Ain’t got no job…
The archaeology labour market in Austria, Germany and the UK, 2007-2012
If you have not yet noticed even though you have found our web page: we have a free online jobs resource at http://archaeologieforum.at – look out for the link to the “Jobbörse”.
Recent studies (e.g. Schlanger and Aitchison 2010) have highlighted how badly affected the archaeology labour market was by the current economic crisis. In some countries in some sectors, particularly in contract archaeology, job losses until 2009 amounted to as much as 80% of the jobs available as little as two years earlier (Eogan 2010, 20). While the situation was somewhat less dramatic in other countries, it is clear that the recession affected all of the European archaeology labour market badly where (previously) existing jobs are concerned. This paper, written to coincide with the start of the second Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe project on 1 November 2012, which will analyse the European archaeology labour market in the period 2012-2014, takes a closer look at the ‘other side’ of the archaeology labour market; the supply of ‘open positions’ advertised in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom in the period roughly between the start of the first Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe project in 2007 and the middle of September 2012.
This analysis is based on the archaeology job adverts collected through the International Austrian Archaeology Forum’s (IÖAF) online archaeology jobs resource. Operational since November 2003, we have since put online 9,381 archaeology job adverts. Most of these adverts – 8,491 – were for posts in Austria (AT), Germany (DE), or the United Kingdom (UK), with the vast majority of adverts relating to posts in the latter (see fig. 1).
Fig. 1: Adverts for Austria, Germany and the UK in the IÖAF archaeology jobs resource, 8/11/2003-15/9/2012.
Regarding the data quality, several remarks are necessary.
Firstly, what we count in this paper are job adverts, not the actual number of jobs advertised. This is because for job seekers, it does not matter much (other than chances of success possibly being affected) whether an employer advertises just one or several posts at the same time: each job seeker after all only needs one job (assuming that it is not possible to hold two or more of the jobs advertised at once at the same time). This is even more so if the job seeker does not have the required qualifications for the kind of job for which several openings are advertised. What matters more to job seekers is the number of different opportunities with different qualifications as requirements: the more such different opportunities are offered, the greater the chance that all job seekers will find at least some post(s) they are qualified for, and for which they can apply. And perhaps even more importantly, many job adverts, while clearly offering multiple posts of the same kind, do not mention the specific number of posts offered (e.g. speaking of ‘several openings’, or naming jobs in the plural, e.g. ‘research assistants’ rather than the singular ‘research assistant’). It is thus impossible for us to say how many jobs were advertised in the period covered with any reasonable level of accuracy. The number of adverts, on the other hand, is accurately known, and that is why it is what we count. This, however, leads to a degree of uncertainty in the conclusions we draw from the interpretation of our data: if for instance, in one year, many adverts were published in a country which were aimed at filling just a single position each, while in another year, only few adverts were published, but each for a large number of positions to be filled, the total number of jobs advertised in those two years may actually be the inverse of what our data seems to show. While such a situation is not particularly likely to have occurred, this caveat has to be kept in mind when reading our interpretation below.
Secondly, we do not invest an overly great effort into searching for jobs, but rather rely on the supply of adverts from a number of easily accessible or searchable sources, or adverts that we receive through our normal professional links with colleagues and/or institutions. Thus, the jobs database is certainly not a complete record of all archaeology posts advertised in Austria, Germany and the UK in the period since November 2003. However, while certainly not complete, we are reasonably sure that for much of the period from mid-2006 onwards, for most sectors of archaeological work, we have a quite good record. As such, we believe that for the period covered in this article, 1/1/2007-15/9/2012, our dataset is at least representative for the three countries examined in this article. We are even reasonably convinced that we have registered a majority of all job adverts in all sectors except fieldwork (on which a caveat will follow below) in the three countries examined here. Also, the data collected over the period was collected consistently, in that we did not change our data mining methods or even data sources. Thus, trends shown in our data are very likely to be reflecting real changes in the supply of new job adverts becoming available.
