Archivist Degree, Certification and Training Program Overviews

Oct 22, 2019

Essential Information

Graduate degree and certificate programs in archival studies provide training in preservation techniques and database system management for aspiring archivists. At the master's degree level, enrollees study archival technology as they learn to manage information. These programs typically include practicum and internship requirements and are open to applicants with a bachelor's degree in a related field.

Graduate certificate training programs are available for individuals with a master's degree who are currently working in the field of public history. Doctoral programs are also for applicants with a master's degree and allow participants to explore statistics and research methods in an area of focus.

Master's Degree in Archival Studies

Archival studies master's degree programs teach participants to preserve, store, organize and maintain valuable information and documents in a variety of formats. Some master's-level programs require a reading knowledge of at least one other language in order to graduate. Programs take roughly two years to complete and often include an internship or practicum to develop hands-on skills. Students in these programs learn to apply principles of preservation and information architecture to information and document collections, such as books and maps. Coursework includes:

  • Archival theory
  • Records appraisal and evaluation
  • Database design
  • Records management
  • Archival technology

Graduate Certificate Training Programs

Graduate certificate programs are designed for students with a master's degree in any field. Programs are typically offered through library sciences and information management departments and require the completion of approximately 18 credit hours and a practicum. Graduate certificate program courses cover the basics of archive administration for professional and amateur historians. Courses include:

  • Management of public records
  • Archival theory
  • Ethics of preservation
  • Technology for records preservation
  • Records management

Doctoral Degree in Archival Studies

Doctoral candidates in archival studies learn how record keeping influences cultural memory. Ph.D. candidates explore various forms of records, such as still and moving images, electronic records, manuscripts and oral history. Prior to completion of the Ph.D. program, candidates must have a reading knowledge of at least one other language.

Students choose a single area of interest in which to focus their studies. Areas of focus include accountability, public memory, automated records creation, digitization and archival policy. Coursework includes:

  • Information design
  • Information management theory
  • Information structures
  • Research methods for archivists
  • Statistics

Popular Careers

Museums, university libraries and historical sites keep archives and special collections safe from deterioration by employing staff with archival training. Additionally, governmental organizations, law firms and religious organizations hire professionals to maintain archive libraries. Job titles include:

  • Archivist
  • Manuscript curator
  • Records manager
  • Preservation specialist
  • Special collections librarian

With a Ph.D. in archival studies, employment options can be found in the private and public sectors. Job duties include researching and creating records as well as assisting journalists, technologists and archive users interested in mining data for non-traditional purposes. Popular job titles include:

  • Archive administrator
  • Professor of archival studies
  • Professor of library and information services
  • State archivist
  • Supervisory archives specialist

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of archivists is expected to increase 9% over the 2018-2028 decade ( During the same period, jobs for conservators and museum technicians are expected to have a similar increase, while curator jobs are expected to increase 10%. In May 2018, BLS data stated that the median annual wage of archivists was $52,240.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

The Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA) offers voluntary certification for archivists with at least a master's degree ( Candidates with master's degrees in fields other than archival studies must demonstrate at least two years of archive administration experience prior to sitting for the ACA exam. Re-certification is required every five years and can be based on retaking the ACA exam or by submitting a petition that lists the candidate's contributions to the field. Students who choose to continue their education may pursue a graduate certificate or a Ph.D. in Archival Studies.

Continuing education courses help archivists update their skills and stay abreast of information technology changes in the profession. Organizations such as the Society of American Archivists offer archival training courses in person and online for members and non-members.

There are several different graduate degree and certificate options for aspiring archivists. Students can choose between them based on their educational background and career goals.

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