology I was hired by Oxford Archaeology (OA) where I have been for 9 months now and have enjoyed a varied and challenging working environment. The role of commercial archaeologist has only been so enjoyable due to the level of knowledge I already had when joining the team. Without the incredible lecturers, modules and training excavations that I was able to participate in at university, I would have been woefully unprepared for life as a commercial archaeologist.” 

Make sure to read Sophie's graduate story

“My time at Chester helped me realise what I wanted to do with my career and provided me with the skills I needed to get into commercial archaeology. The Bioarchaeology module I took in my third year allowed me to develop my knowledge of human osteology which is something I use on a daily basis in my current job with Oxford Archaeology at Trinity Burial Ground. It’s also helped me to get a place to study an MSc in Bioarchaeology at the University of York this year, something which I’m really excited about and builds on my experience in Forensic Biology too.”

Bronwen, BA Archaeology and Forensic Biology (2019)

The preparation provided in our programme for a career in professional archaeology has recently been recognised by the accreditation of our BA (Hons) Archaeology degree programme by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) and University Archaeology UK (UAUK). This endorsement shows that our degree provides skills relevant to a career in the historic environment and recognises our broader commitment to developing the professional and transferable skills of all of our students. This is part of our ethos at the University of Chester, where you really can Get What Counts from your degree.

Of course, a wide range of other career paths are open to those with archaeology degrees. Some graduates go on to work in the heritage sector (in councils, museums and heritage organisations) helping to curate and present the past to wider audiences, or into further study for Masters-level or PhD qualifications. Others use the skills they have learnt to develop graduate careers in other sectors, such as the media, civil service, law, primary and secondary school education, accountancy, the police force and armed forces, or set up their own businesses. This is reflected in the most recent survey of what our students achieve after graduating. This showed that 82% of Chester Archaeology graduates were employed or in further study 15 months after graduation1 and that 70% of our graduates were in highly-skilled employment (a much higher percentage than archaeology graduates from our competitor institutions in the North-West and from other UK universities as a whole).

I hope this short post has shown you why an archaeology degree at Chester really can give you the foundation for a bright future! If you want to know more about what archaeologists do, the Council for British Archaeology’s Day in Archaeology showcases "a day in the life" of archaeologists from all over the UK. These snapshots provide a great introduction to the people who work in the discipline, the paths they took to get to where they are today and the numerous different roles they carry out. 

If you’re interested in studying archaeology, you can review our Archaeology course pages here and visit us at our Autumn Open Days here. Feel free to contact us for an informal chat or if you have specific questions.

At the University of Chester you can really Get What Counts from your degree. We'll get you connected to people who will help your career, get you skilled up to face the future with confidence, and offer you opportunity after opportunity to develop as a person and make memories that will last a lifetime. You'll look back, amazed at how far you've come.

Source 1: [Data from the most recent Graduate Outcomes survey, which surveyed the class of 2018/19, 15 months after graduation]

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