Thirdly, job adverts are searched for and entered manually; data collection is not automated. In addition, everyone with a valid IÖAF website account, which is available for free, can enter job adverts themselves, and several volunteers thankfully have done so over the past 9 years. Thus, the quality of adverts, e.g. how much detail about posts is supplied, as well as categorisations of posts and other details, can vary considerably. However, some key information has been supplied for virtually all posts since the job entry form requires compulsory completion of some fields. By and large, we do not check the accuracy of such information upon data entry. In the pre-analysis phase of the research for this article we have, however, corrected obvious mistakes in the data where possible, or excluded individual datasets from the analysis if the information supplied was obviously faulty and could not be reconstructed with reasonable accuracy. A total of 2.1% of adverts was identified in this pre-analysis phase as having at least one or, in some cases, several fields with faulty entries. Since the total number of adverts in the database at the time of analysis was 9,381, this fault rate is negligible; particularly since most such affected entries had obvious faults only in single fields of a multiple field database, and the fault rate for each individual data field used in the analysis thus is considerably lower than 2.1%. The standard deviation for all numbers given in the various analyses in this paper is thus likely to be no more than 5%.
And fourth and finally, as already noted above, fieldwork jobs are considerably underrepresented in our database (see fig. 2). This is for several reasons, which differ at least to some extent between the UK and German (including Austrian) archaeology labour market. In the UK, most fieldwork jobs are now available online via the BAJR website, which is free for job seekers, so we saw no need to make these posts available (by entering them manually) onto yet another jobs resource. Where we do get fieldwork job adverts for the UK through other channels, or where these are entered directly by volunteers or employers, we do of course publish them regardless, since we do not check BAJR before we add adverts (as that would further complicate already tedious and labour intensive work). Nonetheless, the result is that for the UK, fieldwork jobs are grossly underrepresented in our jobs database. For German and Austrian archaeology, the fieldwork jobs are equally underrepresented, but for a very different reason. It is not as if there was a German and/or Austrian fieldwork jobs online resource that already does a perfectly good job that we thus need not duplicate. Rather, fieldwork jobs in Germany and Austria rarely seem to be advertised in a form that is accessible via the Internet; most of them seem to either be advertised only by word of mouth or by pinning them to notice boards at local universities. Despite the very different reasons, the result nonetheless is the same: fieldwork jobs are underrepresented.
Fig. 2: Distribution of adverts according to sector.
The data available through our jobs database would seem to be mostly representative for those sectors of archaeology that were not immediately and directly affected by the collapse of the building trade immediately after the start of the recession – the museum sector, heritage management, teaching and research at universities, and various other archaeology-related jobs that occasionally become available. Also, by focussing not on existing jobs that were lost, but rather on those posts that were offered, our data complements that collected by others by highlighting what happened with the supply of ‘new’ jobs.
And if the news was bad where lost jobs are concerned, the data we collected for ‘new’ jobs being advertised is even worse. Aitchison (2010a, 26) reports for instance that by March 2009, 650 field archaeology jobs had been lost in the UK, which amounts to c. 16% of all field archaeology or c. 10% of all archaeology jobs that had existed in the UK in August 2007. Following a short, weak recovery over the summer, by March 2010, the labour market had slipped again to where it was in March 2009 (Aitchison 2010b, 119). Although no hard evidence is available for Austria and Germany, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that archaeology jobs were lost at a similar or even worse rates in these both countries at the same time as the UK archaeology labour market shrank.
Interestingly, throughout the period from 2007 to the end of 2009, ‘new’ archaeology jobs outside the fieldwork sector in the UK continued to be advertised at pretty much the same rate as they had in previous years. The annual rate of UK archaeology job adverts continued relatively stable at somewhat above 1500 job adverts per annum throughout much of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Only then, the ‘supply’ of newly advertised jobs started to nosedive: numbers of job adverts were down more than 50% year on year to c. 700 in 2010, and then again by another c. 50% year on year to only slightly more than 350 in 2011, for a total reduction in the number of job adverts per annum of nearly 80% from 2009 to 2011 (fig. 3). For this year, a slight increase, to perhaps 400 or so adverts, can be predicted based on the data collected until 15 September 2012, so the situation seems to be getting better, but not by much – perhaps up 10-15% year on year.
