Your questions answered

ARA Professional Development Programme – FAQs

 

1. Why is CPD so important?

All professionals experience change and the archives and records sector is no exception. External influences such as legislative change, digitisation, emerging best practice and new workforce development strategies are just some examples of why this profession cannot stand still.

We all need to continue to develop knowledge, skills and competencies to ensure that whatever role we are in, and in whichever capacity we are working, we are equipped to respond positively to change. CPD is the process through which we do this.

In an increasingly competitive job market, CPD will ensure you become the best you can be. By focusing on the development of your professional knowledge and skills, and by reflecting on your experience in the workplace, CPD will give you a competitive edge throughout your career.

 

 

2. Why has the ARA introduced a new Professional Development Programme?

The ARA is the sector’s representative body.

As a member of the ARA you play an important and responsible role. Whether you are working in the public or the private sector, you are ultimately working for the public interest through the conservation, management or archiving of important and often valuable historical records.

As records managers, conservators and archivists, this responsibility lies in the protection, preservation and promotion of documented history – a critical role and one that requires credible professionals.

To be a credible professional it is important to stay abreast of latest approaches, working practices and trends in the marketplace, and vital that you continue to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to address the organisational, process or customer related challenges that continually evolve within the archives and records management sector.

To this end, the ARA has created a modernised, rigorous and credible Professional Development Programme in line with best practice that will give you the career development support, as well as a professional qualification that can and should be taken seriously by employers.

This new programme will also enable the ARA to attract more members, in turn building the community and enhancing income that will allow the ARA to invest more back into the profession to your benefit. We are all in this together.

 

  

3. Why should I get involved in the new Professional Development Programme?

The ARA Professional Development Programme enables you, as members of the ARA, to acquire the professional recognition and status that your career deserves.

As members you can gain professional qualifications through the new programme and, as such, you will be recognised as a Foundation Member (FMARA), Registered Member (RMARA) or Fellow of the ARA (FARA). Once qualified with the ARA, you will be able to use the letters after your name applicable to the membership qualification level you’ve achieved. You’ll also be able to describe yourself as a ‘Registered Archivist’, ‘Registered Archive Conservator’ or ‘Registered Records Manager’.

These qualifications are a professional and public demonstration of your commitment to the highest professional and ethical standards set by the ARA. They show your dedication to the continuation of your professional development.

The programme has been developed in line with latest best practice, drawing on the approach taken across other successful programmes. In driving a new professional standard for the sector, the ARA in turn strengthens its own position as a professional body. Through the programme, the ARA will have a greater influence among employers and those driving policy, which ultimately benefits you as a member of the ARA and the record-keeping sector.

The benefits of engaging with the ARA’s Professional Development Programme are manifold:

  • The programme provides a clear pathway to developing your career and increasing your earning potential – it is a long-term career investment
  • It enables you to enhance your professional standing and employability, and help you earn recognition from your peers
  • The qualification will boost your confidence and influence within the profession
  • Working with a mentor through the programme, you will have the opportunity to widen your professional network and gain exposure to new learning and career opportunities
  • You will be able to publicise that you have the skills, expertise and ethical behaviours that employers value and trust

 

 

4. How does the new programme differ from the previous Registration programme?

The Professional Development Programme is a competency-based process that recognises and rewards those who meet the ARA’s national standard for record-keeping in the UK and Ireland.

Both employers and members have been consulted in order to gain a clear picture of the skills, experience and attributes required to be a leading professional in the record-keeping sector of today.

As a result, the programme has been modernised to capture all of this insight, resetting the bar and driving the highest standards for the sector and the archivists, conservators and records managers that work within it. The programme will drive the credibility that the profession deserves.

The programme has been designed to engage with volunteers and staff working at all professional and non-professional levels. Candidates, mentors and assessors can all work online and remotely through the programme’s website - https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io - making the path to qualification much simpler and more efficient.

 

 

5. What different membership levels are there in the programme?

There are three different levels of membership in the programme. To establish which is the right membership level for you, please download and complete the ARA self-assessment form which is located on the programme website, https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io.

