Since the 2008 financial crisis and the resulting economic downturn, there have been numerous discussions in the archival profession about the relationship between graduate archival education and the entry-level archival job market. This study is an attempt to provide contextual data to these important discussions. To generate the data, 2013 graduates of archival programs were surveyed about job placement, academic backgrounds, the types of jobs obtained, and perceptions of their professional positions. The results of the survey present a complicated picture for the archives profession, including a placement rate of 71.7%, a high reliance on part-time and temporary positions, and a perceived lack of appropriate compensation for professional positions. Additionally, it is apparent that further data collection and research on this important topic are needed.
Since the 2008 financial crisis and the resulting economic downturn, the relationship between higher education and the job market has come under scrutiny from many different perspectives,1 including that of the archival profession. In the American archival community, these examinations have generated discussions on a number of topics related to graduate education and labor, including job placement rates, the type of jobs being obtained, living wage, academic degree choices, volunteer work, and academic internships. Two previous Society of American Archivists (SAA) presidents have voiced the importance of these topics to the archival community. At the 2013 SAA Annual Meeting, then president Jackie Dooley noted in her presidential keynote address that “We in SAA need to have a serious dialogue about the difficult employment market that new archival professionals face.”2 Five months later, new SAA president Danna Bell wrote on the SAA Off the Record blog that employment “is the one issue that continues to be at the forefront for many of our members” and restated her desire for SAA to actively engage on the topic.3
Unfortunately, despite the perceived importance of these conversations, our profession has largely relied on anecdotal evidence and generalities, as limited data exist for individuals to draw upon. While the combination of the professional diversity of the archival community and the lack of SAA's accrediting role for graduate programs has made it difficult to collect data on this important topic, I believe that if archivists are to have a serious dialogue about archival jobs, we must make a more concentrated effort to collect and disseminate relevant data. This study aims to supply more data on this important topic by examining the experiences of 2013 graduates of archival studies programs as they entered the job market. More specifically, the study collected data on job placement for 2013 graduates of archival studies graduate programs as well as their academic backgrounds, the types of jobs obtained, and perceptions of their professional positions.
During the past decade, a few studies have provided insights and analysis into the entry-level archival job market. In her 2006 report on the data collected by the 2004 A*CENSUS project, Victoria Irons Walch examined a number of expected challenges that the archival profession would face in the near future, including “recruiting enough new practitioners to fill all of the positions vacated by the large number of retirements expected in the next decade.”4 Walch was careful to discuss the need for new professionals in a nuanced manner, stating that “the recruitment issue may not be as dire as it first appears” and noting that, based on the A*CENSUS numbers and other studies of job placement of library school and graduate history programs, the recruitment of new professionals would most likely not become an urgent issue until between 2010 and 2020.5
In 2012, Rebecca Goldman and Shannon Lausch conducted a survey that sought to answer questions on a number of issues related to recent archival program graduates, including looking into their job search experiences and career satisfaction. Their survey, disseminated through a combination of professional electronic mailing lists, social media, and graduate school lists, produced 248 responses. Over 98% of respondents reported that they graduated from archival programs during the preceding 5 years (235 out of 239 respondents), and 193 completed the full survey.6 Goldman and Lausch presented their study at the 2012 SAA Annual Meeting, and their collected data are publicly available through the LaSalle University Digital Commons. In part due to the overall scarcity of data on this important topic, Goldman and Lausch's study is of high importance to understanding the post-2008 financial crisis archival job market for new professionals and consequently will be cited throughout this article.
Outside of the archival profession, researchers from the library and history professions have conducted similar studies. Stephanie Maatta has collected data on job placement and salaries for library school graduates since 2003 and has published the data and corresponding reports through Library Journal. Maatta's annual articles shed considerable light on the condition of the job market for library school graduates, with her 2014 study reporting that, out of 1,898 survey respondents, approximately 72% responded that they had obtained jobs within the library profession. Seventy-nine of the respondents had obtained positions within the archives profession, which represented 5.6% of the graduates who located professional positions.7
The American Historical Association (AHA) conducts another series of studies of potential interest for understanding the archival entry-level job market. These studies focus on placement of history PhDs, primarily in relation to obtaining tenure track positions at four-year universities. In the spring 2013 study, 50.6% of new PhDs between 1998 and 2009 were in these tenure track positions, while 1.4% (32 individuals) held jobs within the library/museum/archives profession.8 While this is a small percentage of PhDs, it is a number that will be worth paying attention to in the future as AHA and others continue to discuss archives as a potential career path for historians,9 especially if the academic job market in history maintains its current competitive level.
To collect data about 2013 archival program graduates and their experiences in entering the profession, I designed an online survey through Class Apps's SelectSurvey.net tool.10 The survey was intentionally kept brief in an attempt to maximize response rate. The total number of questions presented depended on the participant's responses and ranged between 7 and 15 questions (see Appendix A). The question formats included multiple choice, multiple response, yes/no, and open-ended (see Appendix C for selected responses to the open-ended question).11 Generally speaking, the survey sought to collect data on academic background prior to graduation, job status, types of jobs being found, and job satisfaction. The Pennsylvania State University Institutional Review Board reviewed the survey as part of the research approval process, and 6 individuals who were enrolled in, or recently graduated from, graduate programs tested it. To help protect anonymity of the participants, registration was not required, names and job titles were not recorded, no questions were required to be answered, and individual response sheets are only available to the principal investigator (see Appendix B).
To reach a wide and representative audience, the survey was broadly disseminated in April 2014. This included contacting the 38 listed educational programs in SAA's Directory of Archival Education to inquire about their interest in directly distributing the survey to their 2013 graduates;12 posting to the Archives and Archivists, the SAA Students and New Archives Professionals, and regional and local archival electronic mailing lists; and posting to various social media platforms. The survey was launched on April 6 and remained open until April 30. Based on traditional graduation dates, this meant that respondents most likely would have graduated between 5 to 12 months prior to responding to the survey.
