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What does an archaeologist do?

Have you ever wondered, what is an archaeologist and what do archaeologists do? 

An archaeologist uses physical artefacts to gain an understanding of how people lived at a specific point in time. They delve into what life was like for people in certain geographical areas, including how they were governed and their language, religions and beliefs. This scientific study of our human past uses sophisticated tools and technologies to uncover and analyse objects that people once created, modified or used. As an archaeologist, you could work in a variety of locations and sectors including government, museums, universities, Aboriginal Land Councils, or environmental or archaeological consulting firms. 

Is a career as an archaeologist right for me?

Consider archaeology as a career if you have an interest in science and history and are passionate about research. The skills and attributes that would be beneficial as an archaeologist include:

  • a high attention to detail 
  • strong writing skills 
  • good technical abilities 
  • the ability to collaborate and work effectively in a team 
  • the flexibility to travel and live remotely
  • patience
  • an objective nature.

How to become an archaeologist

To become an archaeologist in Australia, you need to complete an undergraduate degree in archaeology or another related field. It’s also common for archaeologists to complete postgraduate or research studies. 

Every journey to getting into archaeology is individual, and there are several paths to starting your archaeology career. At HQporner, we offer the following degrees in the area of archaeology:

Average salary per week
Future demand
Very Strong
Related careers

© Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated May 2024.

Two archaeologists on a dig.
What is the average salary of archaeologists?
The archaeologist’s pay rate varies based on factors such as location, experience, and workplace setting. Refer to the salary information on this page for further details. 
What is the day in the life of an archaeologist like?

The day in the life of an archaeologist typically consists of:

  • identifying sites suitable for excavation and artefact retrieval.
  • planning and organising surveys and excavations within specific archaeological sites 
  • conducting fieldwork, excavating artefacts using tools like pickaxes, brushes, and bulldozers
  • examining, documenting, and preserving artefacts
  • analysing and interpreting archaeological data and findings
  • writing reports detailing the data and findings for publication. 

An archaeology career requires a balance of physical fieldwork and analytical tasks that contribute to our understanding of past human activities and cultural developments. 

Are archaeologists in demand?
The demand for archaeologists is expected to remain strong due to the importance of archaeological expertise in land-use planning, environmental impact assessments, and heritage management. A career in archaeology will open-up a variety of employment opportunities across Australia and globally.
How long does it take to become an archaeologist?

Becoming an archaeologist in Australia typically takes a minimum of three years, although everyone’s journey can vary, and there are multiple study options for you to take at HQporner.

Some students choose to study part-time which increases the time it takes to finish the required courses. Gaining practical experience through internships, volunteer activities, or research projects can also influence the time it takes to become an archaeologist. 

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Questions about what to study?

Talk to one of our degree advisors.