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Last Updated: January, 2014

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Part time workers: 25%
Aged over 55: 14%
Male / Female: 13 / 87%
Non-Nationals: 15%
With Third Level: 93%
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At a Glance... header image

Searches for knowledge of the past by studying and digging for ancient artifacts.

The Work header image

Archaeologists study the human past through remains such as bones, textiles, pottery, tools, landscape features and buildings. They excavate, identify, record and conserve the remains. They also relate these remains to environmental evidence such as the climate and animal and plant life. They can then build a picture of life in various cultures throughout time.  
Archaeologists who do fieldwork usually work as part of a team, surveying or excavating. Surveying includes drawing maps and plans of an area to be excavated. Excavation normally involves supervising diggers, and photographing and cataloguing objects. The archaeologist must keep notes and take accurate measurements. They may need to use these details for written reports. In some cases, excavation may be long-term and the site arranged for the public to view. In other cases, archaeologists may work within a timescale to complete excavations before redevelopment begins.  
Most archaeologists specialise in a geographical region, a historical period or a type of artefact such as coins or pottery. Some archaeologists in museums and universities carry out research along with their other work. Those who work in museums need to make sure that exhibitions are presented well and that objects are protected from damage while on display.  
Some archaeologists work as advisers, often within local authorities where they help with problems such as whether or not new development projects will destroy an archaeological site. So, a lot of an archaeologist's time can be spent monitoring planning applications and plotting local sites onto maps. Others inspect ancient sites, monuments and historic buildings. Their role is to preserve conservation sites.

Experience is valuable - you can volunteer to assist in an archaeological dig over the summer holiday period before committing to a dedicated degree programme, as a way of testing your enthusiasm for the area.


Personal Qualitiesheader image

As an archaeologist, you need to be curious about the past and have patience and an eye for detail. You must be able to logically piece together information from findings. You need good practical skills to excavate carefully and to handle delicate objects. You also need physical stamina and a willingness to work in all weather conditions. You will need to be able to use a computer as they are often used to store details of finds.  
A driving licence is useful.

Entry Routesheader image

Entrants to Archaeology are usually graduates. Many will hold higher degrees, particularly those who wish to work in higher education. To become a licensed archaeologist, you must pass a competency interview. Licenses are granted by the Director of Monument Services at Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. 
Degree courses in Archaeology are offered by some of the universities. Archaeology is also available as a subject option within certain Bachelor of Arts programmes:

Archaeology as an honours degree programme (level 8) is available at UCD, UCC, and NUIG (GY101) where it is studied as part of a three-year B.A. and as a 4-year programme at TCD. 

UCD: DN500 offers the possibility of single-subject specialisation in archaeology in years two and three.

UCC and NUIG (GY101) both offer archaeology only as part of joint honours degrees with another subject, usually with geography or history. The first year in all three programmes comprises archaeology with three other subjects.

TCD offer a four-year honours (level 8) B.A. (TR001) in archaeology and ancient civilisations through the Classics Department. It is only offered as part of a joint honours degree with another subject.

All of the universities offer a range of taught master’s and research degrees in archaeology.

IT Sligo

As an alternative pathway, a 2-year level 6 higher certificate (SG403) is available at IT Sligo, as well as a 3-year  B.Sc. in Applied Archaeology (ordinary level 7) degree (SG438), and a 4-year B.Sc. (honours level 8) degree (SG446). 

The course at IT Sligo has been running since 2003 and is for serious would-be archaeologists.

Study Abroad

Archaeology is offered in Queen’s University Belfast and in most of the large universities in the UK, where there are many more options.

Archaeology is also taught at several universities across Europe but it is advisable to check the language requirements.

In the USA archaeology is considered a subdiscipline of anthropology.

As well as career opportunities in the academic world, employment opportunities for Aracheologists include:

  • Commercial archaeological companies [list];
  • Statutory bodies such as the National Roads Authority (NRA);
  • The state heritage sector (e.g OPW); Central government bodies such as the National Monuments Services
  • Local authorities and planning departments

Last Updated: November, 2015

Further Informationheader image

A detailed description of this occupation can be found on a number of online databases. Follow the link(s) below to access this information:

Note: you will be leaving the CareersPortal Site

Go..Archaeologist - from:  N.C.S. [UK]
Go..Archaeologist - from:  YouTube Video
Go..Archaeologist - from:  GradIreland
Go..Archaeologist / Antropologist - from:  YouTube Video

Related Occupationsheader image

Contactsheader image


Organisation: Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland
  Address: 63 Merrion Square, Dublin 2
  Tel: (01) 662 9517
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here


Organisation: Public Appointments Service
  Address: Chapter House, 26/30 Abbey Street Upper, Dublin 1
  Tel: (01) 858 7400 or Locall: 1890 44 9999
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here


Organisation: OPW - The Office of Public Works
  Address: Head Office Jonathan Swift Street Trim Co. Meath C15 NX36
  Tel: (046) 942 6000
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here


Organisation: National Monuments Service
  Address: Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Custom House Dublin 1
  Tel: (01) 888 2178
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here


Organisation: National Roads Authority
  Address: St Martin's House, Waterloo Road, Dublin 4
  Tel: (01) 660 2511
  Email: Click here
  Url Click here


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Career Guidance

This occupation is popular with people who have the following Career Interests...

...and for people who like working in the following Career Sectors:

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Classic Arts, Languages and Culture

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