Archivists acquire, manage and maintain documents and other materials that have historical and cultural importance for individuals, organisations and nations

As an archivist, you will preserve information and make it accessible to users, increasingly in digital format.

Archives may include valuable historical books, papers, maps and plans, as well as photographs, prints, films, tapes, videos and computer-generated records. Many collections now include a range of digital materials such as websites, emails and databases. Users include researchers, academics, other professional staff, and the public.


As an archivist, you'll need to:

  • evaluate records for preservation and retention
  • assess items that may be fragile and need careful handling, repair or conservation
  • catalogue collections, and manage and arrange information and records
  • arrange the acquisition and retrieval of records
  • undertake digitisation of archives and related material
  • make the archives available to readers and supervise its use
  • respond to enquiries from the public, businesses, academics and other users
  • advise and support users on how best to access, use and interpret archives
  • liaise with donors and depositors of archives
  • prepare record-keeping systems and procedures for archival research and for the retention or destruction of records
  • maintain user-friendly, computer-aided search systems
  • manage the transfer of archives/archive material from storage
  • identify ways of protecting and preserving collections
  • promote your work through exhibitions, presentations, talks and visits
  • advise on the ongoing organisation and storage of material to encourage organisations to plan for the future.

At a more senior level, you'll be expected to:

  • bid for funds and manage budgets
  • manage and supervise staff
  • take responsibility for reviewing policies, and developing and implementing strategies.


  • The Archives and Records Association (ARA) recommends that the minimum starting salary for archivists working in a support role (paraprofessional) is £23,392.
  • ARA recommends a minimum salary of £30,233 to £35,832 for archivists with experience who have responsibility for a discrete area of work.
  • Salaries for middle management archivists should start at £44,791. For senior management, salaries should start at £61,589. Senior managers are expected to have a strategic role and may have qualified as a Fellow of the ARA.

Salaries vary depending on a range of factors, including the sector you work in, your location, level of experience and your professional qualifications.

Archivists working on a freelance, contract or agency basis are often paid on an hourly or daily rate. Daily rates may range from a minimum of around £136 for paraprofessionals to a minimum of around £184 to £218 for more experienced archivists. If working as a freelancer, you will also need to factor in costs such as tax, pension contributions, sick leave, insurance and annual leave.

Local authority and civil service grades are frequently tied to scales.

Income data from ARA's Salary Recommendations. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Archives offering a public service may require shift work or flexible working, especially in local government archives, where record offices may share opening hours with local libraries.

Career breaks, part-time and flexible working are possible, for example within the civil service, local government and public sector organisations.

What to expect

  • You're likely to spend a large proportion of your time working at a computer. Some tasks may be physically demanding.
  • You may work for a large archive service that employs more than one archivist, often in specialist roles. However, many services employ only one archivist and you'll take on a range of activities, some of which may overlap with records management.
  • Jobs are spread out in small numbers throughout the UK and Ireland. Some posts, for example those receiving Lottery funding, are available on temporary or fixed-term contracts, so be prepared to be flexible.
  • According to A Study of the UK's Information Workforce 2023 by Kinetiq, ethnic minorities currently make up less than 5% of the information workforce. Although men only make up about 25% of the workforce, they are over-represented at senior management level.
  • There are opportunities for freelance and contract work, once you have experience, for example in the religious, charities and business sectors and with private individuals and trusts. There may be opportunities for international travel or secondments and posts overseas.


You'll usually need a first degree followed by a postgraduate qualification accredited by the ARA. Although the subject of your first degree doesn't usually matter, subjects such as history, law, classics and English are popular. In specialist areas, for example scientific archives services or banking archives, a relevant degree may be useful.

Competition for places on a postgraduate course is fierce and you'll normally need a good honours degree and some work experience (either paid or voluntary). Courses are available at PGCert, PGDip and Masters level.

Most postgraduate courses are combined archives and records management programmes. Part-time and distance learning options are available at some institutions. Visit the ARA website for a list of ARA-accredited courses.

The Bodleian Libraries Digital Archivist Graduate Training Scheme is a programme offering a combination of on-the-job training and postgraduate study specifically in digital archiving. The two-year programme teaches traditional and digital archiving skills, and leads to a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Information and Media Management from Aberystwyth University.

There is a new Level 7 Archivist and Records Manager apprenticeship available, which provides an alternative entry route into the profession. Apprenticeships combine paid work, training on the job and a qualification.

