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How to Become an Archivist: Salary and Career Facts

How to Become an Archivist: People enter the archival profession for a variety of reasons, including to connect researchers with the records they require, convey the story of a community, preserve a piece of history, hold people and institutions accountable, and increase access through technology. Wherever it is crucial to preserve the records of individuals or groups, such as in universities, major enterprises, libraries, museums, governmental agencies, hospitals, historical societies, and religious communities, archivists are employed. The list of materials they work with includes digital files, rare manuscripts, analog film, letters, postcards, diaries, photographs, and organizational records, just to name a few.

For archivists, voluntary certification is possible; it calls for a graduate degree and work experience. For more information on what it takes to become a certified archivist, about typical master’s program coursework, and about job prospects, keep reading.

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how to become an archivist

Career Overview

Although archivists frequently collaborate with museum curators, you’ll more often deal with information in the form of documents like letters, manuscripts, maps, and film clips than with symbolic objects like paintings or hand-woven textiles. You might even work with actual documents written in foreign languages or antique scrolls. Other places where you might use your archiving skills include universities, governments, and historical sites.

As an archivist, it would be your duty to investigate the materials, ascertain their importance and history, and properly preserve them. Working frequently on a computer database will allow you to keep track of your study findings and organize important papers into folders or displays. If you are a museum employee, you might decide which collections to feature in a forthcoming display. You’ll gather and manage a considerable amount of useful information, so it’s critical that you carefully organize and prioritize your research as well as take care with any items you handle. Computer proficiency is another useful skill because archive work is frequently completed electronically.

Important Information About Archivists

  • Professional Certification: Available through the Academy of Certified Archivists.
  • Key Skills: Analytical thinking, computer competency, customer service oriented, organized.
  • Work Environment: Museums, government organizations, universities, corporations and other institutions
  • Similar Occupations: Anthropologists, archaeologists, craft and fine artists, historians, librarians.

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Average Salary and Employment Prospects

The annual average pay for archivists in the United States is $55,884. This wage may vary based on other elements such as location, level of experience, and education. Click on the linked link to view Indeed’s most recent wage data.

By obtaining more degrees and certificates, archivists might raise their pay. Attending conferences and giving presentations there can also help you become known as an authority in your subject.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that from 2021 to 2031, there may be a 12% growth in the number of individuals employed as archivists, curators, and museum personnel. According to the BLS, this surge may be due to an increase in archivist demand as businesses use more records and the general public’s interest in museums rises.

Workplace Conditions and Benefits

Depending on the size and makeup of the institution hiring, archivists receive a wide range of pay, benefits, and working conditions. The scope of archive repositories varies from substantial, well-funded organizations offering a range of archival services to small operations reliant on a part-time workforce. The nature, scope, organizational placement, and structure of repositories inside the parent institution all differ significantly from one another. Most archivists working for the government are employed as civil servants, and academic institutions frequently employ archivists as academics.

The work of archivists helps to improve social memory, safeguard citizen rights, property, and identity, and give public and private institutions transparency and accountability. As a result, archivists virtually invariably indicate a high level of career satisfaction on both a professional and personal level.

Duties and Tasks of an Archivist

It’s crucial to comprehend what archivists do in order to comprehend how to become one. Any object that is thought to have historical significance is preserved by archivists. Items like records, artwork, tools, and the personal effects of historical figures can all contribute to our understanding of history and how earlier people and societies lived.

In order to assure the preservation of historically important materials, an archivist typically collaborates with a museum. Among an archivist’s main responsibilities are:

  • Investigate and find significant stuff
  • Bring damaged items back to their original state
  • Save items for future research.
  • Upkeep things to avoid damage
  • Make digital or backup copies.
  • Sort the items and copies of them in the archives.
  • Make it easier to study these things
  • Inform people about the artifacts’ value and context.
  • Make sure that others can access the records that have been saved.

Skills of Archivists

A few crucial hard and soft talents for an archivist are listed below:

1. Research: A skilled archivist can find information that enables the identification, contextualization, and finding of historically significant objects and documents.

2. Restoration: The majority of archivists are familiar with the many techniques used to securely restore documents to the best conditions.

3. Organization: Archivists are frequently able to arrange, catalog, and preserve priceless objects such that they are safe and simple to find.

4. Analysis: Strong analytical abilities can aid archivists in selecting the most effective methods for examining such documents for appraisal and authentication.

5. Computer Literacy: An archivist can excel at work by being familiar with the software required for examining, archiving, and copying materials. This talent’s impact on this industry is only growing.

6. Interpersonal Abilities: An archivist can communicate with clients and coworkers to streamline work procedures and the shipping, storing, and selling of documents by using excellent interpersonal skills.

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Why is Certification Required to Work as an Archivist?

You don’t actually need certification. The Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA) grants optional certification to anyone who fulfill certain requirements for education and experience and successfully complete a qualifying exam, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ( A certification can help your career prospects because it attests to your research and analytical capabilities, management and organizational talents, and knowledge of preservation methods for treating historically significant records and documents.

how to become an archivist
how to become an archivist

How to Become an Archivist

A mix of education and experience is required for becoming an archivist in order to demonstrate knowledge of history, preservation techniques, and the responsibility required to look after such priceless items. The following are the prerequisites for becoming an archivist:

1. Obtain a Relevant Bachelor’s Degree

Get a bachelor’s degree in a suitable discipline before starting a career as an archivist. This can assist you in obtaining the minimal level of education that employers frequently set for these employment. There are other options besides concentrating in archiving that can help you get ready for the job.

