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

Typical work activities include:

  • evaluating records for preservation and retention;
  • cataloguing collections and managing information and records;
  • preparing record-keeping systems and procedures for archival research and for the retention or destruction of records.

For a more detailed overview of an archivists role, visit the archivist job profile on Prospects or watch this Careers at the National Theatre: Archivist YouTube video.

Entry routes

A university degree in any discipline (though usually in an historical field) is needed to be accepted onto a postgraduate course in archives, which is the normal entry route. This qualification needs to be accredited by the Archives and Record Association (ARA).

Courses lead to a nine-month Postgraduate Diploma, the minimum requirement for employment as a professional archivist, or a full one-year Masters degree on completion of a dissertation.

Posts at assistant level are open to those without the required professional qualifications. They are available in most archive services. It may be possible to complete further study in-service or after a period of employment.

Getting experience

It’s important to get work experience in archives or a record management environment (not a library). Visit The Archives and Records Association for a list of organisations in the UK and Ireland that offer voluntary or paid placements.

Be persistent in tracking down opportunities. It may be worth contacting organisations speculatively close to where you live. For contact details of local archive and records management services, see the ARCHON Directory.

Look out for opportunities to gain work experience here at the University both during and after your degree. You can also find work experience opportunities on Careers Connect.

The University of Birmingham offers work experience bursaries for any student in their first, second or penultimate year of study. For more details visit the internship funding pages.

Finding a job or internship

Find out more

Professional Bodies and Trade Associations are a great place to start exploring a given sector. They identify the best employers, give you all the latest news on the industry and often link you to careers events, blogs and job/internship vacancies.

Not found what you're looking for? Find out how to get in touch with us.


Professional Services