Archivist Career Information

Archivists are responsible for the storage and accessibility of historical documents. These documents can include diaries and letters, as well as maps and photographs. They are responsible for the preservation and categorization of a wide variety of documents stored in various media.


Most archivists have either an undergraduate degree in history with a minor in archival studies, or a graduate degree in archival studies. Many archivists are also public historians, published writers and researchers. They may possess an additional graduate degree, even a PhD, in history or cultural studies.

Typical Day

Most archivists work for the government, a museum, or a corporation that is old enough to require the services of an archivist. An archivist could begin the day collecting the papers of a well-known person in the community who has donated their documents to the archives. They could consult on a meeting about a digitization project to make documents available on the Internet or to categorize them in a database. They may be organizing one set of papers, while assisting a researcher or member of the public on finding photographs or a historical maps. They may also be writing grant applications to gain funding to maintain their collection or acquire additional documents. They may also be engaged in research for their organization about digitization, access to materials, or even exploring how to conserve materials stored on media from the twentieth century, such as floppy discs or cassette tapes. An archivist's day depends on the organization that has hired them and the type of documents stored in their archives.

Archivists are usually paid a similar salary to academic librarians, which means entry level salaries can range from $37,000/year to $42,000. Senior level archivists can make more than $65,000/year.

Career Options

A state archivist is responsible for storing and promoting the history of their state, as recorded in primary documents prepared by people from that state. They would work in categorization, preservation and public history projects. Many of the state archives have also spent, and will continue to spend, a great deal of money and time to make their documents accessible on the Internet, either in a searchable database, or by digitizing the document so the historians, both amateur and professional, and students can access their documents.

A film archivist catalogues and collects films from the collection of a specific person or organization. They are also responsible for making materials accessible, usually via the Internet, as well as preserving film and the hardware to view the films. A film archivist is usually associated with an organization, such as a film studio, a government archive, and they make their collections available to researchers and enthusiasts, depending on the goals of the organization that they work for.

One new area for archivists is an Internet archivist. These archivists preserve slices of the Internet, usually government documents, so researchers, such as historians, sociologists, political scientists and anthropologists, can consult for analysis. It is also possible that this presidential administration will also be hiring a social media archivist who can keep an accurate record and organize the Internet documents produced by this current administration.

Archivists are responsible for preserving primary historical documents, and as we produce more written records, even a wider range of records using a wide variety of instruments beyond pen and paper, there is a greater need for archivists with programming and digitization skills, beyond a love of history.