[Ask an Archivist] Q: Will not having an MLS hurt my employment chances?

Ask an Archivist Question:

In your opinion, is not having an M.L.S. hurt your chances for getting a job in the archival field? I have a Masters degree in History with a concentration in Archives Management.

Ask an Archivist Answers:

As someone who has this degree as well, I have never found that it limited me, in what jobs I interviewed for, or the jobs I have taken during my career. I have always believed my History/Archives degree brought an additional skill set, which others may not have.

That being said, if I was just starting out and wanted to work in academic libraries, I would investigate also obtaining a library degree. In monitoring the job ads, many only advertise for the MLS (this indicates to me, they simply may not be knowledgeable about the archives profession!), however, increasingly, library schools are producing higher numbers of graduates and you will be competing against them.

It will all depend on your comfort level–if you are willing to focus on those institutions who are a bit more flexible in what qualifications they will accept (historical societies, state archives, governmental archives), you will find a job. If you want to work in an academic library, your options may be more limited.

– Tanya Zanish-Belcher

It depends on the type of institution, to be honest. In many (but not all!) academic libraries, you are required to have an MLIS (or equivalent) or some other sort of “terminal” degree (like a PhD in a subject field) in order to hold librarian status. And professional archivists would be classified as “librarians” in most of these situations. This is particularly true at institutions where the librarians hold faculty status. Outside of academia, I think you may find a bit more leeway with hiring.

– Erin Lawrimore

Not having an MLIS/MIS/MLS from an ALA-accredited library/information school would greatly reduce your chances of landing a job in an academic or public library, since most employers in those sectors require the degree. Many archivists are employed in academic libraries/archives, so it’s a big market to subtract from your search. Some academic libraries have, however, started to specify that an “equivalent” degree of another type is also acceptable, and your MA would qualify at those institutions. In some other archives employment sectors it’s not a factor at all, such as government, corporate, and historical societies. Watch the job ads and you’ll see the landscape immediately.

– Jackie Dooley


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