Studying in the following areas will help students who want to work as archivists:

  • Archives and preservation with a specialization in one document type, like maps, manuscripts or photos
  • Library studies or library science
  • History, with a specialization in at least one specific area, such as the Civil War or Ancient Greece
  • Archival science
  • Archives and records management

2. Continue your Master’s Studies

To demonstrate a mastery of the knowledge relevant to their profession, the majority of museums require their archivists to get an advanced degree in history, archiving, or preservation. Even though this degree can be in any pertinent discipline, it may be advantageous to get a master’s in archive study to support a prior history degree. You can learn about techniques for reviewing research, the exploration of various historical periods, and the preservation of artifacts while pursuing a master’s degree in history or archiving.

3. Acquire Work Experience

Consider applying for an entry-level position, an internship, or a volunteer program since many companies want archivists to have prior experience working in a museum setting. Such programs are often provided by museums and professional archiving groups, and they frequently result in job offers or networking possibilities. Consider asking someone working in the industry if you may shadow them or work alongside them to obtain the necessary experience if you know an archivist or are a member of a networking club.

4. Become Certified

While additional certificates might advance your schooling as an archive and make your resume more marketable, certifications are sometimes optional for archivists. The Academy of Certified Archivists’ archive certification is normally the most widely used accreditation for archivists. You must meet all requirements, including holding a graduate degree and passing an exam that gauges your document selection, organization, and preservation skills, in order to obtain this credential.

5. Keep Learning More about Archiving

A career as an archivist typically requires staying informed about the most recent archive trends and techniques. Numerous archival and museum organizations provide workshops, classes, and on-the-job training that can advance your career.

Participating in your own research is another approach to further your education. Think about reading books on the subject, locating online forums for professionals in the field, and following news about the most recent techniques and suggestions for archivists. Before introducing new preservation and organizing techniques at work, you can test them out on your own documents at home.

6. Establish an Effective Professional Network

The majority of jobs in this expertise are only found in a few businesses because archiving is such a highly skilled profession. In order to meet people who can either give you a job or tell you about openings, it can be useful to join organizations, find meet-up groups and clubs online, or participate in other networking activities. Meeting other archivists can be a wonderful way to stay informed about the most recent techniques for archiving and preserving, allowing you to stay knowledgable about your field and build the relationships that could open up your next job opportunity.

7. Write an Archivist’s CV.

Writing your resume is a crucial step in becoming an archivist. One of the first ways a prospective employer learns about your qualifications is usually through this document, which showcases your talents and abilities. Make sure to alter your CV for each application so you can highlight the abilities the employer desires or requires.

How can I Become Certified?

According to the ACA, you need a master’s degree and at least one to two years of relevant professional experience to be eligible to take the certification exam that would lead to your recognition as a Certified Archivist ( Although it is not necessary, a master’s degree in archival studies can lower the amount of job experience needed.

You can browse the online directory maintained by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to identify a university offering a master’s program in archival studies. The SAA provides a list for your convenience on its website (, but it is not an accrediting agency and does not support any particular institution or program. Through its online directory (, the American Library Science also lists programs that have received accreditation.

What Can I Expect from a Program in Archival Studies?

Although a Master of Archival Studies is an option, you might prefer to go for a Master of Library Science with an archives specialization. Another option is to pursue a graduate certificate in archival studies or archival administration. Graduate certificate programs can be found as post-master’s choices or in conjunction with master’s degree programs.

Appraisal and acquisition, arrangement and description, archival access, photographic archives, collective memory, preservation management, research methodologies, and ethics are some common courses related to archives. Studies in digital preservation may be stressed due to the constantly evolving technology that distinguishes modern society. Two usual graduation requirements are turning in a master’s thesis and doing a practicum or internship at a place that has school approval.

Some programs can be partially accessed online. Although you might have access to the course materials and discussion boards around-the-clock, your professors might insist that you attend one or more synchronously delivered lectures each week. This means that in order to take part in a live classroom session, which can involve in-person conversations, you must check on at a specified time. Additionally, an online program’s internships must be conducted in person.

how to become an archivist

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I learn about archives?

Although a degree is not required to work as an archive researcher, having one can help applicants develop the abilities and traits needed for the position. To develop the necessary skills and information, it is a good idea to try to gain as much experience as you can.

Who are the archivists?

A professional who evaluates, gathers, organizes, preserves, maintains control over, and gives access to records and archives that are thought to have long-term worth is known as an archivist.

Are archivists desk workers?

During ordinary business hours, archivists typically perform their duties in an office setting. Working in the field, such as at outdoor displays, may be necessary for archivists. To enable public access to the archived materials, they occasionally put in extra time or work on the weekends.

Is working as an archiver stressful?

The stress level of a professional archivist varies based on the working environment in their particular archive, vault, or cubby hole.



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