Schools for Aspiring Archivists: How to Choose
Archivists organize, manage and preserve digital and physical materials. Not all archivists have the same academic background, and because they may work in libraries, museums and historical societies, archivists might consider additional education to give them a specialized perspective on the materials archived.
How to Select an Archivist School
Archivists work in a variety of capacities from the smallest museum to the largest library. As a result, prospective archivists may want to consider in what capacity they'd like to work. For those interested in working in museums, a bachelor's degree in a related field like history, anthropology, cultural studies, art or another museum collection-related field may be apropos. Archivists who know they want to work primarily with library materials, either at a university or even the Library of Congress, should look at library-specific programs. For those who may just want an introduction to archiving and have no prior education in the field, some archival schools and societies offer short-term programs.
Choosing an archivist school will depend primarily on the prospective student's prior educational history. Some advanced programs in library science may only accept students with previous education or baccalaureate degree in a related field. Some certificate and associate degree programs may be more relevant for prospective archivists want to become entry-level professionals in the shortest amount of time and work in more broad settings. Additionally, students may want to consider programs that offer internship opportunities and practical work experience.
Archivist Program Overviews
Library and Information Services Certificate Program
Library and information services certificate programs are perfect for aspiring archivists who do not have a specialization interest or are undecided about his or her specialization. The certificate program prepares students with practical training for cataloguing, library organization, information management and types of data and collections. Certificate programs may take up to a year to complete. Certificate programs may be offered by some community colleges, but most are part of larger library and information science schools.
Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Information and Library Science
Prospective archivists should understand that some schools may differentiate between the titles of Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Library Science. Undergraduate programs for library science or archival studies are not as common as schools that offer a graduate or joint bachelor's and master's degrees. The few schools that do offer a B.S. in Library Science specifically prepare students to continue on to a master's program in information or library science. Minors in library science, on the other hand, may be available to students in Bachelor of Science in Education programs as well as to students in B.A., B.S. or BFA programs at some colleges and universities.
Undergraduate degrees take up to four years to complete. Courses will include topics of cataloguing and classification, collection development and acquisitions, reference, history of libraries and digital technology. Additionally, undergraduate students will be required to complete college general education requirements in the humanities, social science and possibly the fine arts. Students who complete a B.A. or B.S. may be able to continue to advanced certification for specific library or teaching jobs.
Master of Science in Library and Information Science
Candidates who want the job of a curator, museum or university archivist may want to consider a Master of Science in Library and Information Science (MSLIS). Graduate programs typically take two years to complete. The programs educate students in information technology and organization, web content management and subject resources. Many also require students to conduct personal research or write a thesis.
Prospective master's students may also want to consider a dual or joint degree program. Specialization in particular areas will help archivists find jobs in the fields they are most interested in. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), museums also want curators and archivists to have a master's degree in the discipline of the museum (www.bls.gov). To meet this requirement, many prospective archivists earn degrees in art, history, archaeology and even museum studies. Enrolling in dual degree programs or taking elective courses in related historical fields may help archivists in job placement.
Advanced or Graduate Certificate Programs
While some masters programs may include advanced certification, most archivists will have to complete additional continuing education to receive their advanced certificates. These certificates train archivists on specific topics such as manuscripts, preservation and conservation, public history, special collections and curatorial work. Advanced certificate programs are generally available to any graduate student in a MSLIS program, and sometimes even graduate students in the humanities or liberal arts. Graduate certificate programs last up to one year and some will include student teaching or advanced internship opportunities. Archivists with these credentials may be allowed to work with rare collections and hold advanced positions in institutions or with a state's archives.
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