What do our archaeology graduates do after they leave the University of Manchester? #4 Simon’s story

CaptureBy John Piprani

What are you doing now?

I work for the Civil Service, presently in a finance role in the Ministry of Justice. I am coming to the end of the 2nd year of the Civil Service Fast Stream, specifically the Project Delivery stream. Post-graduation and prior to joining the Civil Service I worked in a variety of Curatorial and Collections Care roles in the Middle East department of the British Museum.

What is the best bit about your job?

The variety of work, somewhere in government someone is doing what you’re interested in. It is also the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people in the UK.

What is the worst aspect!

The timescales involved in government projects, many of the projects that government is delivering are very challenging, either behaviourally or technically, with long life spans meaning you rarely get to see the immediate impact of the work you’re doing.

What did you do at UoM? (Archaeology? Museology? Degree? Masters? PhD?)

I studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Undergrad, Archaeology at Masters, and then a PhD all in a row. My PhD was a Collaborative Doctoral Award split between UoM and the British Museum.

How long since you graduated?

I graduated (from my PhD) in 2013.

How well did UoM prepare you for your current role?

Very well, the critical skills involved in a university education of any kind are very useful in the Civil Service where the impact of advice and decisions can have huge consequences. From archaeology in particular the transferrable skills it develops as it straddles both the humanities and sciences have been very useful, so being able to apply critical reasoning, statistically analyse datasets, and understand how cultures work offers a skill set that few other disciplines offer so completely.

What was the most valuable aspect of your education to you?

I couldn’t settle on one, but the two most valuable aspects to me are the sense of perspective that Archaeology offers, of other cultures and ways of living that are fundamentally different to our own and the great depth of the human past. The second aspect is an understanding of the importance of material culture to human society.

What is the most important advice you would give to a younger you wanting to work in archaeology?

A younger me wanting to work in archaeology? I think be more realistic as to the state of higher education in the UK because as this article demonstrates, you’re more likely to die of cancer than to get a permanent academic job in Archaeology: https://pia-journal.co.uk/articles/10.5334/pia.513/

Undergraduate and Postgraduate studies offer a huge range of opportunities, but should not be viewed solely as a route to work as an academic. So I think my advice would be do the PhD, after-all I enjoyed it, but think about what aspects of it you enjoy most and find out how you can do that.


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