In German language archaeology, the decline started a bit earlier, but follows a very similar pattern: in 2007, there still were c. 150 job adverts published, which is very consistent with the years before since 2004. In 2008, that number came down to c. 125 adverts, then to c. 70 in 2009, and then to as few as 30 for both 2010 and 2011, also a reduction of c. 80% compared to 2007. Much like in the UK, the figures for 2012 are likely to be up a bit, probably by something like 30% compared to 2011.
To put the latter figures a little bit into context, in Austria alone (with about 1/10th of the population of Germany), 1150 Persons were studying ‘traditional’ archaeology degrees in January 2012, with another almost as many in degrees with at least some archaeological elements like Egyptology, Byzantine, and Celtic Studies (Karl 2012). Even if accounting for relatively high dropout rates, more than 3 years average duration for undergraduate degrees, and most students continuing directly into an MA degree, more students currently finish their archaeology degree in Austria than jobs are being advertised in Austria and Germany combined. For every job advert in German language archaeology, there will be something like 10 recent archaeology graduates, not counting anyone who lost their job, or anyone from the previous year’s cohort who didn’t get one, or indeed anyone who did only get a temporary job last year.
Fig. 3: Number of archaeology job adverts published per year, 2007-2012 period.
In fact, not all new jobs advertised are permanent or even only long term. While in the UK, somewhat over half of all new jobs advertised are for appointments for an indefinite period, only slightly more than a third of all jobs advertised in German language archaeology are not for fixed terms (fig. 4). And while in the UK and Germany, c. 90% of all jobs are advertised as full-time posts, in Austria, almost 25% of all advertised jobs are part-time (fig. 5).
Fig. 4: Fixed term and permanent contracts advertised.
Fig. 5: Full- and part-time contracts advertised.
Also, jobs are not necessarily open to everyone: the minimum qualifications also differ considerably between adverts for posts in different countries.
In UK archaeology, in the vast majority of adverts – roughly 70% – there is no mention of any minimum requirements that applicants must meet to be considered for the post in terms of the academic degrees they hold. Only c. 20% of adverts mention a degree as a minimum requirement for applicants to be considered, as few as c. 6% an MA, and only 4% a PhD (fig. 6). Of course, successful candidates still normally hold at least a BA degree: 95% of the archaeologists working in the UK are graduates, as the 2007-2008 UK Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe study has shown, with 28% of archaeologists being educated to MA, and 12% to PhD level (Aitchison and Edwards 2008, 13).
We interpret this discrepancy, particularly towards the lower end of the qualification scale, as employers in the UK tending to advertise jobs with minimum academic qualifications requirements one level below the qualifications they would ideally like to appoint at – but presumably still at a level where they can expect the successful candidate to be sufficiently qualified to cope with the job, or to at least be trained internally quickly enough to be able to fulfil his/her role satisfactorily soon after having been appointed. Competition between archaeological job seekers, at the same time, ensures that for almost every advertised post, there are more than sufficient numbers of candidates at the qualification level the respective employer was hoping for. The result is a relatively wide range of opportunities to apply for jobs at the entry level into the profession (though unless the candidate stands out from the competition in some way or other, chances of being successful are small), with jobs requiring higher academic qualifications being the exception, rather than the rule.
The archaeology jobs supply in the UK thus reasonably well reflects the distribution of qualifications in the profession: comparably many ‘junior’ posts requiring relatively few qualifications, and much fewer ‘middle management’ and ‘senior’ posts that require higher qualifications and/or considerable experience. At the same time, this ‘shape’ of the supply side of posts also allows for ‘natural’ career progressions: one can start in a junior job with relatively low qualifications and rise through the ranks by either gaining practical experience or by acquiring higher qualifications later in one’s career. This is a reasonably ‘healthy’ shape of the profession: there are considerably more ‘Indians’ than there are ‘chiefs’.
