Archivist Careers

How to become an Archivist

What does a Archivist do?

Archivists are responsible for identifying and evaluating records which will be of use to future researchers, acquiring them for the archive and organising procedures and systems for their storage and preservation.

Records may be in a number of forms, including books and papers, films and videos, and electronic records. They may have been accumulated by a variety of sources, including government agencies, local authorities, academic institutions, museums, professional organisations, charities, families and individuals. Depending on the source of the records, archivists may negotiate their sale or donation to the archive.

The work involves cataloguing and indexing the collections, to ensure that they are easy to use. Computer search tools and databases will usually be used for this.

As well as selecting, arranging and cataloguing archives, archivists assist users, and answer queries by telephone, letter, email and face to face. They may make records available to users in formats such as photocopies and microfiche. Promotional work may also be part of the role, including exhibitions, presentations or media work.

At a senior level, archivists may have responsibilities such as managing and supervising staff, managing budgets and bidding for funds.

What's the working environment like working as a Archivist?

Most archivists work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Occasional weekend and evening work may be required. Part-time work may be available.

Most of the time is spent in an office or library. Archivists might spend some time inspecting archives in other buildings, giving presentations or setting up exhibitions.

Archivists may work with archives stored in dusty and cramped conditions. Some records may be heavy, and could be mouldy or dirty.

What does it take to become a Archivist?

To be an archivist you should have:

  • an interest in history and the preservation of information
  • good communication skills, with the ability to understand complex issues and explain them to individuals and groups
  • the ability to work with, and relate to, a wide variety of people
  • a logical mind and the organisational ability to manage a wide range of tasks
  • the ability to work both independently and in a team
  • good IT skills, and an interest in applying new technology to the work
  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • research skills.

Archivist Career Opportunities

Almost half the archivists in the UK and Ireland are employed in local government. Other employers include national archives and museums, universities, large businesses, ecclesiastical foundations and charities. Work may occasionally be available within private collections. Only a few archivists are self-employed, but opportunities for this are increasing.

Most vacancies appear in the Society of Archivists recruitment publication. This is sent to all Society members, and is then available on the Society's website. Vacancies are also advertised in the local and national press.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Archivist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Society of Archivists
Prioryfield House
20 Canon Street
Tel: 01823 327030

National Archives

University of Glasgow Archive Services
University of Glasgow
13 Thurso St
G11 6PE
Tel: 0141 330 5515

Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK)
4th Floor
32 Farringdon Street
Helpline: 020 7936 5798