Learn about the career of Matthew Bamborough, who studied for a BSc in Archaeology between 2015-2018. Since then he has worked in field archaeology and completed an MSc at Oxford University. Now he works as a heritage consultant.
What and when did you study at Durham?
I studied BSc Archaeology at Durham between 2015-2018.
What are you doing now?
Since graduating from Durham in June 2018, the last five years have been eventful and consisted of non-stop employment and/or further studying.
Initially, I worked as a professional field archaeologist in the construction industry for several commercial units (Archaeology Wales, L - P : Archaeology and Cambridge Archaeological Unit) in south-east England between graduation and September 2020. I completed the MSc Archaeological Science course at Oxford University, funded through the Edward Hall Memorial Fund scholarship between September 2020 - October 2021. Upon graduation of my masters, I returned to professional field archaeology during the pandemic, completing 9 months with AOC Archaeology Group on sites across HS2 and EWR in the midlands, England. Here I developed my previously acquired fieldwork skillset further, working on Strip-Map-Sample excavation sites and solo watching briefs, training new graduates, GPS surveying and undertaking a geoarchaeological borehole survey across HS2 Central.
In June 2021, I transitioned to heritage consultancy within UK Planning, securing a graduate heritage consultant position with Waterman Group in Bristol. I now work on the planning application stages of development projects, producing a range of supportive documents, such as Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessments, Environmental Statement Chapters and Written Schemes of Investigation for various types of archaeological investigation (e.g. geophysical surveys, trial trench evaluations, watching briefs) and mitigation works (e.g. Strip-Map-Sample excavation, open-area excavation, watching briefs). In addition, I undertake archaeological site and archive visits for projects; liaise and consult with Clients, Stakeholders, Archaeological Units, Historic England and Local Planning Authority Archaeological Officers and Conservation Officers; and procure and manage Archaeological Units to undertake archaeological investigation and mitigation fieldwork.
My time spent in both professional field archaeology and heritage consultancy has resulted in an expanding portfolio of support to development and redevelopment projects across various counties and boroughs in England, such as Kent, City of London, Greater London boroughs, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Lancashire, West Midlands, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Bristol, Wessex, Sussex and Devon.
I received my promotion to a fully trained Heritage Consultant in December 2022 and continue to work in the UK Planning and Construction industry.
How do you feel your experiences of studying Archaeology at Durham shaped your life afterwards?
My BSc Archaeology degree provided me with the core foundations I needed to pursue a career in professional archaeology as well as lay the requirements to pursue further study down the line. The undergraduate degree established a broad understanding of periodic backgrounds in UK archaeology as well as a broad understanding of the utilisation of scientific archaeological methods to archaeological materials. The Department of Archaeology at Durham provided opportunities to gain additional experience and develop my interests, volunteering for various staff members’ projects, such as gaining experience in the cataloguing of osteological assemblages, database creation and management, palaeoenvironmental sample processing and experimental archaeobotany.
The importance of attending archaeological field school excavations, as well as volunteering on additional fieldwork opportunities internally and externally while at Durham cannot be understated. The development of practical, applicable skills in archaeology is crucial to a career in professional archaeology. There is no substitute for experience and employers know this. My time at Durham set me up for the start of my career in archaeology and heritage, while also providing me with life long friends and contacts that are cherished.
What are your favourite memories/experiences of studying Archaeology at Durham?
My time at Durham University is only looked back on with fond memories. The best memories relate to the attendance of the field schools at Bibracte, France with Prof. Tom Moore and at Lanark, Glasgow with Durham and Glasgow University students. These were welcomed breaks from studying and staring at screens all day. The field schools allow you to experience archaeology in specific contexts and with specific or multiple time periods, as well as make connections with like minded individuals.
What do you miss most about studying at Durham?
The best thing about Durham would be the range of opportunities students have to engage with the breadth of archaeological periods, topics, specialisms and methods available to them. The Department of Archaeology has a very warm and friendly environment, even still to this day, having visited Durham in person for the 2022 careers talks. The social side of the Department and wider university was also a very positive part of my experience, having been the Durham Archaeology Society’s social sec in my 2nd and 3rd years.
What would be your top piece of advice for current students and/or recent graduates?
Don’t feel pressured or rushed to pursue further study straight after your undergraduate or graduate degree. Depending on what you want to do in life, whether it be to remain within archaeology/heritage or work in a completely different field, it is perfectly acceptable to take time out to work and gain experience in professional archaeology. In the UK, an MA or MSc does not guarantee you an increase in salary in archaeology/heritage, nor does a PhD in archaeology/heritage.
Professional organisations and companies generally seek experience over having multiple degrees with no experience (i.e. individuals who have just studied straight through from undergraduate to post-doctorate). Field archaeology salaries, although still low, are improving gradually, and I have found it to be more beneficial to get the trainee/lower experienced positions out of the way sooner rather than later. This allows you to climb the salary ladder and open more doors to different job opportunities, including heritage consultancy.
You can always return to academia for a masters, doctorate or post-doctorate at any point. I found taking time out to work in a fixed working week job beneficial to understanding work-life balance and time management for when I undertook my masters at Oxford. Overall, just remember that pursuing the academic route is just one option in your career.
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Learn more about Matthew's research.
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