Asking never hurts

Every week I change my mind as to which part of archaeology I want to go into. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to work in a variety of places. After working in an office since October I have discovered that I much rather prefer a practical job but still find getting to know my local area fascinating.

Finding a placement in archaeology, especially a paid one, is difficult in the current economic climate. Accepting an unpaid placement may provide you with more skills than simply choosing one for the wages. It will look better on your CV if you have a range of skills.

It seemed to me that other students rarely look for options beyond what the University offers. Opportunities are out there, but you have to know where they are hidden. I can give you some ideas but don’t take the list below as comprehensive.

The first place I’d ask would be a museum; some advertise placement positions but not all. However that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to accept placement students. There are usually loads of projects that don’t get done simply because there aren’t enough hours in the day. If you can offer them a decent placement length of more than a couple of weeks they will more often than not be happy for you to volunteer.

Records offices such as the Historic Environment Record and Archives may also be willing to offer a position. The problem with unadvertised placements is they are very unlikely to be paid but the experience is invaluable. If you don’t know where the HER closest to you is have a look on the HER website and click the one you want.

I don’t know if there is anything similar for archives but the HER staff should be able to help. If they cannot offer you a placement they may be able to point you in the right direction and put you in contact with someone who can.

A few other places you could look are:

  • A local archaeology unit, they may not be keen unless you can show that you have some experience as they do have to keep a business running. If you don’t know any in your area the Institute for Archaeologists provides an online ‘find a unit service’ which can be found at :
  • Universities that don’t offer a placement scheme may be able to offer you a place in research projects
  • Your local council may be able to provide information on who to ask, or you could work with them in the HER or with (for example) the listed buildings officer if there is one available
  • A local history group is likely to know what’s going on in the area, I’m sure they would be only too happy to help
  • Magazines such as Current Archaeology and British Archaeology often have lists in the back pages of excavations going on throughout the year. If you can’t make it to the actual event they are advertising try asking if you can work in the post excavation process.

The main thing to remember is that asking never hurts.