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Archivist

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Summary of occupation

An archivist analyses and documents records, and plans and organises the collection, preservation and storage of those records. Records can be written documents, photographs, audio or visual recordings, electronic records and any other medium where events, and information of historical interest or significance are stored. The records that archivists maintain generally have a continuing historical value, and will be kept and preserved indefinitely. This is unlike a company/business whose records can be destroyed after a legally defined period.

ANZSCO description: Analyses and documents records, and plans and organises systems and procedures for the safekeeping of records and historically-valuable documents.
Alternative names:
Specialisations: Film Archivist, Legal Archivist, Manuscripts Archivist, Parliamentary Archivist
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An archivist needs:

  • a high level of analytical and research skills
  • to be able to understand highly-detailed work
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • good organisational skills
  • a strong interest in history
  • to be patient, thorough and methodical.
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Working conditions

Archivists work for government departments, such as the State Records Office of Western Australia, and other organisations which keep historical records, such as museums, libraries, universities, and professional and trade associations. Conditions such as temperature, light and humidity in the storage areas of archives are carefully controlled to preserve materials, so archivists may frequently work in cold, dim and dry conditions. They generally work regular office hours.

Archivists have a high level or contact with people, often assisting researchers and the public to locate information stored in the archive. In larger archives they frequently work in teams, though smaller collections may only require one or two archivists to manage them.

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Salary details

On average, archivists, curators and records managers can expect to earn approximately $1 517 per week ($78 884 per year), depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience. As an archivist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Archivists use computers to keep a record of what is included in their archives and to locate specific records when required. Depending on the contents of an archive, they may also use microfilm readers and audio-visual equipment. They also use special packaging materials to preserve any records in storage.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an archivist you usually need to study a degree with a major in librarianship and corporate information management.

Curtin University of Technology offers a three year Bachelor of Arts (Librarianship and Corporate Information Management). This is the only undergraduate degree specialising in archiving available in Western Australia.

Alternatively, you can undertake a degree in any discipline, followed by a postgraduate qualification in records management and archives, information management, or information services. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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