Archaeologists study the history of the human settlement through the examination of material remains of the past such as pottery, tools, landscape features and buildings. Such studies may focus on sites, buildings, landscapes and the general environment. They seek to understand the landscape, vegetation and climate of previous times as they affected, and were affected by, past peoples. Archaeologists work in survey and excavation, in environmental impact assessment, in heritage conservation projects and tourism initiatives.
Fieldwork involves taking part in excavations and identifying, recording and conserving objects. Other work can involve laboratory analysis, research, heritage management and giving planning advice. The study crosses science/arts boundaries and a wide range of scientific techniques are used.
- Assessing the impact of proposed developments on archaeological remains.
- Planning and undertaking excavation/archaeological testing and monitoring projects.
- Collecting and analysing archaeological data.
- Preparing and writing reports.
- Negotiating between archaeological services and developers.
- Performing artefact work (usually museum based).
- Researching, lecturing and administration.
Travel: during working day is frequent while absence from home at night is occasional.
Working hours: varies greatly depending on type of work and location. Occasionally weekend / evening work may be required.
Location: work is mainly outdoors and opportunities exist throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: possible.
There are numerous employment opportunities in Ireland outside of academia:
- Commercial archaeological companies.
- Statutory bodies such as the National Roads Authority.
- The state heritage sector.
- Central government bodies such as the National Monuments Service.
- Local authorities and planning offices.
Good in private sector but promotion in state and university sector is slow due to the lack of recruitment in either of these areas.
Salaries vary depending on employer size and location.
Entry requirements and training
A minimum of an archaeology degree is the most common qualification if one wants to become a licensed archaeologist. Licenses are granted by the Director of Monument Services, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to those who pass a competency interview.
Other relevant degree subjects
- Archive and museum studies
- Botany/Plant science
- Classics/Greek and Roman civilisation
- Life and medical sciences
- Physical/Mathematical/Applied science
- Textile technology.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement but can be beneficial.
Some training may be provided after entry, in terms of excavation techniques, digging, recording and surveying, otherwise one learns by experience with different organisations.
Informal training can be in the form of reading journals or attending conferences and workshops.
Tips for applications
Pre-entry experience is desirable.
Skills and qualities
- Curiosity about the past combined with patience and an eye for detail.
- Ability to logically piece together information from findings.
- Good practical skills to excavate carefully and to handle delicate objects.
- High levels of motivation, physical stamina and a willingness to work in all weather conditions.
- Good communication, organisational and interpersonal skills.
- Knowledge of industry specific tools and such as Total Station (EDM) and AutoCAD.
Labour market information
Commercial archaeology is a growing sector in Ireland, servicing the requirements of various development agencies.
Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (IAI)
Irish Post Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG)
National Monuments Service
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Office of Public Works – Monument Service
National Museum of Ireland
Royal Irish Academy
British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography (BIAB)
Institute for Archaeologists (UK)
Ulster Archaeology Society (UAS)
Council for British Archaeology (CBA)
Environment & Heritage Service (Northern Ireland)
National Trust (Britain)
European Association of Archaeologists