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How to Become an Archivist

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Archives are historical documents or recordings that provide valuable information about a person, place, institution or government. Although traditionally archives comprised manuscripts, unpublished letters and diaries, modern formats such as photographs, sound recordings, video and optical disks are gaining popularity. If you would like to pursue a career that involves maintaining and controlling such records and documents, becoming an archivist is a perfect idea.

What Do Archivists Do

Although all archivists focus on filing records of enduring values and making them available to people, they also have the following responsibilities;

  • Determining preservation and retention strategies for some archives, especially those that are fragile
  • Coordinating the acquisition of various archives from individuals or organisations
  • Maintaining proper record-keeping systems of all archives stored in a specific location
  • Guiding users on how to use, read or interpret various formats of archived records
  • Organising exhibitions and facilitating the public’s access to archived documents
  • Archivists in administrative positions direct and supervise junior workers, such as librarians and trainee archivists

Educational Requirements

Archivists are usually highly educated as most employers prefer professionals with graduate degrees. Therefore, to become an archivist you must complete these steps;

  • Complete high school – developing a keen interest in history will help you build a good foundation
  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in information science, history, library studies or records management
  • Pursue a master’s degree in any of the fields above – the program must be recognised by the Archives and Records Association

Top Universities

Some of the best universities that offer courses in archives include;

Professional Development

Securing a professional certification in archives management not only shows employers you are ready for the job, but also improves your professional standing among colleagues. Some of the organisations that offer certifications and memberships for archivists are;

Salary and Job Growth

The ARA recommends at least an annual salary of £22,000 for entry-level archivists and £35,000 for experienced archivists. Archivists who move into management positions can make up to £60,000 annually. With the National Careers Service predicting that the UK economy will create 180,000 new jobs for archivists between 2014 and 2022, these professionals have excellent employment opportunities.

Important Skills and Abilities

To be an effective archivist, you must have these qualities;

  • Excellent interpersonal skills to establish positive relations with archive users, such as researchers and students
  • Good written communication skills to prepare reports in perfect grammar and verbal communication skills to educate the public on various archives in an understandable manner
  • High logical ability to identify and sort various archives accordingly
  • Strong research skills to engage in research projects focus on finding new information on various archives
  • Ability to adapt to and use emerging technologies, such as records management software

Top Employers

  • National and Local Governments
  • Academic Institutions
  • Multinational Companies (Family Businesses)
  • Museums
  • Charity Organizations
  • Professional Organizations

Work Environment

Although archivists normally work between 9am and 5pm, Monday through Friday, some work part-time during evenings and weekends. They mainly work in offices, but can spend time inspecting records and documents in buildings where archives are conserved.

With the career path for archivists now clearer, it’s time to work toward becoming one!

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