The fourth survey of labour market intelligence for the archaeological profession has been published.

Archaeology Labour Market Intelligence: Profiling the Profession 2012-13 repeats surveys previously carried out in 1997-98, 2002-3 and 2007-8, to compile a time-series dataset allowing trends to be identified with increasing confidence.

The previous survey was carried out in 2007-8, immediately before the global recession began to affect archaeological employment. The economic transformation since then has significantly affected employment in archaeology, resulting in a considerable reduction in the size of the sector.

The estimated archaeological workforce in 2012-13 was 4,792: a 30% decrease on the estimated 6,865 in 2007-8, and a 16% decrease on the estimated 5.712 in 2002-3. A further estimated 1,148 people worked as support staff, giving an estimated total of 5,940 people directly earning their living from archaeology.

The average age of a working archaeologist in 2012-13 was 42, with female archaeologists on average aged 39, and male archaeologists 44. By comparison, the average age of the whole UK workforce is 40.5.

The survey found that 46% of archaeologists were female and 54% were male. In 2007-08, the proportions were 41:59. 47% of the whole UK workforce in all occupations is female, 53% male.

Archaeology was not an ethnically diverse profession in 2012-13: 99% of working archaeologists were white. This was effectively unchanged since 2002-3, and contrasts with the entire UK workforce, of whom 13% were of black or minority ethnic origin.

The proportion of people with disabilities working in archaeology continued to be very low; 98% of archaeologists were not disabled. This was effectively unchanged over time, while 7% of the entire UK workforce are disabled.

93% of archaeologists working in the UK in 2012-13 were from the UK, 3% were from elsewhere in the EU, less than 1% were from non-EU Europe and 4% were from elsewhere in the world. This represented a relative decrease in the number of archaeologists from non-UK EU countries (5% in 2007-8), and a relative increase in the number of archaeologists from elsewhere in the world (2% in 2007-8). However, as the total number of working archaeologists had fallen considerably, the absolute number of archaeologists from outside the UK has also fallen.

Despite the reducing workforce over the last five years, slightly more employers expected their organisation to grow over the next year than expected it to shrink, with further optimistic forecasts for growth over the next three years. These expectations were noticeably more cautious than the ambitious forecasts in 2007-8.

Of 4,792 archaeologists working in the UK in 2012-13, an estimated 2,684 (56%) worked for organisations providing field investigation and research services, 1,198 (25%) providing historic environment advice, 96 (2%) providing museum and visitor services and 815 (17%) providing education and academic research. These percentages changed relatively little over the five years since 2007-8, although the percentage providing museum and visitor services decreased while that providing education and academic research rose.

545 (11%) worked for national government agencies, 485 (10%) for local government, 690 (14%) for universities, 2,812 (59%) for private sector organisations and 260 (6%) for other types of organisations such as museums or amenity bodies. Overall, there was a relative increase in the percentage of archaeologists working in the private sector since 2007-8, and a decline in those working in the public sector.

More archaeologists worked in London and the South East than in other areas, though this largely reflects the overall UK population distribution. The geographical distribution of archaeologists has not changed significantly since the first survey in 1997-8.

The survey collected detailed information on 888 archaeologists and support staff, working in 389 jobs with 236 different post titles. This represents one post title per 3.8 individuals, compared with one per 5.3 individuals in 2007-8.

On average, full-time archaeologists earned £27,814 per annum. The median archaeological salary was £26,000 (50% earned more than this, 50% less). The average salary for those employed in the private sector was £24,757. The average for all UK full-time workers was £32,700, so the average archaeologist earned 85% of the UK average – as was the case in 2007-8.

Over the five years since 2007-8 the average salary of archaeologists increased by 19% compared with the national average increase for all occupations of 20%. In 2012, 46% of archaeologists worked for organisations reporting that individual salaries had typically either fallen or remained unchanged.

Archaeologists were highly qualified, and their average level of qualification has risen over time. In 2012-13, one in five (20%) of archaeologists held a doctorate or post-doctoral qualification (12% in 2007-8), 47% held a master’s degree or higher (40% in 2007-8) and 93% a bachelor’s degree or higher (90% in 2007-8). 95% of archaeologists aged under 30 for whom qualifications data were available were graduates.

Skills gaps (skills that existing staff need but lack) and shortages (where employers cannot recruit staff with the relevant skills) were identified in both technical, archaeological skills and in generic, professional skills. The severity of these gaps and shortages was categorised as ‘significant’ (where more than 25% of respondents had identified a problem) or ‘serious’ (where more than 50% had identified a problem).

A serious skills shortage was identified in post-fieldwork analysis. Significant skills shortages were identified in fieldwork (invasive or non-invasive), artefact or ecofact conservation and information technology. Significant skills gaps were identified in post-fieldwork analysis, fieldwork (invasive or non-invasive), information technology, people management and project management.

Overall, archaeological employers demonstrated a high level of commitment to training their staff, although the level of support shown by several key indicators had declined since 2007-8. 90% of employers identified training needs for individuals and provided training for paid staff (93% in 2007-8), 46% had a formal training plan (52% in 2007-8) and 45% formally evaluated the impact of training on individuals (48% in 2007-8). 26% evaluated the impact of training on the organisation (28% in 2007-8), compared with 75% which identified needs for the organisation as a whole (76% in 2007-8).

Archaeology Labour Market Intelligence: Profiling the Profession 2012-13 is published by Landward Research Ltd, and funded by English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency: Built Heritage and the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission.

The full report may be downloaded here.