Higher Certificate in Applied Archaeology

  • NFQ Level 6
  • Points Required 297*
  • Course Code SG403
  • Award Higher Certificate
  • Duration 2

Course Summary

This programme has been paused and the next student intake will be SEPTEMBER 2022


If you have an interest in how people lived in the past, enjoy working outdoors and indoors and would like to work in a challenging and rewarding field, this is the ideal course for you. This course covers in detail the past 10,000 years of human activity in Ireland, ranging from the nomadic hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic Era through to the industrial archaeology of the 18th and 19th centuries within a wider European context. It includes a strong practical element and, given the sites of archaeological interest in the West of Ireland, Sligo is an ideal location for this course. It is exciting and innovative and offers outdoor fieldwork with sound classroom and laboratory-based study.


The Higher Certificate in Applied Archaeology is a two-year introduction to Irish Archaeology. 


The first two years focus on developing your knowledge of the main archaeological periods and introducing key skills that are used by archaeologists, including archaeological surveying and excavation. Students study Irish and World Archaeology, as well as Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Early Medieval and Viking Ireland and Europe. They are also provided with an introduction to Chemistry, Earth Science and Computing. At the end of the year, students participate in a two-week training excavation.


The year begins with post-excavation analysis where the students analyse the finds from the first-year field school. Modules also include: Zooarchaeology, Bronze and Iron age Ireland, Biology and the Diversity of Life, Environmental Archaeology, Chemical Analysis of Archaeological Remains and Statistics in Archaeological Interpretation.

Tomb 4, Carrowmore Passage Tomb complex, Co. Sligo; over 5000 years old


Graduates can choose to continue their studies for one year to gain a level 7 Bachelor of Science in Applied Archaeology or an extra two years to gain a Level 8 Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Applied Archaeology 


The archaeology courses are staffed by a core of highly skilled, experienced archaeologists supported by a range of specialists in areas of science and transferable skills. We are firmly committed to excellence in teaching and research, aiming to strike a balance between theory and practice.  All our core archaeologists have considerable experience in both the commercial and academic archaeology sectors, while our specialist academic staff support the programme with in-depth scientific expertise.  Many of our staff are members of the Centre for Environmental Research, Innovation and Sustainability.

Entry Requirements

Entry requirements for CAO courses at IT Sligo are available for download below:

A science subject is not a requirement for this course.


Career Opportunities

On completion of the Higher Certificate in Applied Archaeology you will have a good knowledge of archaeology and will be able to work as an archaeologist. Graduates from the programme work in a wide variety of workplace sectors including:

  • Archaeological excavation and fieldwork
  • Archaeological surveying
  • Museums
  • Local Government (County Councils and Corporations)
  • Civil Service (National Monuments Service)
  • Conservation (Historic Buildings + Artefacts)
  • Cultural Tourism and Heritage Management

Graduates can also choose to continue their studies for one or two more years to gain a degree in Applied Archaeology. Achieving a BSc. Archaeology(Level 7) requires one year after the Higher Certificate, while a BSc. (Honours) Applied Archaeology (Level 8) requires two further years of study.


Further Study

Graduates can choose to continue their studies for one or two more years to gain a degree in Applied Archaeology. Achieving a BSc. Archaeology(Level 7) requires one year after the Higher Certificate, while a BSc. (Honours) Applied Archaeology (Level 8) requires two further years of study.


We think we have the best archaeology courses in Ireland, but don’t just take our word for it – hear what others have to say!  

“I have had the absolute pleasure of working in the field with graduates from IT Sligo’s Applied Archaeology programme on numerous occasions. It is instantly recognisable that these graduates have practical skills and training that is miles ahead of the norm.  Their knowledge, skills and attitude set them in a league of their own.”

Jean O’Dowd, Commercial Excavation Director

“On my first commercial dig alone of the 15 archaeologists on site, 8 were IT Sligo graduates. On my most recent dig in Wales of the 10 archaeologists, 4 were IT Sligo. For anyone who is considering a career in archaeology, IT Sligo should be the first port of call.” 

Aidan Keogh, Graduate 

“Our training excavation was one of the best experiences I ever had and it made me realise that this was the life for me so I was even more determined to learn and finish the course. The Applied Archaeology course not only taught me Archaeology and Science, it also taught me to not be afraid of new experiences and not to be afraid of taking chances.” 

Ana Filipa Castanheira Santos, Graduate

“Most colleges will offer archaeology as part of an arts degree but when I left school I was looking some something more science based with a big emphasis on practical experience and I was not disappointed by the course in Sligo. I managed to get commercial excavation work for three full summers while in college. I’ve worked for 10 different companies on a variety of project types. So far I’ve worked on some very interesting sites, met some wonderful people and seen a lot of the countryside.” 

Marese Curtin, Graduate

“As a graduate working in archaeology, I know from experience that this course is not only the best equipped in Ireland for working in commercial archaeology but it also prepares its students for the reality of the working world in archaeology. If your intention is to work in archaeology in Ireland, this course is the one for you. All of my employers would agree, IT Sligo produces the best site assistants in Ireland.”

William O’Siorain, Graduate

“Studying archaeology at IT Sligo for me meant getting the best possible education for my chosen career in an inclusive, friendly and encouraging atmosphere. At all times, I could rely on the support of my fellow archaeology students and the guidance of IT Sligo’s experienced archaeology lecturers.”

Sinead Middleton, MSc Graduate

Did you know?

We also offer level 7 Bachelor of Science in Applied Archaeology and Level 8 Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Applied Archaeology as well as part-time online courses for Irish/EU students and for US/Worldwide students.

40% of the course involves field trips, starting in the first semester. Students visit local prehistoric and medieval sites in Sligo and each module will have focused field trips. Environmental Archaeology includes site visits to the shell middens and an Iron Age trackway; For Buildings Archaeology, students visit medieval castles and for Neolithic Archaeology, passage tombs in Sligo   There are also trips to the National Museum in Dublin and the Radiocarbon lab in Belfast.

Our class sizes are small so students get to develop their own interests. Our lecturers are passionate and engaging. They are experts in their field; combining academic theory with their industry experience in the class. 

We have one of the largest Science schools in Ireland and in 2014 the building was completely revamped. Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities, industry spec equipment and individual lab spaces. 

Watch the following videos to meet our staff and students on this programme

A remarkable archaeological discovery in a Co. Clare cave has pushed back the date of human existence in Ireland by 2,500 years. This discovery re-writes Irish archaeology and adds an entirely new chapter to the human colonisation of the island – moving Ireland’s story into a new era. In this video, Dr Dowd tells the story of the discovery and its significance.

Listen to third year student Mark McCarthnay, talk about the importance of Waterways in Pre-history, including an interview with Dr. Marian Dowd about recent finds in Glencar lake.