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Archaeologists study how people lived in the past by examining the material traces that they left behind. They study human culture all around the world and look at everything from the earliest human ancestors, to Ancient Egyptians, to World War I trenches to modern rubbish.
Most archaeology degree courses do not have any specific subject requirements. In general, most archaeology admissions tutors are looking for candidates with an enthusiasm for the subject and proof of academic ability. Prospective students should start reading around the subject, finding topics which interest them and thinking critically about the ideas and evidence they come across. Most university departments will have a recommended reading list for prospective students, many local libraries stock books of archaeological interest and there are lots of on-line blogs and specialist interest websites with news and information.
An A-Level (or equivalent post-16 qualification) in the humanities is often useful; particularly history, geography, geology, classical civilizations or archaeology. Archaeology is a subject which straddles both the sciences and the arts (and many univerisites offer both types of degree) but to do a science based archaeology degree you will normally need to have a science A-Level. The Russell Group, the UK's leading research universities, have produced a guide called Informed Choices (which can be downloaded here) which includes advice on the best subject combinations for a wide range of university courses and how to keep your options open. However, you should always approach individual universities for their advice on the subjects and grades required to apply for the courses they offer.
A committee of the heads of archaeology departments at UK universities have a website here which covers what archaeology is and why study it as well as giving a breakdown on employability at the end of the degree.
As for hands-on experience, a good place to start looking is the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) which lists forthcoming fieldwork and conference opportunities here and regional groups who arrange activities and talks, which you can find out more about here. The CBA also organises an annual Festival of Archaeology with over a thousand events each July. The magazine Current Archaeology also has a section on getting involved in archaeological digs on their website here. There are hundreds of local archaeology and history societies across the UK offering a wide range of talks, fieldtrips and excavation opportunities. Try browsing the internet using a search engine to find out what's available in your area.
Archaeology graduates enter a very wide range of professions with the transferable skills that they develop, including lateral thinking, problem-solving, data analysis and report writing, all of which are relevant to a present-day career in archaeology or other areas such as business, science, politics or the arts. You can read about the careers of several archaeology graduates from Cambridge University on the website here, and the Council for British Archaeology has information about how to pursue a career in archaeology and the current job opportunities here.