How to Become an Archivist

Archivist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $52,240
Avg. Pay / hour $25.12
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 14.7%

Archivists can work in various industries using their skills and educational knowledge in order to preserve important documentation.

Their work is important in order to create collections that are heavily researched and presented accurately to the public and researching professionals.

Archivists may work in a variety of fields both public and private.

They can lend their services to organizations such as zoos, museums, colleges and universities, governments and corporations.

Depending on the organization they work for, Archivists may be responsible for collecting, organizing and maintaining the following types of information: Records, Letters, Documents, Photographs, Recordings of Video and Sound, Electronic data, and Films.

If you are thinking of becoming an Archivist, read the following information regarding education requirements, a general job description, salary and wage information as well as the job outlook for this and related professions.

Education Requirements to Become an Archivist

Archivists are highly educated professionals and are required to attend a Bachelor’s and then complete a minimum of a Master’s degree.

In addition, candidates looking to become an Archivist should also gain related experience, preferably, during their graduate education.

Students who want to become an Archivist can attend a variety of programs as an undergraduate.

Because Archivists work for museums, government, zoos and educational institutions, candidates can choose an undergraduate program where they can tune their skills to match the sector they want to work in.

For example, a student who wants to work in a museum can study history or art history if they already know their career track.

However for the most part, Archivists hold a variety of undergraduate degrees.

A student who wants to become an Archivist should attend a Master’s program in library science, history, archival studies or archival science.

Students who want to become an Archivist who study history or library science will benefit from having a strong background in archival science and should take a wide range of these classes.

Archivists who want a competitive edge can opt to take a voluntary certification offered by the Academy of Certified Archivists.

In order to qualify for certification, candidates must hold a Master’s degree and have a minimum of one year of experience in the field.

Candidates must then take a certification exam.

Certified Archivists are required to regularly renew their certification and must take continuing education classes in order to qualify for re-certification.

Archivist Job Description

Archivists are responsible for maintaining and preserving a variety of information and items such as transcripts of meetings, photographs and various types of records.

Their exact job duties will depend on the type of organization they work for such as for a museum, zoos or universities.

Archivists are responsible for managing and overseeing collections.

They will work on the displaying, assembling, sorting, classification and the presentation of these collections.

They may also perform these functions in order to store them permanently or longer term.

Their classification work may also require them to describe, classify and examine valuable items in order to provide that information for the general public or researching professionals.

Some typical job duties include organizing and managing educational programs that include classes, lectures, tours or workshops.

In addition, they may plan and manage outreach programs for the community.

Archivist Salary and Career Path

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median wage for all Archivists in 2008 was approximately $45,000 per year.

The BLS also reports that the salary range for these professionals during the same year was about $26,600 to $76,800 per year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that the job outlook for Archivists, Curators and Museum Technicians looks strong and is expected to grow faster than the average for all professions.

In fact, job opportunities for these professions are expected to grow by about 20% through the year 2018.

However, there will be stiff competition for Archivist candidates because of the amount of people looking for a limited amount of openings.

Archivists who have experience working with electronic records and records management will have more opportunities than those who have knowledge of older media formats.

Candidates who want to have a competitive edge will work on these skills in order to stand out among other job seekers.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$80,630
New Jersey$62,110
New Mexico$56,290
New York$73,460
North Carolina$58,430
Rhode Island$71,600
South Carolina$65,320
Puerto Rico$28,850

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $80,630.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $80,630
Maryland - $79,520
Connecticut - $76,510
New York - $73,460
Rhode Island - $71,600
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Archivists, OCC Code 25-4011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does an archivist do?

An archivist is not just someone who maintains and stores valuable information in a certain manner; archivists also assess whether the given information is worth storing or not.

The information can be provided in the form of photographs, journals, letters, videos, recordings, and so on.

An archivist should make sure that the stored information can be easily found and, later on, understood.

Of course, a specialist would have to have a strong background in history, in order to be able to determine whether the piece is of value or not.

An archivist should understand what the underlying motivations of the creator were and what the intended use of the record was.

If a piece of information is valuable, an archivist would then have to describe and arrange the record.

How much do archivists make?

On average, an archivist can earn a little more than $52.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $30.000 and $89.500 annually.

Of course, the salary would depend on a variety of factors – the overall experience and background of the archivist, the employer, and even the geographical location.

Archivists that work in the District of Columbia, California, and Georgia, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level archivist can make around $14.50 per hour; while a top-level professional with plenty of experience can earn $43 and even more.

How much does it cost to become an archivist?

Generally, a bachelor’s degree is required, if you want to become an archivist; there are specialists that have also acquired a master’s degree.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $30.000 depending on a wide range of factors.

Typically, you would need to pay around $30.000 to obtain a master’s degree.

The certification for archivists in the United States is provided by the Academy of Certified Archivists.

The certification fee is $150; to become a member, you would have to pay $50 annually.

What is the demand for archivists?

Between 2016 and 2026, the archivist job market is expected to grow by 14.7% in the United States.

The job market will remain competitive, but there will be plenty of spots for aspiring archivists.

Even though there are periodic funding and budget cuts, organizations and institutions would still need professionals to take care of the growing number of records.

Bear in mind that the industry is mainly concentrated in Texas, California, and New York.

How long does it take to become an archivist?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

In case you decide to go for a master’s degree, it will take you 1-2 years to acquire one.

In order to take the certification exam in the Academy of Certified Archivists, you would need to possess a master’s degree that has been completed by August 31st of the year in which you are planning to take the exam.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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