Starting Out

Starting Out

A guide aimed at pre-course volunteers and trainees, students on record keeping, archive and archive conservation courses, and newly qualified professionals. This page will advise on all aspects of starting out in these three professions and hopefully provide all the information you'll need.

Pre-Course Experience

If you are interested in one of these professions it is always the best idea to try it out first to see if it really is for you. Nearly all archives across the UK will take on volunteers so that you can get on the job experience. The ARA has a list of archives that are willing to take on volunteers but it is by no means exhaustive, the full list of UK archives is available on the National Archives ARCHON website so that you can find those local to your area.

Volunteer positions are usually unpaid however some facilities might offer to reimburse your travel costs, provide lunch or even allow you discounts in their cafe and shops.

Every year there are also many "Archive Assistant" posts or "Archive Trainee" posts intended for those who wish to gain pre-course experience. These posts are normally paid or have a bursary and will usually last up to a year. These pop up throughout the year and all over the UK, most are advertised on the Archives-NRA list, alongside general discussions and other events.

If you decide to apply for a degree course it is worth bearing in mind that all of them will ask for some element of pre-course experience, whether 60 hours or up to six months, this a vital rung to climb on the professional ladder.


These professions are all highly vocational and require a great deal of specialist knowledge which is taught mostly through postgraduate diplomas or degrees. Currently the ARA recognises a range of courses available at seven universities throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, and these are available in a variety of manners. The tables below show the options available.

Full Time

  UCL University College Dublin University of Glasgow University of Liverpool Aberystwyth University
Course Name Archives and Records Management Archives and Records Management Information Management and Preservation Archives and Records Management Archive Administration
Degree Options MA/PgDip MA MSc/PgDip MARM/PgDip MScEcon/PgDip
Course Length 12mo/9mo 12mo 12mo/9mo 12mo/9mo 12mo/9mo
Cost (pa for home/EU students)



8330 euro(~£6,540)








Part Time

  UCL University College Dublin University of Glasgow Aberystwyth University
Course Name Archives and Records Management Archives and Records Management Information Management and Preservation Archive Administration
Degree Options MA/PgDip MA MSc MScEcon/PgDip
Course Length 24-60mo 24mo 24mo 24mo
Cost (pa for home/EU students) Part-time fees available on request from department 5090 euro


£772 per 20 credit module




Distance Learning

  University of Dundee Aberystwyth University Northumbria University
Course Name Archives and Records Management Archive Administration Information and Records Management
Degree Options MLitt/PgDip MScEcon/PgDip MSc/PGDip
Course Length 30-60mo 24-60mo 24mo
Cost (for home/EU students)






Information correct for 2013/14 courses.



ICON is the Institute of Conservation and they are the voice for the conservation of the UK's cultural heritage.

The schools which offer conservation are listed below:

Camberwell College of Arts University of the Arts London

BA (Hons) Conservation

MA Conservation

PostgraduateDiploma Conservation

FdA Book Conservation

Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge

The Conservation Diploma

Cardiff University

BSc Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology

MSc Care of Collections

MSc Conservation

City and Guilds of London Art School department of Conservation

Conservation Studies BA

Postgraduate Diploma in Conservation Studies

Postgraduate Diploma: Comparative Studies in Conservation Cleaning

Courtauld Institute of Art

Conservation of Easel Painting PgDip

MA Conservation of Wall Paintings

Institute of Archaeology at University College London

M.A. in Principles of Conservation

M.Sc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums

University of Lincoln

BA (Hons) Conservation & Restoration

MA Conservation of Historic Objects

Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies

Northumbria University

MA Conservation of Fine Art

MA Preventive Conservation

Royal College of Art

MA Conservation

West Dean College

MA Conservation Studies



Once you've graduated the world of the job market opens up to you. Most people will be aware that there are fewer jobs available now for graduates than there used to be due to the recession, however do not let this put you off. Jobs are still advertised through the Archives-NRA list as well as by the ARA in the ARC Recruitment newsletter. Jobs can also be found in the usual ways via Google and newspapers.