Fig. 6: Minimum academic qualifications required to be considered for an advertised post.
In Austria and Germany, the situation is very different to this: only a minority of posts (c. 10-20%) do not require applicants to have at least a BA degree (fig. 6). And the BA itself does not help much either in becoming eligible for archaeological employment: only slightly more than 5% of all posts advertised in Austria and only about 3.5% of posts advertised in Germany make a degree the minimum requirement. Only with an MA, chances of archaeological employment somewhat improve, with c. 30-40% of adverts requiring applicants to have a Master’s degree. In both Austria and Germany, about 45% make a PhD or the even higher PD (Habilitation/Higher Doctorate) a minimum requirement (which means that about 24% of all the jobs advertised in Austria and c. 15% of those advertised in Germany are Chairs, since the Habilitation is still normally considered the required academic qualification for being appointed a professor).
This distribution of minimum qualifications asked of candidates on the ‘supply’ side of the labour market, in contrast to the situation in the UK, reflects the actual distribution of academic qualifications in Austrian and German archaeology quite well. In Austria in 2007-2008, slightly less than one third of all paid employees in archaeology had no academic qualifications, about one third had completed a Master’s degree, and slightly more than a third had acquired a doctorate or even a Habilitation (Karl 2008, 71). This is only slightly out of line with the distribution of required academic qualifications in job adverts from Austria, with c. 25% requiring no qualifications or BA only, c. 30% an MA, and c. 45% a PhD or Habilitation.
In Germany, the picture is slightly more complicated, but similar to the one in Austria nonetheless. In 2007-2008, most ‘low-qualification’ jobs – a considerable number of all employees in archaeology at c. 40% on average across all sectors – were in ‘support’ jobs, while practically no ‘proper’ archaeologists’ jobs were filled with staff without at least an MA degree. Of the ‘real’ archaeologists’ jobs, that is the remaining c. 60% of all posts, on average c. 40% of the staff had an MA (with the exception of commercial firms, where almost three quarters of ‘academic staff’ had ‘only’ an MA), while the remaining c. 60% held a PhD or even a Habilitation (Krausse and Nübold 2008, 47-50). While this is slightly further out of line with the distribution of required qualifications in job adverts than in Austria, the general pattern of only very few archaeology jobs – 15% – being advertised without any academic qualifications or a BA degree as a minimum requirement for employment, c. 40% of all advertised posts requiring at least an MA, and c. 45% a PhD or Habilitation, is at least roughly similar to that of the actual distribution of qualifications among ‘archaeologists’.
We interpret this as employers in German speaking archaeology advertising posts with the minimum academic qualification requirements at the level at which they would actually like to appoint. This clearly has an advantage in that candidates that have little if any chance to be successful with their application are not wasting time on applying for posts they will in all likelihood never get. However, in practice, it has the serious disadvantage that particularly for new entrants into the discipline who have not at least completed an MA degree, there are hardly any posts to apply for. Prospective entrants into the discipline thus have few opportunities to hone their job application skills before they reach a relatively advanced level. And reach an advanced level they must if they are to have any (serious) chances of finding ‘proper’ employment in the profession. For employers, this has the advantage that they can be reasonably certain to get an employee who has the qualifications they were hoping for. At the same time, it has the disadvantage of narrowing the pool of candidates (though there still are always more than enough), and thus possibly not finding the candidate with the best skills for the job.