Foundation Membership (FMARA)

For those new to the profession, volunteers, apprentices or those who do not yet have the level of experience required for Registered Membership, Foundation Membership is the right level for you.

To embark on the journey towards Foundation Membership you will need to be an Individual Member of the ARA. We recommend that you have one year of work experience (this could be from volunteer work) before you can submit your application for assessment.

Submission criteria:

  • Current CV
  • Reference from a mentor
  • Competency portfolio: six completed competency forms at minimum attainment levels 1-2. Maximum of 1,000 words per submission

Registered Membership (RMARA)

Individual Members of the ARA with an ARA-accredited university qualification are eligible to enrol onto the Registered Membership programme at any time following graduation. We recommend that applicants gain three years’ experience before submitting their application for assessment.

However, you do not need an ARA-accredited university qualification to be eligible to enrol in the programme. For those without academic qualification, there is a route to enrolment based on experience. If this applies to you, please contact our Programme Manager, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., to discuss your options.

ARA members who have already gained Registered status under the previous programme will remain Registered Members but will be asked to complete a CPD Review to retain Registered Membership status. This will help to ensure that we bring our programme fully in line with modern best practice and meet the new national standard set by the ARA with this new programme.

Current Registered Members may also be in position to qualify for Fellow Membership.

Submission criteria:

  • Current CV
  • Mentor reference
  • Competency portfolio: eight completed competency forms at minimum attainment levels 2-3. Maximum of 1,000 words per submission

Fellow Membership (FARA)

Fellow Membership is the highest level of qualification offered by the ARA, available only to Registered Members who have completed at least one CPD Review. We recommend members have at least nine years’ experience following their admission to Registered Membership.

If you became a Registered Member under the previous programme you will remain a Registered Member. In order to retain your Registered Membership (and position you to progress your Fellowship application) you will need to complete a CPD Review.

Submission criteria:

  • Current CV
  • Portfolio: six completed competency forms at minimum attainment levels 4-5. Maximum of 1,500 words per submission
  • A statement of contribution to the profession (maximum of 750 words)
  • A statement of professional development (maximum of 750 words)

Your statement of contribution to the profession will be unique to you and contributed statements will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. It should be no more than 750 words.

For all membership applications, you will need to submit a portfolio in order to be assessed. Portfolio submission deadlines are May 31st and November 30th and the Programme Manager should be notified six months in advance of submission.

For further information on the different membership levels and to understand the competency framework, please go to https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io.

 

  

6. How do I get started and what are the steps to qualification?

There are six steps to ARA professional status and the career benefits that will follow.

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Step 1 – Self-Assessment

Self-assessment is all about seeing where you are today; reviewing the skills, experience and attributes that you already have and understanding where that puts you in terms of the membership level you may already qualify for, as well as the level you aspire to.

The self-assessment process is as follows:

  • Download the competency framework summary and the three competency framework areas summary here: https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io/
  • Tick all of the competencies you think apply to you
  • Review the five levels of experience and select the appropriate level alongside your checked competency list
  • Align your completed self-assessment with the submission criteria of the membership levels to understand which level you may already qualify for and identify the additional competencies and work required to reach the next level

Self-assessment will help you benchmark your experience against national competency standards in record-keeping, as set by the ARA.

Step 2 – Find a Mentor

You will need and appreciate some help in moving through the programme towards assessment and qualification. A mentor is someone with more experience and knowledge than yourself who will help give you direction with your learning, get the most out of it and help you achieve your chosen membership qualification.

It is important that you try to identify your own mentor but if you need support please do ask us for our list of mentors when you have enrolled on the programme.

Please take a look at Section 3.3 of the full programme documentation for guidance on identifying a mentor.

With your mentor you should agree how you are going to work together, share your latest CV and completed self-assessment and document key milestones. If there are other colleagues, professionals or networks known to you, we would encourage you to reach out to them for additional guidance and support.

To get off to a good start with your mentor you should agree an agenda upfront, send them your latest CV and completed self-assessment, and decide how you are going to work together; whether face to face or via phone/screen share. Be sure to agree a timetable for meeting going forwards and identify and agree key milestones.

