What does a Archivist do?

Median Pay $51,760
Growth Rate 10%
Citation Retrieved from O*NET Online

An archivist is key to preserving important historical documents and material. They are educated to be able to authenticate and appraise the asset they are working with and would research historical facts related to it. Along with appropriately archiving and cataloging, archivists also make digital copies should the integrity become compromised and for others to view the material online or shared electronically.

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How to Become an Archivist

You would typically have earned a master’s degree in a program like library or archival science or history. Few colleges and universities offer the specific degree program of archival studies. If you are seeking your degree in a closely-related field, you would want to gain archiving experience through an internship or volunteer work while seeking your degree. According to O*NET OnLine, over 75% of those surveyed held a master’s degree.

Job Description of an Archivist


You already know the an archive will preserve, and of course, archive historical documents. However, they do more than that. Along with documents, an archivist may also work with and preserve other material such as manuscripts, photographs, maps, videos and film, sound recordings. They also help showcase this material in exhibitions.

It’s not uncommon for archivists to educate the public during tours or lectures. That makes this position unique as those in this career get to share their love of history and what they do with others. Some archivists even specialize in a specific area of history to learn all they can about the time period surrounding the material they work with.

Accountant Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the Library of Congress. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:

  • Analyzes and arranges bodies of records that are somewhat disorganized, demonstrating knowledge of archival theory and practice in planning and carrying out their organization and description. Possesses understanding of scholarly research and documentation practices. Completes preliminary analysis of the documentation systems and practices of the originating agency, organization, or individual whose materials are being processed. Undertakes research in published sources to complete gaps in the available information relating to the subject matter of the records to be archived. Evaluates the significance of archival material in its historical context and applies evaluation in helping create a plan of arrangement and description. Exercises initiative on special assignments requiring knowledge of archival procedures and academic subject matter.
  • Works to maintain personal contacts and cooperative work relationships in order to provide or exchange information. Coordinates as necessary with collection curators and staff in other divisions relating to the transmission, handling, description, and storage of division material housed off-site or transferred elsewhere.
  • Attends workshops, conferences, seminars, or meetings in librarianship and other relevant fields for the purpose of training and professional development. Displays knowledge of collections in the Library. Presents information to groups and individuals with a similar understanding of the subject. Orients visitors and helps conduct tours.
  • Surveys internal collections to identify and inventory groups of materials for preservation and physical security. Follows prescribed specifications and procedures in preserving original material and reproducing originals for preservation. Monitors the quality and consistency of preservation methods and output. Monitors and coordinates procedures for routing materials for preservation treatment and for preparation of new materials to be added to the collections.
  • Serves as a resource in the development of overall preservation program policies and goals. Helps promote collection security by recommending and implementing improved methods of manually or electronically marking and labeling collections.
  • Provides information in response to reference service requests that require research among several record groups to locate the information. Assists scholars and researchers in finding significant records relating to the subject under consideration and advises them of relevant records in the division and Library. Substitutes on a temporary basis as necessary assisting readers in the division’s public Reading Room.

This position was posted to run 12/17/2018 until 01/18/2019 with a salary range of $56,233 to $73,105 per year on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Archivist Career Video Transcript

From a turn-of-the-century love letter to an old map that settles a modern property dispute, important records of the past are collected and preserved in archives. They are organized and cared for by archivists. Archivists patiently sort historically valuable paper, objects, film, and electronic records, deciding what’s worth keeping and what’s not. The work may require researching the items to verify their origin and value. Strong organizational skills are essential.

Archivists must be able to catalog the items so that they can be easily located. They create and maintain computer databases, and create film and digital copies of archival materials. Most archivists also have a public outreach role, coordinating and leading tours and classes. Although usually quiet, the workspace can be crowded with stored materials. The job may require bending to lift heavy boxes and climbing ladders to reach high shelves. Archivists usually specialize in a particular area of history. They may work for museums, libraries, even corporations, anywhere records and related items are saved.

Employers look for graduate degrees in history or library science, along with experience working with historical materials. Certification by the Academy of Certified Archivists can give you an edge. This is a job that goes far beyond simply keeping track of old documents. Archivists are vital guardians of fragile and often irreplaceable history.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Curators, Museum Technicians, and Conservators.

National Center for O*NET Development. 25-4011.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.