When the survey closed, a total of 284 responses had been recorded, in addition to 151 visits to the survey that resulted in no recorded answers for any questions. Of the 284 recorded responses, 26 response sheets were removed from the pool: 19 for being incomplete (i.e., the respondent did not click the “submit” option at the end of the survey), 5 for being from non-North American respondents,13 one for being submitted with zero responses, and one from a self-identified non-2013 graduate, which left 258 response sheets to be analyzed.
Regrettably, due to the numerous academic paths into the archives profession, it is difficult to determine how many 2013 archival program graduates there were. Consequently no data is readily available to determine the size of the total population of 2013 archival program graduates.14 That said, the total of 258 is close to the same number of responses generated by similar recently conducted studies, including the 248 responses for Goldman and Lausch's “Job Search Experiences and Career Satisfaction Among Recent Archives Program Graduates”15 and the 262 responses for the Amber L. Cushing and Allison D. Fox study on “Career Satisfaction of Young Archivists.”16 Once the survey closed, the responses were exported from SelectSurvey, and qualitative answers (such as geographic location) were assigned numerical values so that they could be imported into IBM SPSS Statistics 20 for analysis.
Although online surveys have a number of weaknesses from a data collection perspective, including potential skewing of the respondent pool, low response rates, and questions about dissemination,17 I decided such a survey was the best tool available for this study due to its reach, ease of data collection and analysis, and low cost. It should also be acknowledged that in an effort to keep the survey brief, the questionnaire did not explore a number of significant issues related to the entry-level job market, notably including how respondents' age, race, gender, and other sociodemographic factors might have correlated with respondents' job market experiences.
To understand recent graduates' experiences with the entry-level job market, it is important that we also have at least some minimal data about the academic and professional backgrounds of the individuals seeking to enter the archives profession. The study began by asking respondents about their degree types, how their classes were taught (i.e., online versus on campus), where their primary residences were during their graduate programs, and their experiences outside of the classroom. For degree type, 67.4% (174) of respondents recorded that they had earned an MLS or MLIS degree, as opposed to only 6.6% (17) who earned a master-level history degree and 8.5% (22) who earned dual MLS/MA degrees. An additional 17.1% (44) respondents listed “other” for degree type, which demonstrates the diversity of degree types that can lead to an archival career. The large majority of library and information science degrees aligns with the trend noted by Elizabeth Yakel and Jeannette Allis Bastian in their analysis of the 2004 A*CENSUS data18 and conversely indicates that fewer individuals are entering the archives profession exclusively through a graduate-level history degree.19
As online education continues to expand, it was not surprising that many graduates recorded that their degree programs contained a significant online education component. That said, 67.4% (174) of respondents answered that the majority of their courses were taught on campus (see Figure 1). The respondents who indicated a significant online component for their programs were evenly divided between “primarily online” and “hybrid between on-campus/online,” with both representing 16.3% (42) of responses. Of interest, only 7.7% (3) of respondents who listed a master's in history or a dual MA/MLS degree listed online education as being a core component of their programs, as opposed to 37.2% (79) who listed MLS/MLIS or “Other” as their degree type (see Figure 2). This split offers a potentially interesting insight into the developing differences between history and library/information science graduate programs for archival studies.
In regard to place of residence during their graduate programs, the survey respondents represented 32 American states, 3 Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia (see Figure 3). While this indicates some geographic diversity, it should also be noted that slightly over half the respondents lived primarily in 8 states: New York at 12.4% (32), California at 9.7% (25), Pennsylvania at 9.3% (24), Massachusetts at 8.9% (23), Michigan at 5.4% (14), Illinois at 3.9% (10), Texas at 3.9% (10), and Colorado at 3.9% (10). Looking at the numbers from a regional perspective,20 most respondents resided in the Northeast at 38.6% (98), followed by the Midwest at 19.7% (50), the West at 16.9% (43), the Southeast at 10.6% (27), Canada at 8.7% (22), and the Southwest at 5.1% (13). Additionally, 0.4% (1) of the respondents recorded living in two different regions during graduate school. These numbers appear to roughly align with the geographic distribution of schools listed in the SAA Directory of Archival Education,21 which is one indicator that the study might have tapped a generally representative pool of graduates.
In addition to the questions about degree type, residency, and online versus on-campus education, the survey also questioned participants about select other professional and academic experiences they might have participated in before receiving their degrees. Specifically, they were asked if they completed a for-credit internship (yes = 73.3%, 189), completed a noncredit internship or volunteer experience at an archives (yes = 60.1%, 155), worked at a paid archival position that they did not receive academic credit for (yes = 57%, 147), earned a graduate degree in a nonlibrary or archives discipline (yes = 22.5%, 58), attended an in-person conference or workshop sponsored by a professional organization (yes = 68.6%, 177), or joined the Society of American Archivists as a student member (yes = 71.3%, 184).
The majority of respondents stated that they took part in either 3 (26.7%, 69) or 4 (27.5%, 71) of the survey question options, and the mean number of experiences per participant was 3.5 out of 6. Furthermore, 5.4% (14) of respondents answered yes to only one of the listed options, but, interestingly, not a single respondent answered no to all 6 of the options (see Figure 4).
When looking at job placement rates, 71.7% (185) of respondents answered yes to the question “Are you currently employed, or have you accepted a position, that is related to your graduate degree?” Of those who answered yes, 6.5% (12) stated that they were already employed in their current positions before beginning graduate school (see Figure 5). Of the 28.3% (73) of respondents who stated that they had not yet found a job related to their degrees, 8.2% (6) indicated that they were no longer actively seeking a position related to their degrees. In regard to when respondents were able to obtain a job related to their degrees, 71.9% (133) of those who had obtained a job answered that they secured their positions before graduation or within three months of their graduation dates (see Figure 6).
