1 Reply Latest reply on Jan 14, 2020 8:20 AM by Lauren Van Zandt

    A Career in Archives

    mguzina2 Newbie

      Hello Citizen Archivists and National Archives/NARA staffers,


      I am currently a third-year undergraduate student with an English major, History minor, and an Undergraduate Certificate in Museum Studies. As of late, my interests have taken a hard dive into archival work. However, the path to a career in archives does not seem so clear cut, though I presume it must be well-trodden. That said, are there any archivists who would be able to lend me some guidance in pursuing this career?


      I was recently employed in my university's map library to help with the digitization of their archives, and have been searching tirelessly for fitting internship programs. In addition, I have only just discovered NARA's Citizen Archivists project in which I am now partaking. And as my fourth year approaches, I will begin applying to graduate schools with MLIS programs.


      Although these endeavors feel like a step in the right direction, I still feel a bit disoriented in this pursuit. Thus, I welcome any and all advice!


      Thank you.

        • Re: A Career in Archives

          Hi Mia,


          As a relatively new-ish archivist, here are some questions I would recommend pondering before committing to a MLIS program:


          -Is it possible to take a year to work in the archives field before going to grad school? Volunteering and internships are great for getting a taste of the work, but aren't necessarily reflective of the day-to-day reality of being an archivist. (In my experience, there's a lot of effort to give non-paid folks the most interesting projects, in order to keep them showing up. ) The Student Conservation Association and Americorps have opportunities that could be a good fit to get you paid experience. Plus, leaving grad school already having professional experience is very attractive to hiring managers, and can give you an edge over other recent grads.


          -Are you able/willing to relocate multiple times over the course of your career? Archives are somewhat like academia, in that jobs and career progression often require multiple long-distance moves. It is very difficult to make a career as an archivist without being able to relocate, especially as someone first starting out. In the past 10 years I've lived in 7 different states for school and work.


          -How much of a student loan burden will you be able to bear, both from undergrad and grad school? On the whole, archives are not a terribly lucrative profession, despite the requirement for advanced degrees. I've seen the pressure to make loan payments derail the careers of some of my grad school classmates, when local jobs didn't pay enough to live on and they didn't have the funds to move elsewhere for higher paying jobs.


          -How much financial aid will you have from a MLIS program? It's certainly possible to work part/full time and go to school, but you'll likely lose out on extracurricular projects and opportunities that can give you an advantage after graduating.


          I hope this doesn't discourage you! Archives is an incredibly rewarding career, but there are definitely barriers to entry that need strategic planning to overcome!

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