Archives Job Market Revisited

2014-02-23 17.26.46

At orientation for my MLIS program, the archives professor basically told us that if we aren’t willing to move out of state, we’d have a difficult time finding a job. The region was already saturated with graduates from our school (she wasn’t lying either). Though I had no intention of staying, I ended up blessed to find an entry level position in-state that I absolutely adore so far. Once I realized how difficult it was to find an archives job in the first place, I began to examine the job market a little more closely. Honestly I’m just rehashing a topic that’s been written about in-depth by people more capable than me, but I did this largely for my own benefit.

First, I started with advocate blogs such as You Ought To Be Ashamed  (which is sadly no longer being updated) and Annoyed Librarian. Somehow I’d gotten all the way through graduate school without reading either one of these blogs. I sincerely have no idea how that happened. But again, maybe it was for the best because I would’ve collapsed into a pool of “what have I done?’ if I’d known.

The bad job postings shamed on YOTBA stuck out to me because I came across very similar ones. In fact, I almost fell out over one job posting I saw. I won’t copy/paste it, but let’s just say it was long on responsibilities (which included working with children) and needed skills, but very short on pay. Come to find out, the fact that they even posted the salary put them ahead of some of the other awful job postings exhibited on YOTBA. Yes, I’ve learned to eyeball the phrase “salary commensurate with experience.” I consider myself very fortunate in another sense too. My institution values the work of the archivists and we get paid a living wage.

I mostly looked at archivies postings in archives gig and through my graduate program’s listserv. However I also found some interesting options on Glassdoor. Side story on that one: I got an email with a title that went something like “7 Low Stress Jobs Hiring Now!” Of course archivist was listed, however they mentioned that you needed a Bachelors in archival or library science. I rarely see reputable archives job postings that don’t require a Master’s in Library and Information Science, but I won’t quibble about that now because that really is a whole other argument. Anyway, I checked out the open jobs they listed, and to my surpirse, they had a decent amount of options listed.

I took a deeper look at at job postings and the familar issues sprouted up. Entry level positions are pretty spotty and uh, good luck if you wanted a job in the south in a state not named Texas. There’s also a few of the SCWE lines too.

So yeah, there are too many archives graduates and too few entry level archives jobs. I’ve seen people blame the lie of the upcoming librarian shortage being peddled by LIS programs across the country. I definitely believe that’s part of it. I know I initially believed it wouldn’t be difficult finding a job. I even had a goal for myself to have a job lined up coming out of grad school (haha!) Not sure when reality set in, but eventually I realized the truth.

On a side note, I checked out the archivists’ Occupational Employment Statistics on the Bureau of Labor Statistics page. That was an interesting read too. It gives a nice summary of the geographic spread of archives jobs as well as median wages. For example we learn that working as an archivist for the Federal Executive Branch nets the highest pay with the median income being $83,030. I’m betting that’s an administrative position and certainly not entry level. And no doubt these stats are skewed by the truly awful jobs like the ones shamed on YOTBA. Even so, the stats shown are more respectable that you’d probably expect. We just shouldn’t expect to get rich as archivists.

If any aspiring archvist comes across this post, I’d say keep this information in mind. It doesn’t have to be discouraging. I see it more as knowing what you’re getting into. Avoid going into too much debt for an MLIS because the wages just aren’t there to be paying that down initially. Keep an open mind. There may be some information jobs out there that are under the radar that don’t get talked about as much in library science programs. And get to know the archivists and staff at local museums who may have some connections. Depending on the situation, volunteering in archives can provide valuable experience as well (volunteers in archives is controversial, but alas). Networking can get you places.

All and all, I’m glad I ended up sticking with archives, but there’s also some stuff I probably should’ve known going in.  Any and all comments are welcome from your experience in your chosen industry. I know archivist are most certainly not the only ones facing a tough job market.



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