At first glance, it seems that the 71.7% job placement rate is significantly lower than the 88.8% reported by Goldman and Lausch in 2012. However, the job placement rate for the two studies are closer if one limits the Goldman and Lausch numbers to respondents who graduated in the 18 months (January 2011–June 2012) preceding their study, who as a group had a placement rate of 82.4% (75 out of 91 respondents). Then, if we use the same 18-month window and limit the pool to respondents who stated that their positions were archival professional/paraprofessional, associated field professional/paraprofessional, or a hybrid position with some archival responsibilities, we end up with a near identical 72.5% (66 out of 91 respondents) who obtained positions that could be described as being related to their degrees.22
As for the jobs that were obtained, 49.2% (91) of respondents indicated that their positions were classified as full-time and permanent; 23.8% (44) as full-time projects or temporary; 7.6% (14) as part-time and permanent; 13.5% (25) as part-time projects or temporary; and 5.9% (11) as “other.”23 As seen in Figure 7, and similar to the job placement rate data, these numbers align closely with the data collected by Goldman and Lausch.
When looking at respondents' places of employment, the numbers are similar to the previously detailed primary residence during graduate program. Overall, participants listed having found jobs in 41 American states, 3 Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia (see Figure 8). Analyzing the numbers through the same regional perspective used earlier reveals that most respondents obtained jobs in the Northeast at 39% (71), followed by the West at 17.6% (32), the Midwest at 14.3% (26), the Southeast at 12.6% (23), Canada at 8.8% (16), and the Southwest at 5.4% (14).24 As seen in Figure 8, these percentages are fairly consistent with respondents' previous residences during their graduate education, with the largest net percentage change at negative 5.4% (19.7% for education versus 14.3% for employment) in the Midwest.
When asked which professional field best described their positions, nearly two-thirds (65.8%, 121) of respondents selected “archives and special collections.” Additionally, 12% (22) selected “records management”; 8.2% (15) selected “libraries (non-archives)”; and 14.1% (26) selected “other.” Within the archives and special collections subset, over half (50.4%, 61) described their institutions as college/university affiliated archives, while corporate, government, historical society, museum, and religious archives each represented less than 10% of respondents (see Figure 9). These numbers stand in stark contrast with the 2004 A*CENSUS data for all-professional employment, where 36% of respondents stated they worked in academic settings compared to 32% in government.25 This difference could be the result of many factors such as the 2008 economic downturn and the resulting tightening of government budgets, differences between the entry-level and the all-inclusive archival job markets, or the dissemination method used for this study. Ultimately, further research is needed to bring clarity to this discrepancy.
For the 121 respondents who obtained positions in the archives field, just over three-quarters (76.9%, 93) listed processing as one of their core duties,26 making it by far the most common core responsibility for recent graduates (see Figure 10). After processing, digitization 45.5% (55) and reference 44.6% (54) were the next most cited core duties. Somewhat surprisingly, despite the profession's recent efforts to focus on the influx of born-digital records,27 only 20.7% (25) of respondents stated that working with born-digital records was a core responsibility of their jobs. Slightly over half of the respondents listed only having one (25.6%, 31) or two core duties (24.8%, 30), while the mean number of responsibilities was 2.9 (see Figure 11).
In addition to collecting data on job placement rates, the survey also asked respondents two questions related to work satisfaction. When asked, “Based on your day-to-day work and future ambitions, do you find your current position professionally fulfilling?,” 71.7% (132) answered yes (see Figure 12). Then, when asked, “Considering local cost of living and professional responsibilities, do you believe your salary and benefits are commensurate with your experience and professional expectations?,” only 43.8% (81) respondents stated yes. Almost 40% (73) of participants answered yes to both of the career satisfaction questions (see Figure 12).
By looking deeper into the collected data, it is possible to start exploring the idea of how many of the participating 2013 graduates were able to achieve an “ideal” professional outcome at the time of the survey. Of course, to do so, an “ideal” professional outcome must first be defined. If an ideal professional position for a recent graduate means having found a job related to his or her degree and that he or she finds professionally fulfilling, then 51.2% (132) of the respondents met this criteria in April 2014. In addition to these two criteria, if one was to add that the graduate should feel that his or her salary and benefits are commensurate with expectations, then the “ideal” number drops to 28.3% (73) of respondents for this study. In my opinion, the ideal for our graduates should be all of the above, in addition to the position being full time and permanent. For this particular study, only 16.3% (42) of responses met this set of conditions. Finally, if one was to add the qualifier that the full-time position should be in the archives and special collections profession, then the number would shrink to 9.3% (24) of respondents. In looking at these figures, it seems that no matter how “ideal” is defined, these numbers are lower than what the profession should hope to see for archival program graduates (see Figure 13).
The last ideal scenario outlined above presents another possible lens for looking at the study data, the comparison of the data for subset of respondents who found jobs in the archives and special collections profession to those who found nonarchival jobs still related to their graduate degrees. Figures 14, 15, and 16 illustrate these data subset comparisons by job type, professional fulfillment, and salary and benefits commensurate with expectations variables.
In my opinion, the most significant of these data crosstabs is the breakdown for job classification between those who located archival positions and those with other positions related to their graduate degrees. Notably, respondents who accepted archival positions were more likely to have temporary positions (32.2%  full-time temporary; 17.4%  part-time temporary) than respondents who found other positions related to their graduate degrees (7.9%  full-time temporary; 6.3%  part-time temporary). This difference may have been influenced by the small set of respondents who located nonarchival positions related to their degrees (N = 63) or by the dissemination model used for the survey. That said, the fact that nearly half of all archives and special collections jobs were temporary (49.6%, 60) and that 17.4% (21) of all the archives and special collections positions were part time and temporary, could present a discouraging view of the archival job market for aspiring archivists.
Figure 15 shows that individuals who located archival jobs were slightly more likely to respond that they found their day-to-day work professionally fulfilling (75.2%, 91) than those in other positions (66.1%, 41). This small difference could potentially be related to the dissemination model for the survey, as it was marketed through archival professional channels to individuals who identified as graduates of archival education programs. Finally, Figure 16 indicates that the respondents from both of these subsets were very similar in their beliefs about whether their compensation was appropriate for their work and experience, with 44.6% (54) of individuals with archives and special collections positions and 42.9% (27) of individuals with nonarchives positions answering affirmatively.