You don’t need to rely completely on your mentor. This process is driven by you; if there are other colleagues, professionals or networks known to you, we encourage you to reach out to them for further guidance.

Step 3 – Enrol onto the programme

The next step is to enrol on the programme. This can be done via the Professional Development Programme website at https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io

After setting up your profile, complete the enrolment form and pay the fee to enrol. You can now get started on your application by following the Foundation, Registered or Fellowship qualification options.

Please note that when going through the CPD Review process you do not need to enrol on the programme.

You will be asked to provide your name, ARA membership number and contact details for your employer and your mentor. You will also be asked to invite your mentor to register with the website if they haven’t already done so. Your mentor will then be able to access your application and support your development.

If you are not yet an ARA member then please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or join now as an Individual Member.

For complete guidance on how to enrol and use the programme website please refer to the website user on https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io.

Step 4 – Preparing for Assessment

In order to be assessed you will need to complete a number of steps.

An up-to-date CV
You will need to have an up-to-date CV that incorporates the experience, skills and attributes you are planning to use as evidence within your competency forms.

Competency Forms
You will need to submit the appropriate number of competency forms in line with your chosen membership level qualification. The form provides the structure you will use to demonstrate how you meet the levels of experience in your chosen competencies. Success will depend upon the strength of the evidence you present so it is vital that you ensure each form clearly demonstrates how you meet the required competency levels.

This is where your mentor comes in once again as they will be able to give you a much-needed objective opinion.

You can include up to 10 years’ relevant work experience as part of your evidence.

We encourage you to use the language used to describe the competencies and experience levels as it will help focus the content of the submission.

For further detail on the structure of the submission form, additional guidance and an example of a completed form please take a look at Section 5.3 of the full programme documentation.

Supporting Documentation

You must also provide at least one piece of supporting documentation as a PDF file (with a maximum of three separate items) for each form submitted. This supporting documentation must validate or support the evidence used on your form and could include items such as an overview of your annual appraisal with your line manager or an overview of the appraisal process and outcomes you agreed with your team.

Supporting documentation must be confirmed by, for example, your line manager, as being your work as the applicant. They must sign and date the documents and describe their relationship to you.

Mentor Reference

You will also need a reference from your mentor and they will need to provide it in line with the Guidance for Mentors found here.

Step 5 – Completing Assessment & Qualification

Once your application is complete it can be simply uploaded via the programme website. The site will prompt you to confirm that you have completed all of the necessary tasks. After that you can choose when to submit your application and also download a copy of it for reference as needed.

At the point of submission you will be requested to pay the full assessment fee. This payment will need to be made in order to complete the submission process.

Your application will be assessed by two Registered or Fellow Members of the ARA who are trained in assessment for each membership level. Foundation Members trained in the assessment of portfolios may assess Foundation portfolio submissions.

Assessment takes around three months to complete (NB. this may take longer if submission numbers are high or assessors are unavailable).

Providing the two assessors are in agreement that the submitted application meets the qualification requirement, you will rewarded with the level of membership and professional qualification that you applied for.

You will be notified via the programme website and your name, qualified status and name of your mentor will be published by the ARA.

You will receive a membership certificate confirming your new qualified status and we will communicate the same to your employer so that they too can recognise (and hopefully reward) your new status.

Step 6 – Maintaining your membership and qualification level

Your professional development is an ongoing process and as such it is important that you retain and continue to build on your skills and expertise and, in turn, protect the high standards we are collectively driving for the sector.

The ARA provides opportunities to support members with their CPD. This includes news and insight from ARC magazine, the ARA annual conference and events organised by ARA Nations, Regions and Sections.

The ARA operates a formal CPD (continuing professional development) process to support you with your professional development.

This CPD Review process requires you to submit evidence of your continuing professional development every five years from the time you qualified as a Foundation, Registered or Fellow member of the ARA. The CPD Review must be completed in order to retain your acquired level of membership.

Once you have been selected for the review you will be contacted by the ARA via email (or by post if we do not have an email address for you).

