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To train as an Archaeologist?

(118 Posts)
Todecide Tue 05-Jan-16 13:31:56

I am nearly 40 and have been a SAHM for a while.

I have the opportunity to study for a degree in Archaeology & History.

However, I am having doubts as to whether I would ever get paid work in this sector. My last career was in something office based.

I know that there is not much recruitment but there are opportunities for dig work experience. At the end of the day, I am just wary of studying for all that time and volunteering but never getting a job.

Any archaeologists/historians out there?

Offler Tue 05-Jan-16 14:05:54

I studied archaeology back in the 90's. I work in telecommunications 😁

DP does work as an archaeologist, for the same company he started with in the late 80's. He took some time out to get his degree and then went straight back in at a higher grade. When I started working in the sector, wages were very low for 'archaeological technicians', and when the weather turned colder found myself an office job for the winter (and have been here ever since!!)

The more experience you have the better your job prospects will be, look around at your local units and see if you can get some work experience there before you study, and hopefully they'll be keen to have you back during the holidays and when you have completed your degree.

Are you doing a BSc or BA? DP and I did a BSc and it was very practical, very much aimed at getting you a job as an archaeologist, rather than going into academia.

JoffreyBaratheon Tue 05-Jan-16 14:06:39

At uni (years ago admittedly) I shared a house with a load of archaeology students. It was a time of high unemployment and very high graduate unemployment (Thatcher) so we'd always take the piss out of the archaeology students and assumed they'd all end up unemployed, then go work in a call centre...

And they were all unemloyed for a while. But slowly, they got jobs. Two are now County Archaeologist. One, very high up in English Heritage. I've seen a couple of my old housemates as the 'local archaeologist' on Time Team. One published a book last year... They all worked in the field, who wanted to - even if it took some time to score a job.

One, to my knowledge, became a PA. And another works in a related field and emigrated to Australia to follow the work - his life, on FB, looks close to idyllic...

You only have one life, so follow what your heart tells you to do. I'd imagine it's a less ageist environment than many.

I met someone a couple of years ago who got a job teaching field archaeology at a university. She told me they interviewed over 30 people for her job. Turned out her first degree also was from my old university which is extremely highly regarded in archaeology. She told me she thought she got the job due to where her first degree and MA were from. (It's now what's called a Russell Group uni).

And that is the only proviso - how well regarded is the course? You will always be going for jobs up against people with high end degrees and they will always have the advantage, knowing the right people, etc - if you go to a lesser one. So I'd make sure it has a good rep for the subject as that may stand you in very good stead for jobs, down the line - or prevent you getting them.

Todecide Tue 05-Jan-16 14:08:55

Thank you for all your responses!

The degree is a BA but one of the top 3 for Archaeology.

I hope I can get work experience. I have emailed about 10 companies offering to help out in my old skill set in exchange for work experience, not heard anything back...yet.

SpaggyBollocks Tue 05-Jan-16 14:14:16

I took archaeology and anthropology at UCL. I don't use my degree so can't comment on your job prospects but it was the most fun.

as long as you don't mind sleeping in a tent and not washing properly for months at a time.

Todecide Tue 05-Jan-16 14:15:49

Ah, yes.

I also have young children, so being able to be away for months on end (in a tent smile) would not be practicable.

I do like the fun sound of things though.

UsedtobeFeckless Tue 05-Jan-16 14:17:51

Sorry - no actual advice OP but I'm watching your thread with bated breath as DS1 is hoping to be accepted for an archaeology at Winchester in September ... Is that one of the good ones? ( DS says so but he fell in love when they showed him their leper hospital so he's a bit biased grin )

HPsauciness Tue 05-Jan-16 14:18:09

I have to be completely honest, as someone who helps students with employability at a university, most do not go on to work in the obvious sector. Getting a job in law (training anyway) or as a criminologist or, I would guess, as an archaeologist is extremely difficult and only a few would do so.

To be a lecturer at a uni like the example above, you would usually need a first, a Masters (preferably distinction) and then a PhD and even those with those skills often get stuck in short contract research jobs and find it difficult to get a permanent position. You need more quals now to do the same job as before, as places have their pick of PhD students really.

That's not to say a few don't do well, I know one lady in her 50's who did a PhD and now has a consultancy career in her chosen field.

In general, though, I am deluged with students saying I want to be a X [insert relevant job field to their degree] and for most, their degree simply isn't a passport to that job (otherwise the country would be overrun with criminologists!) The ones that do get in tend to be very academic and have great/relevant work experience, sometimes contacts in the area.

It would be a good idea to do some work experience in that field to see if you would like the job as well.

UsedtobeFeckless Tue 05-Jan-16 14:19:37

Bugger - that should say archaeology degree ... Doh! blush

Todecide Tue 05-Jan-16 14:20:55

HP thanks, I completely understand what you are saying.

I am guessing I would need to do a Masters or PHd on top as well.

Polgara25 Tue 05-Jan-16 14:21:03

You almost certainly will have to work away - unless you're able to commute to London? Generally plenty of work there.

How are your joints? Any pain or weakness in them at all?

Do you know about BAJR?

HanSolo Tue 05-Jan-16 14:23:34

I loved archaeology at university.
I don't (and have never, after university) work in that field though.

