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Salary Range
€19k - €25k
Career Zone

In Brief...

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

In Summary - Archaeologist

Career Sectors

Archaeologists typically work in the following Career Sectors:

History, Culture & Languages
Conserving History
History, Culture & Languages

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Further Information

The Work - Archaeologist

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.

Interests - Archaeologist

This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:


The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.


Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.


Not surprisingly, some aspect of the natural sciences will run through the Naturalist's interests - from ecological awareness to nutrition and health. People with an interest in horticulture, land usage and farming (including fish) are Naturalists.

Some Naturalists focus on animals rather than plants, and may enjoy working with, training, caring for, or simply herding them. Other Naturalists will prefer working with the end result of nature's produce - the food produced from plants and animals. Naturalists like solving problems with solutions that show some sensitivity to the environmental impact of what they do. They like to see practical results and prefer action to talking and discussing.


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 Requirements - Archaeologist

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

Pay & Salary - Archaeologist

Salary Range (thousands per year)* €19k - €25k

Data Source(s):

Last Updated: March, 2017

* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.

Labour Market Updates - Archaeologist

Useful Contacts - Archaeologist

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