You can apply for a position at assistant (paraprofessional) level without a postgraduate qualification. Posts are available in most archive services, and it may be possible to complete further study in-service or after a period of employment.

Archive and information apprenticeships such as the Level 3 Library, Information and Archive Services (LIAS) Assistant apprenticeship offer another way into archive work. Find an apprenticeship


You'll need to have:

  • a genuine interest in preserving records for posterity
  • interpersonal and communication skills to relate to, and encourage, a range of users
  • a logical approach to the work of identification and classification
  • an understanding of research skills to help users access materials
  • the ability to skim and understand an extensive and varied range of material
  • attention to detail and accuracy, particularly when undertaking repetitive tasks
  • organisational skills and the ability to prioritise your workload
  • a practical approach to problem solving
  • the ability to anticipate and respond to changing needs and digital media
  • a commitment to the profession and to professional development
  • the ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • experience of using databases or collections management systems
  • general IT skills and an interest in applying digital technology to archiving
  • competence in administrative procedures and project management skills
  • manual dexterity and, in some roles, skills in lifting, carrying and installing/moving archives.

Knowledge of data protection and freedom of information legislation is also useful.

Work experience

You'll need to have good quality voluntary or paid work experience to get a place on a postgraduate course. This experience should be in an archives environment, not a library.

ARA has details of current placement opportunities (both paid and voluntary) across the UK and Ireland. These are suitable for those seeking work experience prior to undertaking a postgraduate course. There are also opportunities to volunteer with ARA.

Assistant archivist positions are advertised in the local and national press and on the Archives-NRA List.

You can also approach local archives for voluntary opportunities. The largest archives services are likely to be in local government and universities. You could also contact heritage organisations, museums, records officers and large businesses with archive collections. For contact details of local archive and records management services, see The National Archives - Find an archive.

Student membership of ARA is useful and is open to anyone studying an ARA-accredited course. Make contacts wherever you can and develop your network within the sector.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Opportunities are available with:

  • local government
  • The National Archives and the National Records of Scotland
  • The British Library and the national libraries of Scotland and Wales
  • the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
  • cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries
  • universities and independent schools
  • large charities
  • central government and government agencies
  • hospitals
  • religious foundations
  • media organisations
  • professional organisations
  • specialist repositories within the private sector in large corporations, businesses and industrial organisations
  • private institutions, families and individuals.

Competition for jobs is strong and you may move from one sector to another and work for a range of employers during your career. With experience, it may be possible to work as a self-employed archivist.

Look for job vacancies at:

Vacancies are also advertised on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and in the local and national press.

Professional development

The ARA offers professional registration at three levels:

  • Foundation (FMARA) - for those at the start or early stages of their career
  • Registered (RMARA) - those at the early to mid-point in their careers
  • Fellow (FARA) - the highest-level award for significant professional experience.

To qualify, you need to enrol on the ARA Professional Development Programme. The programme is based around a framework of competencies, and to qualify you'll need to submit a portfolio of evidence showing how you meet the qualification criteria for the level of membership you are applying for. Once qualified, you will need to continue your professional development.

It's also possible to gain accreditation through the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS) once you have five years' experience in the profession or three years plus a recognised professional qualification. Accreditation entitles you to use the post-nominal letters AMIRMS. To apply, you'll need to submit either a written application or a shorter summary application and an interview.

Throughout your career you'll need to keep up to date with new technologies and digital preservation techniques, legislative change and emerging best practice. The ARA provides a programme of events, including courses, lectures and seminars. You can also do further research at PhD level.

Career prospects

As an archivist, you're part of a small professional network, so opportunities for promotion to high-level posts may be limited. You're likely to experience a variety of roles and environments during your working life. Although long-term career prospects are generally good, you may need a degree of flexibility, both geographically and in the type of organisation you work for, when looking for promotion. 

Professional registration through ARA at Registered (RMARA) or Fellow (FARA) level, or IRMS Accreditation, can help progress your career. It shows that your skills, experience and knowledge are at a particular standard and that you're committed to the profession. 

Many people start as assistant archivists before moving into full archivist roles. As your career develops, you may acquire a specialist interest, particularly if you work for a large archive service with several departments. 

It's possible to progress to senior posts with a more prominent management role. These roles usually involve taking control of budgets, staff and strategy. Developing your management skills may improve opportunities for progression. 

There are some opportunities for archivists to expand their career across archiving, conservation and records management. Other related areas of work include archive conservation, genealogy and historical research. 

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