Iwanttobeadog Tue 05-Jan-16 14:23:42

i've got an archaeology degree (and a related MSc). there aren't a huge amount of roles and what there are are poorly paid yet highly competitive. i don't know of anyone from my uni days who actually works as an archaeologist

HPsauciness Tue 05-Jan-16 14:25:35

I am not sure about that, because I don't know much about that specific field. But I'm guessing they can recruit from all the people who do Masters/PhD for even very basic entry level jobs, so they do.

That's what's happened in other fields- so no-one gets a lectureship now without a PhD/years of research post-doc work, but twenty/thirty years ago, people did get in with just a Masters.

I am also thinking that archaeology might have really suffered in terms of funding, because the focus is on STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) and social science now. I would be very surprised if there are heaps of well-paid arch jobs available for UG or even Masters level, as funding has gone down in the sector as a whole.

Sorry to be pessimistic, it could still be a great option to revitalize your work life and you would get a hobby out of it too! And, you might be in that tiny % that get lucky/an opening- but check salaries, as I would guess low level research/stuff isn't well paid at all, as it isn't across the board.

Polgara25 Tue 05-Jan-16 14:27:53

Can you find a field school to do first? I really wouldn't go into it without getting some field work experience first.

Have to say, that in all my years in arch I never met a woman who had young children on site.

BarbaraofSeville Tue 05-Jan-16 14:53:53

I would be sceptical about whether you can actually turn it into a career and if you do, if you will ever earn much more than NMW. At least you wouldn't have to pay back your student loan.

We have someone working in our office who completed an archaology degree within the last couple of years and is now working in a completely unrelated field because there is little or no work in archaology, although someone mentions London upthread - I don't know if she tried there but realistically it probably wouldn't have been practical/affordable in her circumstances.

I think the closure of the Forensic Science Service means that there are a lot of experienced but unemployed archaeolgists out there.

BarbaraofSeville Tue 05-Jan-16 14:56:09

Forgot to say, my colleague did her field work somewhere very remote.

liquidrevolution Tue 05-Jan-16 15:12:10

I quit office work and went off to study archaeology at the age of 30. I was fortunate that I wanted to specialise in a particular type of archaeology. I was also fortunate that I walked into a job within a specialist department at a commercial unit straight from uni (they were admittedly desperate and I had contacts).

Now 9 years on I have just been promoted and my wages had shifted up a grade. I now officially earn more than I did in 2003 when I quit being a PA. Thats 9 years and a BA and privately funded MA later and my wages are only just reaching £20k pa.

Frankly the pay is rubbish. Jobs at HE(was EH) and NT are few and far between so most are in commecial sector. I have friends with archaeology degrees/postgrad from Oxford who are still out of work within the sector as the luck thing just hasnt happened for them. Out of my contempories are uni 50% are now teachers, 25% are police/lawyers and about 5% are in archaeology/academia related professions. The rest do other non related jobs. Commercial archaeology is tough with staff laid off by one firm one minute and taken on again by another firm who then lay them off when a project ends so they go back to the fist firm. I know people with logo'ed kit belonging to three firms and they flit between them.

It may be after you graduate you cant get a job in the sector but do something else and become a weekend archaeologist as a hobby. Feel free to PM me if you need any more info.

and finally... digging is hard work and you WILL knacker your back.

Patapouf Tue 05-Jan-16 15:17:42

My first UG degree was in Archaeology and I was bored shitless for the duration. I'm now 6months from completing a history degree and I'm much happier! What about archaeology interests you? We only had 4 weeks of compulsory dig for the whole degree, if you wanted more you had to find it yourself and it is invariably self-funded and voluntary. I can't speak for job prospects because I never tried to find work in the field!

Patapouf Tue 05-Jan-16 15:19:12

Have to say, that in all my years in arch I never met a woman who had young children on site.

I can say that I have, and that was as recent as 5ish years ago!

Todecide Tue 05-Jan-16 15:20:11

Thank you all so much for your replies smile. It has been a big, big help to me.

I am funding the degree myself.

Many of you quite right about the digging, I am not in peak fitness, so that may be something to think about.

Maybe, I ought to think of this as a hobby and go and re-train in something else.

My background was in law, but no hope of getting back into that anymore.

Kintan Tue 05-Jan-16 15:20:41

I know lots of people who studied archaeology (I studied a related subject) - I would say less than 10% of them work within the archaeological/heritage sector right now.These are graduates from the highest rated archaeology department in the country. To stand a realistic chance of getting a job in archaeology, you would need a masters too at the least, maybe even a PhD. There are hardly any jobs, and not much funding from what I gather. BUT if you have a burning desire to study this subject, and you will regret it later in life if you don't, then I say go for it!

GrimDamnFanjo Tue 05-Jan-16 15:24:05

I have a pal who was one but now works in publishing. She stopped when she hurt her back.

FeliciaJollygoodfellow Tue 05-Jan-16 15:32:11

<suspects OP hankers after Indiana Jones>


Todecide Tue 05-Jan-16 15:33:25

Felicia ha ha ha - love it. My other passion is history as well, so I know that (sadly) it's nothing like that.

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