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Archival Admin. and Public History

Educational programs in archival administration and public history prepare you for careers in the preservation, management and display of historical materials. Learn about the academic requirements and job opportunities for this field, and check the typical salary.

Is Archival Administration and Public History for Me?

Career Overview

Governments, corporations, public institutions, historic preservation societies and museums are just a few of the sources that produce and maintain public records and historical materials. Among their collections are documents, photographs, maps, film, audio recordings and computer data. As a professional in the archival administration and public history field, you'd work in some capacity to create, manage and preserve these collections. Possible job titles include records manager, historian, archivist, collections manager and museum curator. You might also become a writer, recording events relevant to local history for publication in newspapers, magazines or books.

Required Skills

To be successful in this profession, you'd need specialized skills, such as restoring faded or poor-quality photos and videos, doing research and deciphering handwriting. Creativity, the ability to communicate well and computer skills for accurately recording data are also important.

Employment Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that during the 2012-2022 decade, employment will increase by 3% for writers and authors, by 6% for historians, by 17% for archivists and by 13% for museum curators (www.bls.gov). Job competition will likely be keen for writers and museum workers, so you may have to start by working part-time, filling internship positions or volunteering.

The BLS also reports that as of May 2013, the median annual salary for writers and authors was $57,750. During the same period, historians earned median salaries of $55,180, curators made $50,550 and archivists took home $49,110.

How Can I work in Archival Administration and Public History?

Undergraduate Education

To learn about identifying important events in history and obtaining relevant records for preservation, you can pursue graduate certificates, post-master's certificates, master's degree programs or doctoral degree programs in archival administration and public history. In a graduate certificate program, your coursework may focus on topics ranging from recordkeeping, electronic archives and information preservation methods to management of historical agencies and library work. This training could lead to a career as a historical writer, a museum technician or a conservator. You could also gather and preserve historical records for local or state government.

Graduate Education

Through a master's degree or a master's-level specialization in public history or archival administration, you'd learn about methods for gathering local and community history, regional architecture, library science, oral history traditions and digital history. You might also engage in museum studies, organize historic preservations, study the theories behind archiving, acquire practical experience in archiving information and address common issues in public history. Most programs require that you complete an internship and write a thesis on a historical topic. With this education, you might enter a career as a curator or historian. You would also be eligible for the voluntary exam given by the Academy of Certified Archivists to become a certified archivist.

As a doctoral student in public history, you'd be required to conduct original research and write a dissertation. Your program may include seminars in public history and a professional residency. You may also be able to select courses from a related field, such as archival administration. Upon graduation, your job possibilities could include historian and university professor, in addition to museum, library or government agency work.