Careers in Commercial Archaeology- what you need to know!

 Careers blog written by Kate Morris, Careers Consultant, Careers

I recently attended a fantastic session on careers in commercial archaeology delivered by Malin Holst and these are my top take away tips:

What does a commercial archaeologist do?

You work for an archaeological firm, which secures contracts from a range of clients including property developers, construction firms, public sector, energy companies, transport organisations. Work includes planning and undertaking excavations, cataloguing finds and liaising with heritage organisations. Find out more:

What kind of skills or qualifications do you need to become a commercial archaeologist?

  • Being able to work in a team is really important, because if you’re in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold working at the bottom of a muddy ditch, you will need the support of a good team around you and to be an easy person to get along with.
  • Accountability is essential, as you will also work autonomously with the ability to trust in and defend your decisions.
  • Networking- no it’s not just for the suits, archaeology is a small world and you will need to build contacts, as many of the jobs you do will be short term contracts, a personal recommendation can really help.
  • Attitude- turning up on time, demonstrating you can handle responsibility and being reliable are crucial to building your reputation and therefore your employability in this sector. If you get a bad rep, you may struggle to get work. Be aware that employers and potential clients will google you, so consider the impression given by your social media and lock down the privacy settings on anything you don’t want employers to see.
  • Flexibility is essential as you should be prepared to move to wherever the work is. Some locations are currently over-flowing with jobs whereas in other regions there is limited work.
  • Driving licence – as the work may be in remote locations, being able to drive gives you the freedom to work anywhere and also makes you an asset on site.
  • Get a CSCS card and become a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeology (CIfA). A CSCS card will allow you to work on construction sites and can be a requirement of some jobs. Membership of CIfA can often be a requirement on job applications and becoming a member will give you access to training, support, job adverts and more. (Please note the CSCS system is changing from Sept 2017 – see CIfA for latest updates: )

How to find jobs in commercial archaeology?

  • British Archaeological Jobs Resource (BAJR) advertises jobs and volunteering

from entry level to senior posts:

  • Membership of Chartered Institute for Archaeology (CIfA) gives you access to a weekly jobs bulletin that includes adverts for archaeological, heritage, research and training opportunities that appear in the national press and specialist journals during that week:
  • Speculative applications are also common. You should contact the unit director (usually listed on BAJR directory) with a cover letter/email and CV and then follow up with a phone call.
  • If you’re an international student requiring a visa, target big firms, as they will be more likely to employ you.

Are there actually any jobs available in the sector?

  • Yes! This is a great time to start building a career in commercial archaeology. With the development of HS2 (starting in 2017 and not due for completion until 2033) and a number of other large infrastructure projects across Britain and Europe, there are many jobs available. As well as professional archaeology roles, you could also consider roles like Excavators, Surveyors, Conservators, Planning Officer, Project Management and many more.

Want to talk through your ideas?