Archivists manage and preserve collections of historical records and documents.
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What does an archivist do?

An archivist's work would involve:

  • storing materials correctly and keeping them in good condition
  • identifying, dating, cataloguing and indexing archive materials
  • helping people to use the archives
  • making records available to users in formats such as photocopies, microfiche and online
  • carrying out research
  • giving talks and organising presentations, displays and exhibitions
  • negotiating the buying or donation of archive material and assessing their importance

Archivists identify and select which materials should be kept in an archive or be destroyed. They may also be involved in using computer technology to archive digital material and convert existing archives from traditional to digital formats.

At senior level, this role may have extra responsibilities, such as managing and supervising staff, managing budgets and putting together bids for funding.

What do I need to do to become an archivist?

To become an archivist you would need a degree. You would also need to gain a postgraduate qualification in archives and/or records management that is recognised and accredited by the Archived and Records Association (ARA).

The following degree subjects could be useful:

  • history
  • information science
  • library studies
  • modern or ancient languages
Most degree subjects would be accepted, as long as you can show a keen interest in history and have an understanding of the importance of documents as historical evidence. A degree and background in science or information management may help you to apply for work in some specialist services such as film archives.

Related skills

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • IT
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork

Essential qualifications

  • A degree
  • Postgraduate qualification in archives and/or records management, which is recognised and accredited by the Archived and Records Association (ARA)

Where to find out more


Where could I be working?

Many archivists in the UK are employed in local government. You could find work with other organisations, including national archives and museums, large businesses, church foundations and charities.

Work is occasionally available in private collections. Only a few archivists are self-employed, but opportunities for this are increasing.

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