The raw percentage breakdowns for these data comparisons seem to indicate some correlation between respondent answers, which can be further analyzed through the Cramér's V test, a statistical approach for measuring the association between two nominal values.28 For the purpose of this study, the IBM SPSS program was used to test for associations that had an approximate significance level of 0.05 or less related to respondents finding jobs related to their degrees, finding professional fulfillment in their jobs, and believing that their compensation met expectations.
Using this test, the collected data indicated two variables as having moderate association with obtaining a job related to the respondents' degrees. The slightly stronger of the two was having “worked a paid archival position that you did not receive academic credit for” before graduating from their archives programs (Cramér's V value = .254; N = 258). Of course, this could be influenced by individuals who responded that they already possessed their current jobs before beginning their graduate studies (see Figure 17). Still, even if those responses are eliminated from the pool, a relatively similar value still emerges (Cramér's V value = .245; N = 246).
The other moderate association was with the total number of experiences that respondents reported having participated in before graduation (Cramér's V value = .218; N = 258).29 In this case, the percentage of individuals who obtained jobs generally increased with the number of pregraduation experiences they had (see Figure 18). The moderate association between these variables supports the importance of graduate students pursuing additional academic and professional opportunities alongside their traditional coursework to better position themselves for the entry-level job market.
For the respondents who found positions related to their degrees, 2 variables showed association with professional fulfillment. Notably, the data indicated a strong association with professional fulfillment when respondents believed that their salaries and benefits were commensurate with their professional expectations (Cramér's V value = .362; N=184). In my opinion, this strong association is not surprising, but it does raise important questions about the compensation that new archivists and related professionals are receiving. It seems reasonable to believe that very few individuals enter the archives profession expecting to become wealthy. If this admittedly untested hypothesis is true, then it is concerning that such a large number of new graduates do not believe their compensation is aligned with their job functions and backgrounds, especially considering the high correlation between compensation and professional fulfillment indicated by this study (see Figure 19).
The other variable that showed association, in this case moderate, with job fulfillment was the classification of the respondents' positions (Cramér's V value = .233; N = 184). When comparing these two variables, it appears that individuals who obtained full-time positions were more likely to view their positions as professionally fulfilling than individuals with part-time positions, which is perhaps not surprising given that the respondents had completed advanced degrees to pursue job opportunities in their chosen profession (see Figure 20).
Finally, when looking for variables that show association with benefits being commensurate with expectations, we see a strong association with job classification (Cramér's V value = .371; N = 185). Since I have already discussed the relationship between job classification and professional fulfillment, and between professional fulfillment and benefits being commensurate with expectations, it is not surprising also to see such a strong association between these two variables.
This study only provides a brief snapshot of the entry-level job market that recent archival program graduates face, but if it is indicative of larger patterns, it presents difficult questions for the archival profession. The fact that significant portions of the data seem to align with similar studies does give credibility to the idea that these numbers could indeed indicate a larger pattern. While some of the data can be explained by the general economic malaise that has affected the global market for the past six years, the numbers cannot simply be dismissed for that reason. This is especially important in areas where it appears that archives and special collections are lagging behind related professions, such as the high number of temporary positions for new professionals.
When examining the survey results, I was relatively surprised by some of the data. For example, the 71.7% of respondents who answered that they had obtained jobs related to their degrees was higher than I expected, though perhaps the dissemination method, which relied on a number of professional archival channels, influenced this number. While this was a pleasant surprise, I did find some of the contextual data for the obtained positions disappointing. Specifically, I was disappointed with the heavy reliance on temporary positions (37.3% of all respondents; 49.6% of respondents who identified their positions as being in archives and special collections), including part-time and temporary positions (17.4% of respondents who identified their positions as being in archives and special collections), and the number of respondents who did not believe that their salaries and benefits were commensurate with their professional experience and expectations (56.2%, 104).
Part of the disappointment with seeing such a reliance on part-time and temporary positions is that studies indicate that such positions can lead to reduced wages, benefits, and job satisfaction.30 To quote Arne L. Kalleberg, Barbara F. Reskin, and Ken Hudson's research article on nonstandard jobs (including temporary and part time), “Consistent with our main hypothesis, every type of nonstandard employment is associated with more bad job characteristics than is standard full-time employment.”31 Unfortunately, there is also evidence that beginning a career with a fixed-term position can cause an earnings loss over a professional career that even under the best of circumstances will likely take a decade to reverse.32 While there are legitimate reasons for the existence of part-time and temporary, project-based positions in the archival field, I do find it worrisome that these positions represent such a significant portion of the profession's entry-level job market.
Another potentially significant issue for the entry-level job market is that a majority of the survey respondents who found jobs related to their degrees do not believe their salaries and benefits to be commensurate with their experience and professional expectations. This point, along with the fact that only 49.2% of respondents who found jobs related to their degrees were in full-time permanent positions (and only 39.7% of respondents with jobs in an archives or special collections), makes it logical to hypothesize that the archival profession could face difficulties in retaining young professionals.
While I believe that this study provides valuable data for our profession as archivists continue to discuss the realities of the entry-level job market for aspiring archivists and recent graduates, it is also clear that the archival profession needs to do a better job of collecting additional data about the archival job market. Furthermore, it is important that collected data be made available in a transparent manner so that all within the profession—and those seeking to enter it—can use this valuable data to make more informed decisions, from asking for resources related to staffing to deciding if one should enroll in a graduate-level archival studies program.
Finally, if our profession is to take on this challenge, we need to examine the archives labor market from many diverse perspectives. I hope that archivists will not only collect data similar to these and the Goldman and Lausch studies, but that we also will collect data related to sociodemographics; permanent, funded positions versus temporary positions; and career progression and retention. I also believe that it is important for these studies to be repeated at regular intervals to create linear data that can be analyzed for trends instead of relying on snapshots for specific times. Ideally, as a professional organization, SAA should provide the leadership and infrastructure needed to collect and disseminate this important data, but if that fails to happen, individual archivists must work together to fill in this data void.
