Careers FAQs.

Below are some of the more commonly asked questions about starting a careerin archives, records management and archive conservation. If you have anyquestions not answered by these FAQs then please contact us.

How do I start a career in archives and records management?

The first step is to look at the kinds of jobs advertised and find those that you are interested in. Take a look at the job description and person specification. These give you an idea of the type of experience and qualification you might need. You could also contact the employer to discuss the role and get more insight into the kind of candidate they are looking for.

Some jobs in the profession require a post-graduate level qualification or equivalent. The ARA therefore accredits a number of post-graduate qualifications in archives and records management and also offers an alternative to university qualifications through its Professional Development Programme, which can lead to Foundation and Registered Membership of the Association.

The post-graduate qualification can be taken via one of three different ways:

Full time: a one year Masters or a 9 months diploma programme taught on campus

Part time: a campus based Masters or diploma over a longer period of 2 to 5 years and thereby spreading the time commitment to allow for concurrent employment.

Distance Learning: take the Masters or diploma via correspondence and online tuition. This usually takes 2 to 5 years and normally requires a student to have some relationship with an archive and or records management service, either as an employee or as a volunteer.

For further information on careers and ARA-accredited university qualifications please consult the following webpages;

Are there other qualifications available?

A level 3 Library, Information and Archive Services (LIAS) Assistant apprenticeship was introduced to provide a pathway for those looking to start their career at the support/assistant level. Further information is available from the Institute of Apprenticeships.

A level 7 Archivist and Records Manager apprenticeship, which will provide an alternative option to the post-graduate university qualification, is currently under development. Further information is available from the Institute for Apprenticeships

The ARA offers professional qualifications based solely on your work experience. Our Professional Development Programme is open to all Individual Members of the ARA, regardless of experience or academic qualification. Candidates may apply for Foundation, Registered or Fellow status, depending on the amount of experience they have gained in their career so far.

Who could I end up working for?

Employers exist in the public, private and charitable/not-for profit sectors and include;

Local Government e.g the London Metropolitan Archives 

Central Government The National ArchivesNational Records of Scotland, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, National Library of Wales and National Archives of Ireland.

University e.g Special Collections and Western Manuscripts Department of the Bodleian Library, Oxford University and Glasgow University Archives Service

Business e.g HSBC Group Archives,  British Telecom Archives 

Religious e.g Scottish Catholic Archives,  Lambeth Palace - Church of England Records Centre 

National Institutions e.g BBC 

Private e.g The Rotchschild Archives, Diageo,

Whilst there are no figures on the exact ratios, Local Government is by far the most common employer of UK record professionals. Central Government, the NHS and Universities are the next most common employers but the sheer variety of organisations that employ record professionals in a wide range of roles means that it is difficult to group employers into distinct categories.

For a fuller list of archive services in the UK, arranged by region, look at the Archives Online website.Although there is no equivalent website for records management services, many of the listed archive services will include a records management section, or know the relevant section within their parent organisation.

How do I get work experience?

Work experience is a common first step with many professions in the UK and Republic of Ireland. It will give you a better understanding of the work involved and opportunities available. Our placement opportunities webpage and the Archives Online website provide information and contact details of the most of local authority, business, university, charity and religious archive repositories in the UK. Since you can browse by region, it is a handy tool to see what repositories are in your area, which you can then contact to enquire of any work opportunities.

The larger local government and university archive services are more likely to have opportunities available. They are also more likely to have records management departments..You should contact as many archive services in your area as possible and see which ones will be able to offer you some sort of placement. Remember to leave your contact details with those services that indicate they are too busy, as they might have opportunities in the future.

If you are currently attending university you should see if your university has an archive service (often the Special Collections department of the main university library) and contact them if they do. Many such university archive services are happy to take on volunteers, who are interested in archival work, especially those students from their own university.

What type of experience do I need before I apply to one of the postgraduate programmes?

The Forum for Archive and Records Management Education and Research (FARMER) has produced a guide on the type of experience required for the Postgraduate Programmes. 

Please download for reference -  FARMER Guidelines for Work Experience

The work experience has to be relevant to archives and / or records management. This usually means that it should be undertaken in a specifically archive or records management environment, rather than in an IT, library or museum one. To confuse matters many archive and records management services are based in larger departments and buildings that include other functions like the above, so the trick is to identify the right department or person to speak to. Many university archives are held in Special Collections Departments, whilst local government archives are often based in the main council library or museum. Records Managment services can be based within the parent archive service, in an IT section, Legal department or central administration.

The amount of experience you might need varies, so please do discuss this with the university you are interest in, Experience does not have to be obtained from only one organisation and multiple placements will often give you a better idea of the variety of work in the sector.

Is there any funding for postgraduate study in archives and records management?

Postgraduate Student Loans are available for full time students who are normally resident in England from Student Loans England,  for Scottish students via Student Awards Agency Scotland, Welsh students via Student Finance Wales and Northern Irish students via Student Finance Northern Ireland . Individual universities may have their own scholarship/bursary or fee reduction schemes for various categories of students.