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Write here only if you have personal experience of working as a Field Archaeologist. Why did you decide to become one? What are your qualifications? What are the ups and downs of the profession?

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      27.03.2002 00:35
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      Being a field archaeologist appears an exciting, glamorous career, charging about like Indy and finding hoards of “wonderful things” in exotic locations. Well, its not. I have been involved in archaeology for several years now, have met many a professional digger (and even considered going this way myself for a while), and have learnt a thing or two about it. I know it is a popular subject at the moment, made fashionable by Time Team, Meet the Ancestors, Secrets of the Dead, etc, but these programmes may not present the most realistic picture of archaeology. Here I have compiled what I have learnt - hopefully in a more reasonable manner! :-) ●The background (“a long time ago in a trench far, far away…) As some of you may recall, there was boom in universities during the educational reforms of the 1960s and 70s. It was at this time that higher education (and, by extension, archaeology courses) became more accessible; it was no longer to be solely the preserve of rich Oxbridge types who could afford to swan off and hack big holes in whatever monument took their fancy. There was suddenly an increase in people trained in archaeology. This corresponded pretty well with the government waking up to the importance of rescue archaeology, and for a short time (1973 – 1975 to be precise) jobs were abundant in this field and all was well with the world. Of, course this didn’t last. There was another brief boom in the 1990s when a piece of legislation called Planning and Policy Guidance 16 (PPG16) was introduced, (basically stating that developers had to pay for the excavation of any archaeology their work may disturb). This too is now fading out (probably because developers have cottoned onto this and are less keen to report any finds the make). We are now returning to an equilibrium where there are far more archaeologists than there are archaeological jobs. ●Getting started <
      br>OK, so if by now you still think a career in archaeology is a good idea, you must be very committed. Or insane. Never mind, either will do in this line of work. If you are still at school or sixth form college, a good place to begin would be by approaching your local archaeology society or branch of the Young Archaeologists Club (see www.archaeology.co.uk/begin/young.htm). It is also worthwhile to have a look at membership of the Council for British Archaeology (www.britarch.ac.uk) and/or the Council for Independent Archaeology (www.independents.org.uk). It should be possible to participate on local archaeological work (although you may have to pay to do this – fees are sometimes charges to cover insurance and tuition), both to see if you like doing it, and to build up a bit of experience. A lot of organisations are very keen to encourage young members, and I would especially recommend the YAC, who produce magazines and opportunities especially for young people. To be a professional though, you really need a degree in archaeology these days (great fun, I can say!). There are no set A levels/highers for admission to courses, but at least one science subject is a good idea, as modern archaeology is getting increasingly scientific and you need to be able to grasp these principles. When choosing courses, consider the following: - is this a university with a good academic record? - do the course options/specialisms suit my interests and needs? - how much compulsory fieldwork do I have to do? - do the fieldwork options fit in with what I am interested in? - do I want to live in a town or city? Have a look at how universities scored in RAE assessments (carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency every three years) to find out about teaching and research standards – these should be stated on websites/prospectuses or be available by contacting the university. Also have a look on dooyoo for extra advice! Bu
      t be aware that fieldwork commitments will prevent you from getting a job for the whole of your summer break, so your income will be reduced to what you can earn from temping. While you are a student, consider looking at the Institute of Field Archaeologists (www.archaeologists.net), who will very kindly give you discounted membership and professional advice. Also visit www.archaeology.co.uk/directory/searchdir.htm for a list of UK universities offering archaeology courses. Having graduated, there are really two options open to you – go on the circuit for a couple of years, or pursue a master’s degree. The circuit basically involves groups of archaeologists following digs around the country during the season (Easter – Sept), picking up casual excavation work, living in tents and getting paid small amounts of money if they are lucky. This is a good way to gain experience and make contacts (and just about cover your living expenses), but is physically demanding and gives you no financial or vocational security. You are unemployed or working on temping jobs over the winter, permanently broke and have no guarantee of landing a contracted job. If you are still in this position after 3 or 4 years, it may be time to think about becoming an accountant and getting round to paying of your student loan. A master’s degree on the other hand is expensive and mentally demanding to pursue (and I should know!), but a higher qualification may increase your chances of a proper job. You could try an MA in field archaeology, or specialising in a period (e.g. Roman) or discipline (e.g. geophysical survey), or take a course with a mind to getting a PhD and becoming an academic archaeologist (if you can get funding). Oxford offer a masters in professional archaeology that is designed to make you as employable as possible – I was very tempted by this course myself! There are plenty of courses on offer; have a look at the Merlin Falcon
      guide (www.merlinfalcon.ac.uk) and individual university websites for more details. ●Jobs available Jobs do exist in archaeology where you can actually get paid (although many people believe this to be an urban myth). Many employed archaeologists work as consultants to planners, producing reports on the archaeology in the fields where a new motorway is being planned – this also forms a large part of the work of county archaeologists. If you are smart enough then academic archaeology could be an option, especially as the age gap at the moment is very favourable, and many positions will appear over the next decade as people retire. It is only a very small number who work in archaeological units as professional diggers (or who get to be in he Time Team). To apply for entry-level field archaeological work, you will need a minimum of a degree in archaeology and at least 3 to 6 months of digging experience on a range of different sites. If you are certain that this is the area you want to go for, start building up excavation experience as soon a possible, and try to practice post-excavation, surveying and recording skills as well as digging to increase your employability. Average wages (according to Current Archaeology) are £17,000 a year for a field archaeologist, rising to £22,600 for unit directors. It is not a career to go for if you want to be a millionaire! A few better paid jobs do exist within English Heritage, CADW, Historic Scotland and the National Trust (providing the current restructuring doesn’t eradicate them). Lecturing jobs also pay a bit more than this, but you have to be very bright to even be considered for a doctorate, and survive three years more of study living on very small amounts of money before you get one. To sum up: The good bits... -digging is good fun and finding stuff is great -working in the field can be very rewarding -you get to debunk historia
      ns! :-) -you can make real contributions to our knowledge of the past -possibility of digging abroad The bad bits... -few jobs and little job security -poor pay for the amount of training -bad back, sore knees, sunburn, insect bites... And Finally…. Does anyone recognise the quote in the title (easy!) or the one in the opening paragraph (slightly less easy)? Answers on a postcard please…

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