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Career Description

Archivists appraise, edit, and direct safekeeping of permanent records and historically valuable documents.  Participate in research activities based on archival materials.

Common Work Tasks

  • Plan and oversee the arrangement, cataloguing,  and exhibition of collections and, along with technicians and conservators,  maintain collections
  • Acquire and preserve important documents and other valuable items for permanent storage or display
  • Describe, catalogue, and analyze, valuable objects for the benefit of researchers and the public
  • Coordinate educational and public outreach programs, such as tours, workshops, lectures, and classes, and may work with the boards of institutions to administer plans and policies
  • Research topics or items relevant to their collections
  • Handle mainly records and documents that are retained because of their importance and potential value in the future
  • Maintain records in accordance with accepted standards and practices that ensure the long-term preservation and easy retrieval of the documents
  • Work with specialized forms of records, such as manuscripts, electronic records, photographs, cartographic records, motion pictures, and sound recordings

Other Job Titles

Archivists are also known by other titles, including:

  • Conservators
  • Curators
  • Biographers
  • Museum Technicians
  • Genealogists

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Although archivists earn a variety of undergraduate degrees, a graduate degree in history or library science with courses in archival science is preferred by most employers. Many colleges and universities offer courses or practical training in archival techniques as part of their history, library science, or other curriculum. A few institutions now offer master’s degrees in archival studies. Some positions may require knowledge of the discipline related to the collection, such as business or medicine.

Certification and Licensure
The Academy of Certified Archivists offers voluntary certification for archivists. The designation “Certified Archivist” can be obtained by those with at least a master’s degree and a year of appropriate archival experience. The certification process requires candidates to pass a written examination, and they must renew their certification periodically.

Archivists need research skills and analytical ability to understand the content of documents and the context in which they were created and to decipher deteriorated or poor-quality printed matter, handwritten manuscripts,  photographs, or films. A background in preservation management is often required of archivists because they are responsible for taking proper care of their records. Archivists also must be able to organize large amounts of information and write clear instructions for its retrieval and use. In addition, computer skills and the ability to work with electronic records and databases are very important. Because electronic records are becoming the prevalent form of recordkeeping, and archivists must create searchable databases, knowledge of Web technology is increasingly being required.


The median annual salary for an Archivist is $43,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $73,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $26,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of archivists are:

  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools- $44,180
  • Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions- $40,060
  • State Government - $42,260
  • Other Information Services - $46,610
  • Federal Executive Branch - $74,730

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  14%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 900
  • Employment 2006 : 6,400
  • Employment 2016:  7,400
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