Genealogy Studies Career: Job Description & Requirements

Learn more about what genealogy studies careers entail. See what kind of education and training is required. Get job prospects to find out if this field is a good fit for you.

Career Definition

Genealogy studies professionals, also called genealogists, strategize and execute research plans to answer family history-related questions. They locate and interpret original records and other sources that utilize first- and second-hand knowledge.

Genealogy studies professionals may specialize in a particular subset of genealogy, like immigration or Native American genealogy. Genealogy studies professionals use vital, tax, church, census, military, legal, cemetery, and property records, plus personal papers, books, magazines, and the Internet as sources of information. They complete pedigree charts, family group sheets, and written reports of their findings, including copies of documents, evaluation of progress, and suggestions for further research.

Genealogy studies professionals may be employed by government agencies, genealogy libraries, software and online database companies, historical societies, and genealogy consulting firms. They may work independently as freelance genealogy professionals.

Become a Genealogy Studies Professional

Required Education

Genealogy studies professionals have no formal standard education requirements to meet. Their credentials come primarily from on-the-job experience and certification through testing and evaluation of work offered by professional organizations like ICAPGen and the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

The time it takes to become an established genealogy studies professional can vary widely, up to several years. Genealogy studies professionals may learn independently or take classes and workshops. Regardless of where they learn, genealogists study research techniques, evaluation criteria, GEDCOM (genealogical data communication) format, reporting methods, citation styles, business skills, and computers. Knowledge of a foreign language may be helpful but is not required.

Skills Required

Successful genealogy studies professionals are creative and analytical thinkers. They possess oral and written communication skills, attention to detail, and organizational skills. Genealogy studies professionals who are self-employed should have networking and entrepreneurial skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

Volunteer opportunities for genealogy studies professionals are common. Paying jobs for genealogists are rare and highly competitive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Quarterly cites a Board for Certification of Genealogists' survey of its members that revealed that more than half work only part-time on genealogy studies. Though the job outlook and pay level for genealogists can vary drastically, historians in general earned a median annual salary of $52,480 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. A 6% employment increase is expected for historians from 2012 to 2022, though all positions within this broad field typically rely on public funding in order to stay active.

Alternate Career Options

Anthropologist

An anthropologist studies human societies, from how they are formed to how and why they evolve in certain ways, through fieldwork and lab study. Anthropologists may develop theories and then carry out research to test those theories; they observe, measure, record, and analyze information, and they share that information with others. They may specialize in physical, linguistic or cultural anthropology. A Ph.D. is typically required, especially for international fieldwork. Jobs in this field are expected to increase 19% from 2012-2022, per the BLS; the median pay of this career was $57,420 in 2012.

Geographer

A geographer studies the earth, including natural and man-made structures, and the people that inhabit those areas, and seeks to identify trends and relationships. Geographers conduct quantitative and qualitative research using maps, satellite images, surveys, and more. Their research is used to make recommendations to government, businesses, and other entities for planning, disaster preparedness, and related purposes. While it's possible to get an entry-level job with a bachelor's degree, many jobs require a master's degree. Professional certification in geographic information systems is available. The BLS expects job growth of 29% for geographers from 2012-2022; this job paid median wages of $74,760 in 2012.

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