What type of degree did you earn through your archives graduate program?
□ MA History
□ Dual MLS/MA Degree
□ Other, please specify:
What U.S. state or country did you primarily reside in while attending graduate school?
Were your courses primarily taught:
□ Hybrid between On-Campus/Online
Which of the following did you experience before graduating from your archives program? Please check all that apply.
□ Completed a for-credit internship
□ Completed a non-credit internship/volunteered at an archive
□ Worked a paid archival position that you did not receive academic credit for
□ Earned a graduate degree in a non-library/archives discipline
□ Attended in person a conference or workshop sponsored by a professional organization
□ Joined the Society of American Archivists as a student member
Are you currently employed, or have you accepted a position, that is related to your graduate degree?
[Survey Condition—Q5 if answer = “Yes” skip to Q7]
Are you currently actively seeking a position related to your graduate degree?
[Survey Condition—Q6 if answer = “Yes” or “No” skip to Q16]
Were you already employed in your current position before you began graduate school?
Is your current position considered:
□ Full-Time Permanent
□ Part-Time Permanent
□ Full-Time Project/Temporary
□ Part-Time Project/Temporary
□ Other, please specify:
Which U.S. state or country are you currently employed in?
What was the time gap between your graduation and when you accepted your first position related to your graduate degree?
□ Accepted a job before graduation
□ 0–3 months
□ 4–6 months
Which of these professional fields best describes your current position?
□ Archives/Special Collections
□ Libraries (Non-Archives)
□ Records Management
□ Other, please specify:
[Survey Condition—Q11 if answer ≠ “Archives/Special Collections” skip to Q14]
If you are working in an archives/special collections, which of these best describes your institution?
□ College/University Affiliated Archives
□ Corporate Archives
□ Government Archives
□ Historical Society
□ Religious Archives
□ Other, please specify:
If you are working in an archives/special collections which of the following would you consider the core duties (at least 20% of your work) of your position? Please check all that apply.
□ Born-Digital Records
□ Public Outreach
□ Other, please specify:
Based on your day-to-day work and future ambitions, do you find your current position professionally fulfilling?
Considering local cost of living and professional responsibilities, do you believe your salary and benefits are commensurate with your experience and professional expectations?
If desired please use the comment box to expand on any of your answers or to provide other feedback. Thank you.
Accompanying Survey Recruitment Text
My name is Matt Francis and I am a researcher at Penn State University where I am studying job placement for 2013 graduates from graduate level academic programs with archival studies concentrations. Consequently, if you graduated from a school with an archival studies concentration in 2013, I hope that you will strongly consider taking this survey:
2013 Archival Program Graduates Job Placement Survey (https://surveys.libraries.psu.edu/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=2013-archival-progra)
Over the past few years there have been several significant conversations in our profession about job placement for recent graduates, but unfortunately there has been a lack of job placement data for individuals to reference during these dialogues. 2013 graduates, by taking the time to participate in this study you will help rectify this lack of entry-level employment data and as a result you will be providing us with new insights into this important topic.
For everyone considering participating, I want to let you know that this study and the accompanying survey tool have been approved by the Penn State University Institutional Review Board (IRB #:45311). In order to protect anonymity of participants there is no registration, no recording of names, no recording of job titles, and no required questions to answer. To further protect privacy, as the principal investigator I will be the only person with access to individual survey result sheets. Any scholarship produced based on this data set will be limited to citing aggregated data, select crosstabs, and limited individual question responses that will protect the identities of respondents.
Depending on the answers that you provide the survey will consist of seven to fifteen questions, and should take no longer than ten minutes to complete. The survey will remain open until May 4th, at which point it will not accept any new responses. In order to generate as large of a pool of respondents as possible, this survey is being disseminated through multiple channels. If you choose to participate, please make sure that you only respond to the survey one time. For anyone who is reading this that is not a 2013 graduate, but who wants to help this study succeed, I encourage you to take the time to distribute this message and survey to other potential respondents.
If you have any questions about any aspect of this study, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at _______. Thank you so much for your time and participation, I truly appreciate it.
Sample of Free Form Responses
Note: This appendix contains the responses, or a selected portion of a response, for 33 of the 102 recorded answers for question 16 of the survey: “If desired please use the comment box to expand on any of your answers or to provide other feedback. Thank you.” For the purpose of this article, the responses have been placed under the following categories: Job Search Process, Job Market Concerns and Expectations, Compensation and Professional Satisfaction, and Survey Tool Constructive Feedback and Suggestions. Some responses have been edited to remove possible identifying information or to make them more readable, and all edits can be identified by their inclusion in brackets.
The Job Search Process
“While I am happy with my current position, it took me 12 months of applying to jobs to be offered this one (4 months applying prior to graduation and 8 months applying after graduation). It was the only job for which I was given an in-person interview even though I was applying to jobs throughout the US during my search.”
“I have been looking and applying for archives related jobs, as well as regular library jobs, for over a year now. Last fall, I started volunteering [ . . . . and] Although I have this work and my practicum, I am frequently turned down or not even interviewed because of my lack of experience. However, the positions I have applied for list very basic requirements in their posted descriptions [ . . . . ] I feel stressed, confused, and a little bit angry because I was told that completing the MLS program and Archives Certificate would qualify me for job placement but apparently, it does not. I am in debt now and just really want a fun, fulfilling career that I am passionate about. It is difficult not to lose momentum during my job search, or even keep up my self esteem and feel like I deserve a potential position, or that it is even worth applying for.”
“My current job is only 15 hours per week, which isn't going to be sustainable for me for much longer. I have been applying for full-time jobs since July but have been extremely unsuccessful. It doesn't seem like my library school program trained me in things that job descriptions are asking for (such as experience with Archivists' Toolkit, CONTENTdm, etc). Thanks for doing this survey!”
“I did two paid internships within the archival field (one for credit and another for no-credit) and an unpaid internship for credit within the archives field abroad. I have been looking for work within archives or records management fields since I finished the program in September 2013. I have yet to find a job, but have not given up! There are promising positions on the horizon. Good luck with the survey, I hope it provides helpful information for your studies!”
