Archivists

Summary

Archivists
Archivists preserve documents and records that are historically significant.
Quick Facts: Archivists
2010 Median Pay $45,200 per year
$21.73 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2010 6,100
Job Outlook, 2010-20 12% (About as fast as average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 700

What Archivists Do

Archivists appraise, edit, and maintain permanent records and historically valuable documents. Many perform research on archival material.

Work Environment

Archivists work in museums, government, colleges and universities, corporations, and other institutions that require experts to preserve important records.

How to Become an Archivist

Archivists must usually have a bachelor’s degree in history or library science, although some employers require an advanced degree and related work experience. People often gain experience by working or volunteering in archives.

Pay

The median annual wage of archivists was $45,200 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment of archivists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Jobs for archivists are expected to increase as public and private organizations require greater organization of, and access to, increasing volumes of electronic records and information. Workers will likely face strong competition for jobs because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of archivists with similar occupations.

O*NET

O*NET provides comprehensive information on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

Contacts for More Information

Learn more about archivists by contacting these additional resources.

What Archivists Do

Archivists
Archivists often convert text to digital format.

Archivists appraise, edit, and maintain permanent records and historically valuable documents. Many perform research on archival material.

Duties

Archivists typically do the following:

  • Create and maintain accessible computer archives and databases
  • Organize and classify archival records to make it easy to find materials
  • Authenticate and appraise historical documents and archival materials
  • Provide reference services and help for users
  • Direct workers who help arrange, exhibit, and maintain collections
  • Safeguard records by copying to film, videotape, disk, or computer formats
  • Preserve and maintain documents and objects
  • Set and administer policy guidelines concerning public access to materials
  • Locate new materials and direct their acquisition and display

Archivists preserve many documents and records for their importance, potential value, or historical significance. Most archivists coordinate educational and public outreach programs, such as tours, workshops, lectures, and classes. Some work with the boards of institutions to administer plans and policies. In addition, archivists may research topics or items relevant to their collections.

Some archivists specialize in an area of history, such as colonial history, so they can more accurately determine which records in that area should be kept and should become part of the archives. Archivists also may work with specialized forms of records, such as manuscripts, electronic records, websites, photographs, maps, motion pictures, or sound recordings.

Archivists usually use computers to generate and maintain archival records. Professional standards for handling electronic archival records are still evolving. However, computer capabilities will continue to expand and more records will be stored and exhibited electronically, providing both increased access and better protection for archived documents.

Archives technicians help archivists organize, maintain, and provide access to historical documentary materials.

Work Environment

Archivists
Archivists sometimes maintain special records, such as birth and death certificates.

Archivists held about 6,100 jobs in 2010. The following industries employed the most archivists in 2010:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private23%
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals18
Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions16
Other information services9
Federal government, excluding postal service8

Archivists work in museums, government, colleges and universities, corporations, and other institutions that require experts to preserve important records. Although most archivists provide reference assistance and educational services to clients, some do research or process records, reducing the occasion to work with others.

Work Schedules

Archivists in government agencies and corporations generally work full time during regular business hours. Those who manage historical record archives may only work part time.

How to Become an Archivist

Archivists
Archivists use complex databases related to the materials they store and access.

Archivists must usually have a bachelor’s degree in history or library science, although some employers require an advanced degree and related work experience. People often gain experience by working or volunteering in archives.

Education

Although archivists may enter the profession with a variety of undergraduate degrees, including history and library science, most employers prefer a graduate degree in history, library science, archival science, or records management.

Many colleges and universities offer courses or practical training in archival techniques in history, library science, and other similar programs. A few institutions offer master's degrees in archival studies.

Some positions may require knowledge of the discipline related to a collection, such as computer science, business, or medicine. Some institutions are developing special computer and information systems training to prepare students to manage digital records.

Many archives offer volunteer or internship opportunities where students can gain experience.

Certification

The Academy of Certified Archivists offers voluntary certification for archivists. Archivists with at least a master's degree and a year of appropriate archival experience can obtain the Certified Archivist credential by passing a written exam. They must renew their certification periodically by retaking the exam or fulfilling continuing education credits. At this time, only few employers require or prefer certification.

Advancement

Continuing education is available through meetings, conferences, and workshops sponsored by archival, historical, and museum associations. Some larger organizations, such as the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, offer training in-house.

Many archives, especially those maintained by one archivist, are very small and have limited opportunities for promotion. Archivists typically advance by transferring to a larger archive that has supervisory positions. A doctorate in history, library science, or a related field may be needed for some advanced positions, such as director of a state archive.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Because not all documents are easy to decipher, archivists need good analytical skills to determine a document’s importance or historical significance.

Computer skills. Archivists should have good computer skills because they use and develop complex databases related to the materials they store and access. 

Customer-service skills. Archivists work with the general public on a regular basis. They must be courteous and friendly and be able to help users find materials.

Organizational skills. Archivists must store and easily retrieve any records or documents. They also develop logical systems of storage for the public to use.

Pay

Archivists

Median annual wages, May 2010

Archivists

$45,200

Librarians, Curators, and Archivists

$43,170

Total, All Occupations

$33,840

 

The median annual wage of archivists was $45,200 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,480 and the top 10 percent earned more than $80,650.

The median annual wage of archivists in the federal government was $77,990 in May 2010.

Archivists in government agencies and corporations generally work full time during regular business hours. Those who manage historical record archives may only work part time.

Job Outlook

Archivists

Percent change in employment, projected 2010-20

Total, All Occupations

14%

Archivists

12%

Librarians, Curators, and Archivists

8%

 

Employment of archivists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Jobs for archivists are expected to increase as public and private organizations require organization of, and access to, increasing volumes of records and information. The growing use of electronic records will cause demand for archivists who specialize in electronic records and records management to grow more rapidly than demand for archivists who specialize in older media formats.

Job Prospects

Workers seeking jobs as archivists are likely to face strong competition because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings. Graduates with highly specialized training, such as master's degrees in both library science and history, with a concentration in archives or records management, extensive computer skills, and volunteer experience, should have the best job opportunities. Job opportunities for those who manage electronic records are expected to be better than for those who specialize in older media formats.

Archives can be subject to cuts in funding during recessions or periods of budget tightening, reducing demand for archivists. Although the number of archivists who move to other occupations is relatively low, the need to replace workers who retire will create some job openings.

Employment projections data for archivists, 2010-20
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2010 Projected Employment, 2020 Change, 2010-20 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Archivists

25-4011 6,100 6,800 12 700 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of archivists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2010 MEDIAN PAY Help
Anthropologists and archeologists

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of human beings, past and present. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.

Master’s degree $54,230
Historians

Historians

Historians research, analyze, interpret, and present the past by studying a variety of historical documents and sources.

Master’s degree $53,520
Craft and fine artists

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. Craft artists create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles, or other objects that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original works of art for their aesthetic value, rather than a functional one.

High school diploma or equivalent $43,470
Curators and museum technicians

Curators, Museum Technicians, and Conservators

Curators oversee collections, such as artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects and documents in museum collections and exhibits.

See How to Become One $42,310
Librarians

Librarians

Librarians help people find information from many sources. They maintain library collections and do other work as needed to keep the library running.

Master’s degree $54,500
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Archivists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/archivists.htm (visited April 21, 2015).

Publish Date: Friday, August 31, 2012