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Preserve history with a career as an archivist

Wednesday, February 6, 2019
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Preserve history with a career as an archivist
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Individuals with a knack for history, passion for artifacts and noteworthy documents as well as exemplary organizational skills may decide to pursue a career as an archivist. These professionals should also have tremendous computer skills, as many of the archived items they must access regularly appear in digital formats.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a 14 percent rise in employment projection for archivists through 2026, which is faster than the average rate for all professions. This increase in demand may be a result of the prevalence of electronic records, which are relevant in many different industries in the tracking of historic and otherwise crucial documentation. More than ever, organizations are seeking candidates who are well versed in electronic records management.

Job duties

The major function of an archivist is to preserve and organize important items. No matter their industry, archivists perform the following duties:

  • Preserve and maintain objects and documents.
  • Authenticate historical materials.
  • Maintain electronic records, including audio, video and presentation formats.
  • Create digital copies of existing artifacts to secure their records.
  • Organize archive data and documentation for easy navigation.
outside of museum columnsArchivists can work in a variety of environments, including museums.

Archivist working conditions and hours

The typical working environment in which archivists conduct their day-to-day duties vary based on their place of employment. They might complete most of their work at a desk, among the public or in a classroom setting. The most common employers of archivists in the U.S. include:

  • Museums, historical sites and similar institutions
  • Government
  • Educational services

Archivists working for corporations, educational institutions or government agencies may work regular business hours. Individuals employed in museums may work evening and weekend hours or on an as-needed basis to preserve historical documents and artifacts.

Expected salary

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for archivists in 2015 was $51,760. According to PayScale, the median earnings of a digital archivist are on the higher end, at $58,006. This is a reflection of different industries' preference for investing in archivists who are capable of preserving and organizing digital resources in addition to physical copies of items.

How to become an archivist

Individuals looking toward a career as an archivist typically cannot achieve this title immediately after completing their undergraduate studies. To get a job as an archivist, candidates typically need to have a master's degree in History, Library & Information Science, Political Science or Public Administration. At more competitive museums and agencies, candidates may not be considered without a relevant doctorate degree. During their graduate studies, they may have the opportunity to take courses in archival studies and even earn a concentration in this specialization.

Students can also gain invaluable experience in this field through volunteer programs and internships with local museums, government agencies or corporations. They may even have the ability to work directly for the university's archives.

After completing their graduate education, archivists may pursue a voluntary certification program in which they can gain expertise in one specific area. They may consider gaining credentials through the Academy of Certified Archivists, which typically requires professional experience as an archivist and a passing score on the qualifying exam. Professionals who have completed this achievement must renew their certification regularly by completing continuing education credits or retaking the exam.

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