“I have been searching for the past 5 and a half months for a job as I graduated in December. If I do not have an archives job by fall I will be applying to another graduate studies program, more than likely in history.”
“I have been job searching for archives positions since graduating in December 2013. I feel the most difficult part is finding positions for which I am qualified. Despite volunteer work and a practicum, I don't have the two years of experience many openings require.”
“I knew that, in order to get into a job in [ . . . ] the archives profession, I would need to have a wide range of skills to prepare myself for the job market. I also knew that I needed to do quite a bit of networking so I began volunteering at a museum archives while also doing temporary work on archival projects in order to gain experience and expand my professional network. Primarily because of my network, I was invited to apply and received a long term contract position at a museum archives.”
Job Market Concerns and Expectations
“With 7 years of paid professional archival experience before I completed my MSLIS, I expected to be able to get a job as an archivist (though I expected it would be very entry level given the job market). I had a number of interviews that ended with someone more qualified being hired. When I was offered the digital asset management system support position I felt I had to take it or remain unemployed forever. It does not require any master's degrees, pays barely enough to get by let alone pay back student loans for my master's, and does not challenge me intellectually at all. But it is a job and there aren't many of them out there. My biggest fear is that this job will ultimately prevent me from ever working as an archivist because the longer I do it the less qualified I will become for a traditional archival position.”
“I think there are plenty of jobs out there for archivists. You just have to be committed to the hunt.”
“The current state of employment, not just in archives, is dire. The circumstances surrounding archival work are even worse. The program in which I graduated from is a good one. However the concern with the student employment status post graduation is non existent. There was no help, no guidance, other than a ListServ of potential employment, though mostly more unpaid internship opportunities. Which is not livable. Now I find myself in a Catch-22 position. I can't get work because I don't have the professional experience, but I can't get professional experience because I can't get work. And I don't see a way out of this vicious cycle.”
“As a recent graduate who is tied to a geographic location (I have a husband and parents in my current state of residence, and I would very much like to stay here), it seems like there are plenty of part time and/or temporary positions out there that pay *very* poorly, and lots of these want (but don't require) any formal training/experience in archives. There are a few permanent, full-time positions as well, but they all ask for a great deal of experience (most want 5+ years). I worry that unless us recent grads are lucky enough to string together term jobs into something vaguely resembling consecutive employment, we'll never be able to get out of what I've heard termed the ‘project archivist ghetto.’ Moreover, with employment opportunities being what they are (particularly in this field), it seems like the competition for any given position is terribly fierce . . . if you want to stand a chance of getting the job, you need to be about twice as qualified as the position actually warrants. I personally think that I am incredibly lucky to have found the position I did, and I am frequently very nervous about what will happen when this job ends.”
“[T]oo many professionals/graduates chasing too few positions. Salary is one notch above poverty. Looking to change professions this year. Basically, graduate schools deceive prospective students with false views of reality in order to keep attendance levels and the revenue stream bloated.”
“It took me months to find a fellowship-based part time non-professional position in an archives. I have supplemented with paraprofessional library work and will continue to do so until I can obtain either a permanent archivist or librarian position. The lack of jobs in CA (either from retirements or from job creation) and the glut of talented graduates seeking to do professional work, at least in the metro areas, is a problem that I cannot see a solution for. It seems like the only thing happening is attrition and that is a glum place to be.”
“I think one of the major issues is that employers often refuse to, or are not allowed to, recognize anything outside an MLIS degree as acceptable preparation for working as an archivist. My courses, and internships, are EXACTLY the same as many MLIS programs across the country, but because I don't have the right letters on my resume (MA versus MLIS), I am immediately disqualified for most positions. I think it's largely a problem of HR departments writing the requirements rather than the supervising/hiring archivists. Quite frankly, for some positions in an archives (e.g. reference), I think a background as a historian-archivist makes more sense than training as a librarian-archivist.”
“There seems to be a paucity of full-time entry-level positions at this time; even those that one would describe as such seem to ask for at least 3 years of professional experience, or (not altogether surprisingly) a previous inroad through family or other form of nepotism. Though I was prepared for a long and grueling job hunt, the current job market has embittered me and sapped me of my willingness to continue seeking a professional position, and I question myself every single day why I ever thought getting an MLIS was the right decision. I feel I should have had more success if [t]he money I sunk into graduate school I had instead thrown away at the track betting on horses—for at least then there would have been the possibility of a long-shot financial return.”
“I had the advantage of having worked in a museum for nearly ten years before seeking my graduate degree. This helped greatly in my securing employment.”
“I have found that a MA in History is worthless to find a job in the archives profession. Almost all jobs require a MLIS or MLS degree. Additionally, most jobs require several years of *professional* experience. While I have an internship and a couple years of experience as an archives assistant, and am willing to travel to two different states, in addition to within an hour and half of where I live. There are very few jobs which I qualify for because of those two requirements. MLS degree and years of professional experience.”
Compensation and Position Satisfaction
“The final question was difficult to answer. Compared to what other archivists make, I am happy with my salary. However, I believe that in general, archivists accept salaries that are too low for their qualifications [ . . . . ] Thank you for doing this survey. I hope it raises awareness among the profession and can in some way serve us in advocating for higher salaries based on our unique skills and qualifications.”
“I get paid close to minimum wage for position that requires a master's degree. UGH. I am currently searching for other work but have had no luck.”
“While I studied and sought experience to eventually gain a job as an archivist (or in a closely allied field working with cultural heritage materials), I am currently working as a records management technician, contracting for a government agency. The work does not require a master's level degree (or even a bachelor's, that I remember), but does provide me opportunity to grow here if I wish, and pays the bills while I seek that elusive professional position.”
“For the cost of living question: I make $50,000 a year at my job. I cannot imagine making less than that and being able to live with my student loan payments and the cost of living in the state. My cost of living and salary may be good, but I'm still living paycheck to paycheck, and seeing a bunch of job openings at the entry level making a lot less than I do is ridiculous. I am lucky to be at an institution that recognizes this and I wish more would institutions would recognize this as well.”