You will be asked to submit:

  • A current CV
  • Four CPD Review forms: Each form should identify one learning objective (aligned to the new competency framework as outlined on the programme website: https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io identified as requiring maintenance or development and how you have achieved that objective over the last five years. (Max 750 words per form)
  • A personal development statement providing a (maximum) 500 word overview of the most recent five years of CPD activity

 

  

7. What is the competency framework?

The competency framework is a structured checklist of the skills, experience and attributes needed to qualify for each one of the three membership levels. It essentially provides you with a checklist for both initial and ongoing self-assessment in line with the requirements of the programme.

Importantly, the framework presents national standards in competency for the record-keeping sector.

Working in consultation with employers and members we have created a list of 39 competencies summarised here.

The 39 competencies are split across three areas: organisational, process and stakeholder/customer. Click through on each area for the detailed breakdown of the applicable competencies.

Each competency level is free-standing, so if you are confident that you have a competency at Level 3 it does not mean that you must have first worked at Levels 1 or 2.

 

 

8. What are the three competency framework areas?

These are the three categories of work – Organisational, Process and Customer/Stakeholder - to which the 39 identified competencies belong. They encompass as fully as possible the variety of activities undertaken by all those working or volunteering in archives, records management and archive conservation.

Further details can be found in Section 1.1 of the full programme documentation.

 

  

9. What are the five levels of experience?

The ARA has identified and formalised five levels of experience that give an official marker as to how you are performing today in relation to a given competency.

The five levels are:

  • Novice – Level 1
  • Beginner – Level 2
  • Competent – Level 3
  • Proficient – Level 4
  • Expert – Level 5

For detailed descriptions, please take a look at Section 1.2 of the full programme documentation.

 

 

10. What is the assessment process and how long does it take?

Once your application is complete, the submit option becomes live on the programme website. You click submit, pay the submission fee and the job is done! Payment is required in order to complete the submission process.

Your application will be assessed by two Registered or Fellow Members of the ARA who are trained in for each membership level. Foundation members trained in the assessment of portfolios may assess Foundation submissions.

Assessment takes around three months to complete but please note this may take longer if submission numbers are high or assessors unavailable.

Providing the two assessors are in agreement that the submitted portfolio meets the qualification requirement you will rewarded with the level of membership and professional qualification that you applied for.

You will be notified via the programme website and your name, qualified status and name of your mentor will be published by the ARA.

You will receive a membership certificate confirming your new qualified status and we will communicate the same to your employer so that they too can recognise (and hopefully reward) your new status.

 

 

11. Once I am qualified do I need to do anything further?

Your professional development is an ongoing process and as such it is important that you retain and continue to build on your skills and expertise and, in turn, protect the high standards we are collectively driving for the sector.

The ARA operates a formal CPD (continuing professional development) process through which you can continue with your development.

This CPD Review process requires you to submit evidence of your continuing professional development every five years from the time of qualification. The CPD Review must be completed in order to retain your acquired level of membership.

For your CPD Review you will be asked to submit:

  • A current CV
  • Four CPD Review forms: Each form should identify one learning objective (aligned to the new competency framework) identified as requiring maintenance or development and how you have achieved that objective over the last 5 years. (Max 750 words per form)
  • A personal development statement providing a (maximum) 500 word overview of the most recent 5 years of CPD activity

If you are a Registered Member of the original programme you are required to go through this process in order to retain your Registered Membership status.

If you are a Registered Member and interested in qualifying as a Fellow of the ARA, you will need to complete at least one CPD Review before submitting your Fellowship portfolio for assessment.

For further information, please read the CPD Review guide which you can download from the programme website: https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io.

 

  

12. I am already a Registered Member of the ARA – how do I retain my status?

If you became a Registered Member under the previous programme you will remain a Registered Member. In order to retain your Registered Membership (and position you to progress your Fellow Membership application) you will need to complete a CPD Review.

The CPD Review process requires you to submit evidence of your continuing professional development every five years from the time of qualification. The CPD Review must be completed in order to retain your acquired level of membership.

