How to Get Archivist Jobs

Archivist jobs, are a part of a large specialist job market which is almost unknown outside the sector. Archivists do some of the most important work in the world, in a range of industries. Their work has expanded with digital archiving taking over from the old record systems, but it retains a lot of the fundamental skill sets of traditional archiving. Getting archivist jobs can be a challenge, partly because of specialization. The career track is sometimes complex, because of the need for a range of qualifications and experience on multiple types of archive system.

Training and Education

Archivists typically train in a range of undergraduate areas. The industry standard graduate levels are a degree in history or library science, with various forms of archive science. Tertiary institutions generally offer a range of their history and library science courses with a strong range of electives including archives. (This is a practical approach in both areas, because history and library science involve dealing with a very large range of archives.)

There are various levels of related specialization. Archives include a very wide range of archive types and subjects. Please note there may also be permanent and temporary archives in each of these areas:

  • Corporate
  • Military
  • Academic
  • Institutional
  • Medical
  • Statutory
  • Public records
  • Scientific
  • Arts
  • Literary
  • National

Archivists frequently specialize in particular areas. Working with ancient materials like old hand made paper, old maritime maps and manuscripts requires strong understanding of their  subjects.

Archivists may receive in addition to their academic qualifications a voluntary certification called “Certified Archivist”. This certification is provided by the Academy of Certified Archivists for eligible candidates. Requirements for certification include a Masters degree, at least 1 year of appropriate archive service, and passing a written examination. Certification must be renewed periodically. 

The Work Environment

Each system may include related systems which are unique to that field, including in many cases conservation techniques and records management dealing with specific types of media and physical materials. This can be a labor of love. The truly priceless national archive collections, for example, get a lot of usage and wear and tear from researchers. Although researchers are always careful, old materials oxidize and become fragile. The archivists work with curators and conservation staff to minimize and prevent damage.

The main work streams are:

  • Cataloging new materials
  • Client service
  • Data entry and digitization of materials
  • Exhibition of materials
  • Public information

Some archive records systems are gigantic, and there may be a very wide range of different materials and types of archival materials in any field. It should be remembered that many of these records are often based on physical materials, not digital. Digitization has simplified some parts of archives work, but the materials are also part of the archives system.

Becoming an Archivist

Archivists are always enthusiasts and often experts in their fields. They usually pursue ongoing training in their areas of preference. No two archive jobs are exactly the same, and careers are often developed across a range of roles. For those with a passion for history or information, archive jobs can be dream jobs.

The Bureau of Labor reports that archivist jobs are expected to increase above the national average in a highly competitive labor market in the next decade.