“I graduated in the Archives program, and completed an independent study, for credit, processing a Civil Rights collection [ . . . . ] My two jobs today are research and reference positions in news media, and a special collections research library, which may seem different, but are in numerous ways very similar. An archives background has proven invaluable for the ref desk in the library, connecting users to primary sources; and the ref desk also consistently taps into instincts developed and sharpened at the news research desk. There should be no intellectual distinction between libraries, archives, and information science.”
“I specialized in archives but took full-time permanent placement as a prison librarian. There were more jobs for libraries than archives and I needed to go to work ASAP after graduate school. My job is somewhat interesting and (I feel) beneficial to society, but the pay (considering the job demands and safety issues of the correctional setting) is wanting and there is little opportunity for professional development, advancement, or salary increase.”
“Though my current position isn't a fulfilling experience and the salary is an insult to my profession and education, I had little choice in the matter as the job market is extremely tough right now. I took on my current position because, yes, it was an archives and I would be doing work related to archives. But I had this grand idea that it would only be a bridge: an opportunity to work in a related field as I search for something better. But something better has not come along. I'm an active member in the field. I am a part of the ACA (the Canadian equivalent of the SAA) and attend local events (though no conferences or workshops as of yet). I've worked hard on my networking skills and I believe I have a firm foundation in the community. But where are the jobs? And more importantly, how many of us are competing for them? I hope your survey can begin to shed some light.”
“Since graduation, I have been cobbling together multiple part-time jobs in the attempt to earn something like a living wage. I make less than 20K/year and pay for my own health insurance. I worked in a Special Collections Library for 4 years before starting graduate school. I like my job, but I wish I was paid so much more, had more responsibility, and had some benefits.”
“My position was an extension of one of my paid internships since they liked me. I am paid as a student worker and would not be able to even come remotely close to surviving on what I am being paid without having 2 others jobs and a husband who is employed FT.”
“In regard to the question about salary matching expectations, I would add that I consider my salary high, relatively speaking, for a first professional position in this field. Which is to say, I'm aware that I make more than most just starting out. However, I believe that salaries on the whole for new archivists are extremely low when placed against the backdrop of the education and experience required to secure work in the field. So while I feel fortunate to make what I make based on the financial situation many of my peers are in, I do not believe that my salary justifies the cost of my education—regarding resources of money, time, and effort—nor the huge amount of unpaid and low-wage work I did to accumulate experience while in school.”
“I think it is important to note that, although employed, many of us relatively new grads are forced to take 1+ temporary jobs as that is all that is available. Therefore, this makes us underemployed. Many employers want professional experience and now even if you have worked as a library assistant (in my case 10 years) that doesn't seem to count all that much when applying for jobs. The job market is oversaturated with MLIS degrees as well as providing limited options. I love working in libraries but honestly, I'm not sure I would have chosen the same career path if given the choice again. It seems too hard (very frustrating) to get established as new librarian/archivist. Grateful to have the jobs but it's tiring and very taxing.”
“I'm considered lucky to have 2 part time positions in my field. I'm geographically tied to my location because of my partner. I earn less than $30,000 annually with no benefits, $5,500 less than my career before graduate school. I didn't expect to get rich being an archivist but I did expect to be able to support myself. Most frustratingly, although I work for the state . . . at two institutions I do not qualify for the public service loan forgiveness because both of my positions are part time. Besides monetary difficulties the real issue with my part time positions is there's no opportunity for responsibility advancement, it's difficult to really make a dent in a project 20 hours a week, and LTEs are treated like paraprofessionals. It's demoralizing and anger inducing. Everyone needs to pay their dues but a position should also help you grow. For the first time since graduating from undergrad in 2007 I'm seriously questioning my career path.”
Survey Tool Constructive Feedback and Suggestions
“Question #10 is unclear as to whether you want to hear about current position, or first archival position held. I started a part time project (9 months) position before graduation, and was just hired this month to the full time position I describe in #6–9.”
“I think it would be interesting to obtain more specific data on what kinds of positions new graduates are filling—are they filling newly-created positions, or are they being hired on as part of an already-existing team of archivists and librarians? I point this out only because I work in a newly created records manager position and I find that my experience varies greatly from my classmates who work as processing archivists.”
“I have two part-time archives positions, but I only referred to one in the survey.”
“Although you don't appear to be collecting this type of information, I have applied for about 60 full time positions over the course of the last year including approximately a half dozen paraprofessional jobs.”
See, for example, Robin Wilson, “Graduate Education and Faculty Jobs: Enrollment Cutbacks Redefine Curricula as well as Faculty Jobs,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 11, 2012, http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-Programs-in/131123; Philip Oreopoulos and Uros Petronijevic, “Making College Worth It: A Review of the Returns of Higher Education,” The Future of Children 23 (Spring 2013): 41–65; Catherine Rampell, “College Graduates Fare Well in Jobs Market, Even through Recession,” The New York Times, May 3, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/04/business/college-graduates-fare-well-in-jobs-market-even-through-recession.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0; and Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, and Jonathon Robe, “Why Are Recent College Graduates Underemployed? University Enrollments and Labor-Market Realities” (policy paper, Center for College Affordability and Productivity, January 2013), http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/uploads/Underemployed%20Report%202.pdf.
Jackie Dooley, “Feeding Our Young,” The American Archivist 77 (Spring/Summer 2014): 11.
Danna C. Bell, “The Jobs Thing . . .” Off the Record Blog, February 4, 2014, http://offtherecord.archivists.org/2014/02/04/the-jobs-thing.
Victoria Irons Walch, “Part 2. A*CENSUS: A Call to Action,” The American Archivist 69 (Fall/Winter 2006): 311.
Walch, “Part 2. A*CENSUS, 313–14.
Rebecca Goldman and Shannon M. Lausch, “Job Search Experiences and Career Satisfaction among Recent Archives Program Graduates” (presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists, San Diego, California, August 6–11, 2012), LaSalle University, “Digital Commons,” http://digitalcommons.lasalle.edu/libraryconf/4.