You will be asked to submit:

  • A current CV
  • Four CPD Review forms: Each form should identify one learning objective (aligned to the new competency framework) identified as requiring maintenance or development and how you have achieved that objective over the last five years. (Max 750 words per form)
  • A personal development statement providing a (maximum) 500 word overview of the most recent five years of CPD activity

There is a £35 fee for the CPD review, payable online via the programme website. CPD Reviews are completed within one month of your submission date.

For more details about the process, please read the CPD Review guide which you can download from the programme website: https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io.

 

 

13. Will I get letters after my name and will employers recognise them?

The short answer is yes!

Foundation Membership entitles you to use the letters FMARA (Foundation Member of the ARA) after your name.

Registered Membership entitles you to use the letters RMARA (Registered Member of the ARA) after your name.

Fellow Membership entitles you to use the letters FARA (Fellow Member of the ARA) after your name.

Following qualification, your employers will be notified of your success by written letter sent together with a copy of your membership level and qualification certificate.

We are also working on building employer awareness of the new programme, the membership levels and qualifications and their value and importance so that employers recognise and appreciate the meaning of the designatory letters when they receive new CVs and job applications, and so that they reward new membership qualifications for current employees accordingly.

In addition to the letters after your name, you can also, once qualified with the ARA, describe yourself as a ‘Registered Archivist’, Registered Conservator or ‘Registered Records Manager’ in a similar way to other professions.

 

 

14. What should I look for in a mentor and how do I find one?

A mentor is someone with more experience and knowledge than yourself who will help give you direction with your learning, get the most out of it and help you achieve your chosen membership qualification.

It is important that you try to identify your own mentor but if you need support please do ask us for our list of mentors when you have enrolled on the programme.

Please take a look at Section 3.3 of the full programme documentation for guidance on identifying a mentor.

 

 

15. How do I become a mentor?

You may well be approached by a candidate of the ARA’s Professional Development Programme or be recommended to become a mentor. If that doesn’t happen though we suggest that you make your interest in mentoring known via your own professional networks.

You can also consider joining the ARA’s mentor list which is then provided to candidates who are struggling to find a mentor.

Prior experience is not required as the ARA will provide you with guidance and support. Please do get involved as there is increasing demand for mentors, especially with the launch of the new programme.

For further details, please take a look at our Guidance for Mentors documentation.

 

 

16. How will I know if I have achieved my membership level?

Approximately three months after the online submission of your portfolio of evidence (longer if submission numbers are high or assessors unavailable), and providing the assessors agree that your portfolio meets the requirements of the qualification, you will be notified of your success via the programme website. From that point you can go ahead and use the letters applicable to your membership level after your name.

 

 

17. How will my success be communicated to my employer?

At the point of qualification you will receive a membership certificate confirming your new qualified status. We will send a letter of confirmation to your employer enclosing a copy of your qualification certificate so that they too can recognise and hopefully reward your new status.

 

 

18. What does it cost to enrol and become qualified and how do I make payments?

There are essentially three payments associated with the programme, all of which can be made online via the programme website, at the appropriate time:

An enrolment fee

Foundation Membership Level: £10
Registered Membership Level: £35
Fellow Membership Level: £50

An assessment fee

Foundation Membership Level: £50
Registered Membership Level: £75
Fellow Membership Level: £100

A CPD Review fee

Due every five years post qualification: £35

 

 

19. What does the ARA offer to help me with my professional development?

The ARA provides a wide range of CPD opportunities to help support your career including:

  • Regional events
  • Sectional events
  • Training events
  • Annual conference
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Contributions to publications
  • And more – please take a good look through the ARA website at www.archives.org.uk

 

 

20. Who can I contact for further information?

The Professional Development Programme website https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io contains detailed documentation for your support:

  • ARA Competency Framework Documents
  • Professional Development Programme guidance including the full programme guide, website user guide, guidance for mentors and CPD Review guidance can be found at the programme website: https://archivesandrecords.smapply.io
  • You can also contact the Programme Manager, Chris Sheridan, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 07377 940696.