The archaeology jobs supply in Austria and Germany thus also reasonably well reflects the distribution of qualifications in the profession: those who succeeded in getting a job in archaeology are normally highly academically qualified, regardless of the seniority of their post or whether it actually requires such a high level of academic qualifications and / or considerable professional experience. However, this shape of the ‘supply’ of jobs does not support a ‘natural’ career progression: one cannot enter the profession with relatively few qualifications in a junior position and then rise through the ranks by gaining practical experience or gaining higher qualifications later in one’s career. Rather, one has to acquire pretty much all qualifications in advance, and then hope to be lucky to find a job at the level one has achieved. This situation is made even worse by the fact that frequently, employers reject applications by candidates with qualifications higher than the ones listed as the minimum requirement for appointment because they fear that such ‘overqualified’ candidates might soon after being appointed find a job at ‘their level of qualifications’ (which will usually be better paid and frequently also perceived as more interesting than lower-level jobs) and leave. Also, that shape of the profession is considerably less ‘healthy’: it is severely top-heavy, with too many ‘chiefs’, and with a very tight bottleneck at the entry level.
To conclude, the ‘supply’ side of the archaeology labour market currently is in a particularly bad shape: in UK and German language archaeology in all sectors except field archaeology, nearly 80% fewer jobs are currently being advertised than were advertised at the height of the economic boom in 2007. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the ‘supply’ of jobs held up reasonably well until quite a bit into the recession – up to 2008 in Germany and Austria and even 2009 in the UK. But then, the supply of ‘new’ jobs collapsed dramatically.
The only slight relief that can perhaps be gathered from our data is that projections based on the data collected until September 2012 seem to indicate that the ‘supply’ side of the archaeology labour market seems to start to recover: by mid September 2012, nearly as many archaeology jobs in the UK had been advertised as in all of 2011; and for German language archaeology, the number of adverts had already surpassed that for the whole previous year by one. Thus, the worst may be behind us, and we might be seeing the first signs of improvement.
However, judging from the likely size of the increase this year, getting back to the numbers of new jobs advertised back in 2007 will take a long time. Thus if you, at this time, ain’t got no job in archaeology but are looking for one, your prospects are anything but rosy. That said, despite the situation being bad, it is also noteworthy that there are still ‘new’ jobs being offered in archaeology. And though the competition may be much tougher than it was some five years ago, that means that it is still possible to gain new employment in archaeology. The situation in archaeology in this regard – though perhaps somewhat worse than in some other fields – is not much different from all other sectors of the labour market, where getting a job has also become much more difficult than five years ago. So if today, you do not have a job in archaeology but want one, it is still absolutely worth trying.
And just to remind you: we have a free online jobs resource at http://archaeologieforum.at/index.php/cb-jiob-anzeige. There may be an opening for you that is currently being advertised, and the only way one can be certain that one will not get a job in archaeology is if one does not even try to get one.
Fig. 7: Monthly breakdown of the supply of new archaeology job adverts for 2007-15/9/2012.
Aitchison, K. and Edwards, R. 2008. Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe: United Kingdom. Archaeology Labour Market Intelligence: Profiling the Profession 2007/08. Reading: IfA, http://www.discovering-archaeologists.eu/united_kingdom.html (accessed 25/9/2012).
Aitchison, K. 2010a. United Kingdom archaeology in economic crisis. In: N. Schlanger and K. Aitchison (eds), Archaeology and the Global Economic Crisis. Multiple Impacts, Possible Solutions. Tervuren: Culture Lab Editions, www.ace-archaeology.eu/fichiers/25Archaeology-and-the-crisis.pdf (accessed 31/10/2012), 25-9.
Aitchison, K. 2010b. Job losses in UK archaeology – April 2010. Report for the Institute for Archaeologists and the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers. In: N. Schlanger and K. Aitchison (eds), Archaeology and the Global Economic Crisis. Multiple Impacts, Possible Solutions. Tervuren: Culture Lab Editions, www.ace-archaeology.eu/fichiers/25Archaeology-and-the-crisis.pdf (accessed 31/10/2012), 117-26.
Eogan, J. 2010. The impact of the recession on archaeology in the Republic of Ireland. In: N. Schlanger and K. Aitchison (eds), Archaeology and the Global Economic Crisis. Multiple Impacts, Possible Solutions. Tervuren: Culture Lab Editions, www.ace-archaeology.eu/fichiers/25Archaeology-and-the-crisis.pdf (accessed 31/10/2012), 19-23.
