Specialist archaeologist

Laura completed a Master of Arts in Anthropology specialising in Archaeology and now works as specialist archaeologist in the Heritage Unit at Auckland Council.

Laura Dawson working at her desk

Key facts

Career: Specialist archaeologist
Programme: Master of Arts
Subject: Anthropology

“I am extremely lucky to work where I do! Every day I am excited and challenged, getting to research and visit archaeological sites around Auckland, meeting diverse people from many different departments and expanding my own knowledge of Auckland’s history.

“As a specialist archaeologist I respond to requests across the Auckland Region where there are archaeological and heritage concerns. I provide advice to many arms of Council and give specialist input into the Resource Consent process.

“Doing my Master of Arts in Anthropology at the University, specialising in Archaeology, was the ideal path into this position. In New Zealand a Masters is the standard you must reach to perform some statutory requirements as an Archaeologist, so I knew that was what I needed. Focussing on Pacific and New Zealand archaeology when choosing my papers also ties in strongly with the job I now hold, and gave me invaluable base-line knowledge.

All of the skills from my study have helped me in this position. Academic writing, research, critical thinking and evaluation have been the most significant, as well as the more specific skills that Anthropology courses teach. 

"Other, more general skills like time-management, working within a team and communicating ideas are similarly just so important. There is always a way in which my studies can help me with my day-to-day work, and it changes every day.

“The University of Auckland was the only university that offered sound, research focused Anthropology programs, and offered flexibility between the sub-disciplines. For postgraduate study I wanted a program that offered Archaeology in strong association with the sciences, while still retaining that Anthropological backbone. The University of Auckland was the only place that offered flexibility and choice.

“Listen carefully to the advice out there, but more importantly trust what you want. Take the papers that are interesting and exciting to you, and get passionate. It’s the passionate people that will make a career out of something, even if the discipline is small and people are saying there are no prospects. With your commitment and enthusiasm, in the end you will make your own prospects.”