How To Become an Archivist

Like museum curators, archivists are responsible for knowing the value of old recordings, photographs, letters, documents or any other media. Aside from appraising the value of objects, it is also the archivist's job to decide which particular items are worth saving and preserving. When you think of it, it doesn't end in the acquisition of the material - that same material will have to be documented and taken care of, which will require valuable money and time. If you have a fascination with history and would like to be in close proximity to items that have had a great impact on how the world turned out the way it is now, being an archivist could be a very fulfilling profession.

  1. Start early. You'll never know how important it will be to have good high school grades until you see the doors of your dream college slammed on your face. Make sure that you have good marks as well as an above average to superior SAT score. This will surely make you irresistible to many colleges and universities.
  2. Apply at your college or university of choice. Most archivists either have degrees in archival science, history, library science or library information science. These are programs that are most relevant to your chosen field, because you would be encountering important pieces and working on their preservation. This serves as a great foundation should you really want to continue with such a career.
  3. According to a recent census by a group of archivists, most American archivists have a master's degree. So if you want to stay competitive for high profile jobs, you'll be better off applying for a graduate degree in a reputable school known for excellence in archival studies. This could also help you broaden your horizons in terms of research. You might also be able to consider alternative careers like teaching and mentorship to junior archivists. It would also be wise to try and get a doctorate degree to further advance your career.
  4. The Academy of Certified Archivists offers an exam for certification. The topic is still very controversial since many critics hit the organization for its unusual testing parameters and practices, as well its requirement for members to be re-certified every 5 years. While it is a requirement to have a certificate to work for most positions in government, private employers mostly choose not to look for this requirement. Still, it might be a good challenge to apply for certification, which would also add to your credentials.
  5. Archivists can also join guild societies like the Society of American Archivists. This gives the archivists a chance to forward and continue their education through the programs of the society. Other than this, it gives the profession a chance to be better updated in the way it deals with new media that needs to preserved, processed and appraised.

With the advent of digital media, the field of archival studies is surely changing. It is now a dynamic landscape with many disciplines and opportunities. It's both a science and an art, and archivists can be happy to know they are part of preserving history.


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