Mastering the Past – Studying Archaeology

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A look at what an education in archaeology involves for prospective   students

There is no denying archaeology is a topic that continues to grow in popularity; just turn on thetelevision and have a look at an evening’s schedule — there will be at least one programme (probably more!) on archaeology. Certainly, it is an increasingly popular subject to study at university level: new fields of study, and new degree courses, are opening up around the country. Many who already have an active involvement in archaeology, either working in the commercial sector or as volunteers on a community dig, are deciding to make the move to academia. Traditionally, archaeology attracts as many mature students as it does school leavers. Here, in our Educational Guide, we make it easy to find the right university and the right course — and to explore the opportunities that await after graduation. There are many pathways in the archaeological profession.

But how to choose? Where to begin? Archaeology is not just a job: it is a career, a way of life. What form that career takes can vary hugely depending on which aspect of the discipline you pick. Do you have a passion for Roman hillforts? Or are you fascinated by bones? Whether you want to dig sites all over the world, spend time in a laboratory analysing ancient pollen, or interpret the skeletal remains of our long-dead ancestors, archaeology offers a much wider range of options than might be immediately obvious. There is something for everyone. But you don’t have to decide on a specialism before you begin university. The first year is usually an introduction to the many aspects of archaeology, across time and across continents, from the theoretical to the practical and technical. When you begin your second year you will explore specialised topics that may interest you more so that in your third, and final, year you will have the opportunity to develop a greater, in-depth knowledge of your chosen area of expertise. Most archaeology departments have their own research excavations or connections with commercial units offering opportunities for hands-on digging experience. Check what practical experience the various universities offer: for example, some have links with projects abroad where excavation work can be combined with travel; if you dive, you may want to use your skills in underwater archaeology; or you may be interested in becoming a curator, in which case a university with a museum attached may suit you better.

Student life

For many students, these three years are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to submerge themselves in a subject they love, and to enjoy a brief respite from the responsibilities of a working

life and all that goes with it — or of lack of employment, and all that goes with that! So, whether you are leaving school, looking for a career change, or studying post-retirement, look through the list of universities in this special Education Guide, check out their websites, download their brochures or contact their admissions departments, and make your selection. But, above all, enjoy a future uncovering the past!

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