become an archivist

What does a Archivist do?

An archivist is key to preserving important historical documents and material.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You already know the an archive will preserve, and of course, archive historical documents.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.

Archivist Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the National Archives and Records Administration. This position is part of the National Archives and Records Administration, Research Services. As an Archivist, you will be conducting on-the-job training and assisting in overseeing the work of lower grade archivists, archives technicians, and/or archives aids, contractors, interns, and volunteers.This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:

  • Perform complex and difficult descriptive and publication project work within assigned area.
  • Conduct research in the holdings and in secondary sources.
  • Independently provide reference and research service on a major segment of records holdings and on a large number of record groups created by numerous federal agencies and courts.
  • Coordinate and review the work of lower grade archivists and archives technicians, contractors, interns, and volunteers, including ARC inputs to ensure their work meets NARA standards.
  • Undertake arrangement projects at all levels and ensures proper provenance.
  • Experience been gained in either the public, private sector or volunteer service. One year of experience refers to full-time work; part-time work is considered on a prorated basis. To ensure full credit for your work experience, please indicate dates of employment by month/day/year, and indicate number of hours worked per week on your resume.
  • A one year probationary period may be required.
  • Must successfully complete a background investigation.
  • Complete a Declaration for Federal Employment to determine your suitability for Federal employment, at the time requested by the agency.
  • If you are a male applicant born after December 31, 1959, certify that you have registered with the Selective Service System or are exempt from having to do so.
  • Go through a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) process that requires two forms of identification from the Form i-9. Federal law requires verification of the identity and employment eligibility of all new hires in the U.S.

This position was posted to run 07/31/2019 to 08/08/2019 with a salary range of $45,823 to $72,862 per year per year on (link opens in a new tab). 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.

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