Stephanie L. Maatta, “Placements and Salaries 2014: Explore All the Data,” Library Journal (October 15, 2014), http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2014/10/placements-and-salaries/2014-survey/explore-all-the-data-2014.
L. Maren Wood and Robert B. Townsend, “The Many Careers of History PhDs: A Study of Job Outcomes, Spring 2013: A Report to the American Historical Association,” American Historical Association, http://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/current-projects/career-diversity-for-historians/the-many-careers-of-history-phds.
“Historians in Archives,” American Historical Association, “Historians in Archives,” http://www.historians.org/jobs-and-professional-development/career-resources/careers-for-students-of-history/historians-in-archives.
For more information see ClassApps, http://selectsurvey.net/.
See Appendix A for survey questions.
Of the contacted programs, representatives from six institutions responded that they had, or would, forward the survey to their 2013 graduates. In an attempt to increase participation, schools were informed that their participation would be kept confidential in case a small sample size might portray their programs in an unfair light.
The survey was targeted to graduates of American-based schools, but due to the fluid nature of higher education and job markets between Canada and the United States (as evidenced by the three respondents who resided in Canada for their education but obtained jobs in the United States), I decided to keep responses from graduates of Canadian-based schools. When analyzing the data from a regional perspective, no administered statistical tests produced statistically significant differences for the Canadian graduates compared to the other geographic regions.
While no data are readily available to determine the size of the total population of 2013 archival program graduates, data exist that can help give us some insight into what the total pool of graduates could look like. During her 2013 presidential address, Jackie Dooley cited that there were approximately 1,300 student members in SAA (Dooley, “Feeding Our Young,” 11). Additionally, Stephanie Maatta's 2014 report on LIS graduates, job placement and salaries recorded 4,846 graduates from the 40 tracked programs in 2013 (Maatta, “Placements and Salaries 2014: Explore all the Data”).
Goldman and Lausch, “Job Search Experiences and Career Satisfaction Among Recent Archives Program Graduates.”
Amber L. Cushing, “Career Satisfaction of Young Archivists: A Survey of Professional Working Archivists, Age Thirty-five and Under,” The American Archivist 73 (Fall/Winter 2010): 608.
Joel R. Evans and Anil Mathur, “The Value of Online Surveys,” Internet Research 15, no. 2 (2005): 201–2.
Elizabeth Yakel and Jeannette Allis Bastian, “Part 4. A*CENSUS: Report on Graduate Archival Education,” The American Archivist 69 (Fall/Winter 2006): 350. “A master's in library and information sciences (MLIS) is the degree of choice.”
Yakel and Bastian, “Part 4: A*CENSUS,” 366. According to A*CENSUS data, 1,337 master's-degree-holding archivists had a history degree, while 1,817 had an MLS/MLIS.
For this question, responses for the Northeast included Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C.; Southeast included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia; Southwest included Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas; West included California, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming; Midwest included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Society of American Archivists, “Directory of Archival Education,” http://www2.archivists.org/dae.Specifically, 38.6% of respondents resided in the Northeast compared to 34.2% of the programs list in the directory. Other regional breakdowns were the Midwest, 19.7% of respondents versus 28.95% of programs; the West, 16.9% of respondents versus 13.2% of programs; the Southeast, 10.6% of respondents versus 18.4% of programs; and the Southwest, 5.1% of respondents versus 5.3% of programs. It should be noted that these numbers are slightly skewed because 8.7% of respondents were from Canada while no Canadian programs were contacted due to their natural exclusion from the SAA directory.
Goldman and Lausch, “Job Search Experiences and Career Satisfaction Among Recent Archives Program Graduates.”
Examples of “other” for this question included multiple temporary, part-time positions; permanent and temporary part-time positions; and contract work.
For this question, responses for the Northeast included Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C.; Southeast included Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia; Southwest included Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas; West included California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming; Midwest included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Victoria Irons Walch, “Part 3. A*CENSUS: A Closer Look,” The American Archivist 69 (Fall/Winter 2006): 328.
For the purpose of this survey, participants were asked to identify core duties as job responsibilities that represented at least 20% of their work. Twelve respondents identified six to eight core duties, which could indicate the overlapping nature of certain responsibilities, or the respondents applying their own definitions of “core duties.”
With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had offered a definition of “born-digital records” as a job function for the respondents. My intent was for the term to include, but not be limited to, digital curation, digital asset management, digital repository, data management, and digital research.
For the purposes of this study, a Cramér's V value of 0.10 to 0.19 was considered weak association, 0.2 to 0.29 moderate association, and 0.30 or above strong association.
Options listed for additional professional and academic experiences included completed a for-credit internship, completed a noncredit internship or volunteer experience at an archives, worked a paid archival position that they did not receive academic credit for, earned a graduate degree in a nonlibrary or archives discipline, attended in person a conference or workshop sponsored by a professional organization, and joined the Society of American Archivists as a student member.
See, for example Janet Spitz and Jeffrey Pfeffer, “Wage Effects of Externalized Work: The Case of Temporary and Part-time Employees” (working paper 1052, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business, 1989), http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/working-papers/wage-effects-externalized-work-case-temporary-part-time-employees; Arne L. Kalleberg, “Nonstandard Employment Relations: Part-time, Temporary and Contract Work,” Annual Review of Sociology 26 (August 2000): 341–65; and Stanley D. Nollen, “Negative Aspects of Temporary Employment,” Journal of Labor Research 17 (Fall 1996): 567–82.
Arne L. Kalleberg, Barbara F. Reskin, and Ken Hudson, “Bad Jobs in America: Standard and Nonstandard Employment Relations and Job Quality in the United States,” American Sociological Review 65 (April 2000): 267.
Alison L. Booth, Marco Francesconi, and Jeff Frank, “Temporary Jobs: Stepping Stones or Dead Ends?,” The Economic Journal 112 (June 2002): F206–F212.