Students who graduate from archival studies programs are not just keepers
of history and historical records. They actually help us chart the future
by giving us access to information.
So how can you enter this field? The requirements are quite specific.
Employment as an archivist usually requires graduate education and related
work experience. Although archivists earn a variety of undergraduate degrees,
a graduate degree in history or library science, with courses in archival
science, is preferred by most employers.
A master's degree in archival studies is the preference in Tom Nesmith's
area. He is a professor and the director of a master's program in archival
"The education that librarians receive in most library schools is very
distinct from the education an archivist receives," says Nesmith. "That is
not to say that library schools ignore the archival side, because there is
usually a course or two [on archives] in library education."
You'll need a bachelor's degree to get into a master's-level studies
program (or a library science program). And grades matter -- admission
to graduate school is competitive.
Bruce W. Dearstyne is a professor at the college of information studies
at the University of Maryland. He oversees the archival studies program.
He recommends getting a bachelor's degree in history. Students should
love history and be able to write about it well, he says.
That means taking history in high school. You should also hone your
thinking, reading and writing skills. Write for your student newspaper,
join a debate club or serve in student government, suggests Nesmith. Being
comfortable around computers also helps.
To help with costs, you may be able to work as a teaching assistant.
Many students also hold part-time jobs.
You may not have to spend a lot of money on textbooks. Students
have to do a lot of reading, but most of it consists of articles in scholarly
journals and reports that can be photocopied. A lot of reading material may
also come from the mainstream media, says Nesmith.
Note that you may have to hire professionals to proof, edit and bind your
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Archivists,
Curators and Museum Technicians
The Archivist's Daybook
Find out when and where the next gathering will be
Society of American Archivists
Find an archival education program near you
Research historical information, records and documents