Archaeologists research and study past civilisations and settlements through collecting and inspecting material remains. They analyse and draw conclusions on a wide array of matters such as hierarchy systems, linguistics, culture, and politics based on the study of objects, structures, fossils, relics, and artifacts left behind by these peoples. Archaeologists utilise various interdisciplinary methods such as stratigraphy, typology, 3D analysis, mathematics, and modelling.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to archaeologist:

archaeology scholar
archaeology research scientist
archaeology analyst
archaeology research analyst
archaeology researcher
marine archaeology science researcher
archaeologist scientist
marine archaeologist
excavation director
marine archaeology scholar
marine archaeology scientist
marine archaeology analyst
marine archaeology research analyst
marine archaeology researcher
archaeology science researcher
archaeology scientist
marine archaeology research scientist

Minimum qualifications

Master’s degree is generally required to work as archaeologist. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Archaeologist is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Archaeologist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to archaeologist.


Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of archaeologist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of archaeologist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of archaeologist.

History: The discipline that studies, analyses, and presents the events of the past related to humans.
Archaeology: The study of the recovery and examination of material culture left behind from human activity in the past.
Source criticism: Process of classifying various informational sources into different categories such as historical and non-historical, or primary and secondary, and evaluating those sources on the basis of their content, material features, authors etc.
Scientific modelling: Scientific activity consisting in selecting the relevant aspects of a situation and aiming to represent physical processes, empirical objects and phenomena to allow a better understanding, visualisation or quantification, and to enable simulation that shows how this particular subject would behave under given circumstances.
Excavation techniques: The methods to remove rock and soil, used in an excavation site and the associated risks.
Cultural history: Field that combines historical and anthropological approaches for recording and studying past customs, arts, and manners of a group of people taking into account their political, cultural, and social milieu.
Scientific research methodology: The theoretical methodology used in scientific research involving doing background research, constructing an hypothesis, testing it, analysing data and concluding the results.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of archaeologist.

Do historical research: Use scientific methods to research history and culture.
Execute analytical mathematical calculations: Apply mathematical methods and make use of calculation technologies in order to perform analyses and devise solutions to specific problems.
Perform scientific research: Gain, correct or improve knowledge about phenomena by using scientific methods and techniques, based on empirical or measurable observations.
Write scientific papers: Present the hypothesis, findings, and conclusions of your scientific research in your field of expertise in a professional publication.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of archaeologist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Osteology: The scientific study of human and animal skeletons, bone structure and specific bones. Osteology examines the bone structure as a whole and specific bones. The research can focus on diseases, function or pathology of bones.
Surveying: The technique of determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them.
Geographic information systems: The tools involved in geographical mapping and positioning, such as GPS (global positioning systems), GIS (geographical information systems), and RS (remote sensing).
Conservation techniques: The procedures, instruments, techniques, materials and chemicals used in conservation and archiving.
Art history: The history of art and artists, the artistic trends throughout centuries and their contemporary evolutions.
Geological time scale: System of chronological measurement dividing geologic history into several temporal divisions and subdivisions that take ancient life, geography, and climates into account.
Epigraphy: The historical study of ancient inscriptions on materials such as stone, wood, glas, metal and leather.  
Geology: Solid earth, rock types, structures and the processes by which they are altered.
Archaeobotany: The study of plant remains at archaeological sites to infer how past civilisations used their environment and to learn about available food sources.
Anthropology: The study of development and behaviour of human beings.
Architectural conservation: The practice of recreating forms, features, shapes, compositions, and architectural techniques of past constructions in order to preserve them.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of archaeologist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Assist with geophysical surveys: Assist with a range of specific, geophysical surveys, using diverse methods such as seismic, magnetic and electromagnetic methods.
Perform laboratory tests: Carry out tests in a laboratory to produce reliable and precise data to support scientific research and product testing.
Create collection conservation plan: Create a comprehensive, high-level overview conservation plan for the collection.
Write research proposals: Synthetise and write proposals aiming to solve research problems. Draft the proposal baseline and objectives, the estimated budget, risks and impact. Document the advances and new developments on the relevant subject and field of study.
Assess conservation needs: Assess and list the needs for conservation/restoration, in relation to current use and planned future use.
Conduct land surveys: Conduct surveys to determine the location and features of natural and man-made structures, on surface level as well as underground and underwater. Operate electronic distance-measuring equipment and digital measuring instruments.
Use geographic information systems: Work with computer data systems such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Perform underwater investigations: Perform investigative activities, searches, or rescue missions underwater by using diving equipment and complying with safety regulations.
Collect samples for analysis: Collect samples of materials or products for laboratory analysis.
Record archaeological finds: Take detailed notes and make drawings and photographs of archaeological finds at the dig site.
Study aerial photos: Use aerial photos to study phenomena on Earth’s surface.
Identify archaeological finds: Examine archaeological evidence found at dig sites in order to identify and classify it.
Develop scientific theories: Formulate scientific theories based on empirical observations, gathered data and theories of other scientists.
Oversee excavation: Oversee the excavation of fossils and other archaeological evidence at dig sites, ensuring conformity with standards and regulations.
Organise an exhibition: Organise and structure an exhibition in a strategic way, making the artworks more accessible to public.
Supervise projects for the conservation of heritage buildings: Supervise protection and restoration projects of cultural heritage. Use own expertise to make sure the project runs smoothly.
Study ancient inscriptions: Interpret, research and investigate ancient insciptions on stone, marble or wood such as Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Conduct field work: Conduct field work or research which is the collection of information outside of a laboratory or workplace setting. Visit places in order to collect specific information about the field.
Work on excavation site: Excavate material evidence of past human activity using hand picks, shovels, brushes, etc.
Collect data using gps: Gather data in the field using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

ISCO group and title

2632 – Sociologists, anthropologists and related professionals





  1. Archaeologist – ESCO
Last updated on August 8, 2022

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