Karl, R. 2008. Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe: Österreich. Wien: HISTORICA AUSTRIA-Verlag, http://www.discovering-archaeologists.eu/austria.html (accessed 1/11/2012).
Karl, R. 2012. Archäologie studieren in Europa: Österreich. Überblick über die Studienlandschaft und erste Untersuchungsergebnisse. http://archäologieforum.org/index.php/beitraege/11-das-ioeaf-informiert/92-sae-oesterreich-grunddaten (accessed 31/10/2012).
Krausse, D. and Nübold, C. 2008. Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe: Deutschland. Verband der Landesarchäologen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, http://www.discovering-archaeologists.eu/ germany.html (accessed 31/10/2012).
Schlanger, N. and Aitchison, K. (eds) 2010. Archaeology and the Global Economic Crisis. Multiple Impacts, Possible Solutions. Tervuren: Culture Lab Editions, www.ace-archaeology.eu/fichiers/25Archaeology-and-the-crisis.pdf (accessed 25/9/2012).
If quoting this article, please reference it as:
Karl, R., Möller, K. and Krierer, K. 2012. Ain’t got no job… The archaeology labour market in Austria, Germany and the UK, 2007-2012. Vienna: http://www.archaeologieforum.at.
A pdf version of this article is available in our library at http://archäologieforum.org/index.php/bibliothek/viewdownload/14-archaeologischer-arbeitsmarkt/50-ain-t-got-no-job.
 Prifysgol Bangor University, UK.
 Georg August University Göttingen, Germany.
 University of Vienna, Austria.
 Although jobs from other countries feature occasionally, if we become aware of them by chance or if they are entered by volunteers with access to adverts from such other countries.
 For instance classifying them as part of specific sectors of archaeological work, like fieldwork, museum/heritage management, teaching & research etc.
 This means that if, for example, a 10 hour part-time temporary post for a research assistant was advertised with a total annual salary (pro rata) of e.g. €136,000, we took this to be a typo for a figure with 5 decimal points before the comma, rather than 6 (e.g. € 13,600) and corrected the database entry accordingly. On the other hand, if no closing date for a post had been entered, or a totally unrealistic closing date (e.g. 31/12/2020 for a post advertised in the period 2007-2012), we simply did not consider this post when calculating how long on average posts were advertised on our website.
 Whether that is in the media as TV or newspaper journalists for archaeology, or any kind of other archaeology-related job or support role.
 By this time, most Austrian Universities had only just started or were about to start their first BA degree programmes, and thus there was practically no one working in Austrian archaeology who had as his or her highest academic qualification a bachelor degree. Thus, those people who studied archaeology who now increasingly would graduate with a bachelor’s degree after somewhat more than 3 years would still have been students in the old ‘Humboldt style’ Magister programmes, which had considerably longer completion times (c. 6-7 years on average), and thus if already employed in archaeology would have been counted as having no academic qualifications.
 For Germany, the same applies regarding the introduction of BA degrees as in Austria, such degrees had only recently or were just about to be introduced by most Universities in 2007.
 Only academics are considered to ‘truly’ be ‘archaeologists’ in Germany (Krausse and Nübold 2008, 9).
 Though this may well be the intended outcome: there is a popular perception that not all that rarely, appointments to posts in German language archaeology (and academia more generally) are more to do with patronage and office politics than with the actual skills a successful candidate has (or lacks).
 Thus, candidates with a Habilitation will often be rejected for ‚ordinary‘ MA-level or doctoral jobs, as employers fear they will be awarded a Chair soon thereafter, which is generally perceived to be the most attractive (and by and large also most lucrative) kind of employment in German language archaeology. ‘Risking’ a Habilitation before having found permanent appointment thus can seriously backfire: the person awarded a Habilitation may well never be given a Chair by any University, but no other archaeological job either because every employer is afraid that the job is to ‘lowly’ for such an academic ‘high flier’.