Archivist: Job Description, Salary & Career Path

Discover what an archivist does for a living. Take a look at this article to find out about their job responsibilities, how much they can earn and how you can become an archivist yourself. Schools offering American History degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Archivists are those with an education in history or a related field who work closely with historical documents and materials, ensuring that they are properly stored. They are an important part of any historical site, including museums, and work alongside other professionals in the field to maintain important historical information. Take a look at the chart below for more information about this role.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study History, Library Science, Public Administration, Political Science
Certification Academy of Certified Archivists, Certified Archivist credential (voluntary)
Skills Required Analytical, computer, organization
Job Growth (2016-2026) 14%*
Median Salary (2017) $51,760*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is an Archivist?

An archivist is someone who takes care of historical records and documents in order to preserve our history and learn more about the past. They are required to have a passion for history and some archivists only work with records from the era in which they specialize. They may collect records and will manage their safekeeping. They are also responsible for ensuring that the archives are accessible and can be used for public education purposes whenever possible.

What Are the Job Duties?

Typical duties for this role include making sure that materials and records are authentic and examining them to learn about their historical placing. An archivist has to maintain these records and create an appropriate management system, which may include archiving electronic documents or creating film copies. They will usually make all materials easy to search through and direct other workers regarding how to maintain the collections or display them. Archivists also look for new records and documents for their archives.

How Can I Become an Archivist?

Archivists typically hold a master's degree in a subject such as history, library science, political science, or public administration. No other formal education or training is required for this role, so most prospective archivists undertake an internship or voluntary work in order to further their experience. Becoming an archivist is only achieved through experience, so working in collection management, research or restoration is essential for those who wish to become a full-time archivist. Some people in this role choose to take the voluntary Certified Archivist credential by passing an exam set by the Academy of Certified Archivists.

How Much Will I Earn?

In 2017, the BLS reported that the median salary for archivists was $51,760. This is typically for full-time work and covers those who work in government roles, education and museum environments. Those who worked for the government earned slightly less than those in educational services in 2017. Working as an archivist, curator or museum staff in a museum environment in 2017 offered the lowest wage at $43,710.

What Environment Will I Work In?

The environment for this role can vary depending on whom you work for. Archivists who work for large corporations/organizations may find themselves traveling a lot as part of the job so that they can assess and manage materials across a range of sites. However, working for a small organization may mean that you don't need to travel regularly as part of the job. If your institution is open during evenings and weekends, you might find yourself working during these hours as well, however, those who work as archivists in government agencies generally work regular business hours.

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