Survey of Archaeological Specialists 2016-17

The Survey of Archaeological Specialists 2016-17 report has been published.

Download Survey of Archaeological Specialists 2016-17.

Executive Summary

A survey of archaeological specialists has found that, in early 2017, specialists appear to have recovered from the economic downturn of the previous decade, but are cautious about the possibility that there will be increased demand for their services in the near to medium future.

This study, which has aimed to collect data from a wide variety of areas of specialist activity within archaeology, received information from 882 specialists. The synthetic results presented here allow for comparison between specialisms and across broad specialist areas.

Comments received from respondents make it clear that not everyone who is working in this sector is doing this to earn a living, as some are delivering services on a voluntary basis.

  • Archaeological Specialists charge day rates between £40 – £3,000 with an average day rate of £259.
  • Typical charges are highest in the areas of survey and “other” specialisms, and are lowest for illustration and archiving specialist services.
  • More archaeological specialists encounter “very little” than encounter a “great deal” of competition
  • More archaeological specialists work for commercial companies (39.2%) than work for other forms of organisations.
  • 2% of archaeological specialists work for larger organisations (with more than nine employees)
  • Archaeological specialists are based throughout the UK, with the highest concentrations in Scotland, south-east and south-west England.
  • 55% of archaeological specialists are female.
  • The ages of archaeological specialists are relatively evenly distributed between 25 and 65, with the mean age of an archaeological specialist being calculated as 47.2.
  • Archaeological specialisms are ethnically unrepresentative of the UK workforce as a whole, with 97.5% being white.
  • There is also a very low level (3.4%) of archaeological specialists who are disabled.
  • More than three quarters of archaeological specialists have a Masters degree or higher qualification.
  • 5% of archaeological specialists plan to retire in the next five years, with 28.6% planning on stopping working in the next 10 years.
  • Just under two thirds of archaeological specialists work full-time.
  • Less than half of archeological specialists currently have waiting lists of work indicating a potentially unhealthy level of demand.
  • Most archaeological specialists believe a postgraduate Masters or PhD is required to become a specialist. Also, the majority believe new entrants need at least a year of experience and ongoing professional mentoring.
  • Archaeological specialists consider that it is difficult for new entrants to gain initial specialist training.
  • The majority of archaeological specialists consider that ongoing CPD training is “very” or “quite” difficult to access; overall, CPD training is considered to be more difficult to access than entry-level training.
  • Reading professional publications, attending specialist and general conferences are the most preferred routes to obtain CPD.
  • Only one area (Physical Dating) is considered to be at risk of skills loss as a result of a high proportion of current specialists intending to cease working within the next five years. In no areas were significant reductions in workload anticipated to lead to loss of expertise.
  • Archaeological specialists anticipate that major infrastructure projects will lead to more projects, but with increased pressure on them to deliver, leading to them having to reduce their costs and to an overall reduction in the number of archaeological specialists.
  • It is anticipated that the UK’s forthcoming departure from the European Union will have relatively little effect on archaeological specialists’ working lives, but they do think it would also lead to a reduction in the number of archaeological specialists.

Recommendations are made which set out actions for individual specialists, training providers and funding bodies.


This report has been accessioned to the Archaeology Data Service, and is available at 


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