Get qualified for library work

 11 May 2012

Not everyone enters libraries, archives, information and records with a degree. Some take their qualifications once they’re in the profession.

Not everyone enters libraries, archives, information and records with a degree.
Not everyone enters libraries, archives, information and records with a degree.

A fully-qualified librarian or archivist needs a degree and usually a postgraduate qualification Most records or information professionals have a degree and many have a postgraduate qualification too.

Apprenticeships

It is possible to get into through an apprenticeship (in England and Wales). The entry requirements vary – they are set by the employer. Typically you need good GCSEs, though some employers may ask for one or more A level. (Employers will often accept equivalent qualifications).

Your employer will make sure you gain the experience and skills that you need to complete your training.

You’ll be employed and will work during the week as arranged with your employer. This might be usual office hours or some variation of this.

For example, if you work in library, you might have to work evenings or Saturdays on a rota basis. If you work for a commercial organisation in information or records management, you may have to work the employer’s usual shift pattern.

Your employer will make sure that you work in different parts of the organisation, gaining the experience and skills that you need to complete your training.

During your apprenticeship, you’ll be studying for recognised qualifications. Awarded by EDI, they cover skills and knowledge, along with functional or key skills. Your study might be by day release – a day a week at a local college or other provider. Or you might study in your workplace, with a tutor or assessor visiting you every few weeks, by arrangement.

There is no guarantee of a permanent job at the end of an apprenticeship, but many employers take on apprentices with the intention of offering suitable candidates a job once trained.

You can find out more, and search for vacancies, on the Apprenticeships website. NotGoingToUni has apprenticeship vacancies as well.

Qualifying by distance learning

Another, less-defined, route to qualifying would be to join an a organisation as one of the following:

  • records assistant
  • library assistant
  • information assistant
  • archive assistant.

You can then study for a degree and postgraduate qualification while employed.

Your first degree can be in any subject. The University of Liverpool Centre for Archive Studies LUCAS offers an undergraduate distance learning programme designed for those already working in archives and records management in:

  • government departments
  • local authorities
  • other public sector settings
  • private sector or business environments.

Your employer may help you with the cost of your studies and/or give you some study time away from your job. However, it is realistic to assume that you will have to study in your own time (evenings and weekends) and may have to pay for courses yourself.

In-house training and promotion

Each organisation has a system of promotion and training – using in-house and/or external courses.

You can enter larger organisations without a degree, such as:

  • government departments and agencies, like the National Archives
  • local authorities
  • the NHS.

Each organisation has a system of promotion and training – using in-house and/or external courses. As you gain experience and qualifications, you can apply for more senior posts in the organisation - or move between employers, in some cases.

Developing a career in libraries

However you enter, as you start to gain experience and take qualifications to help you in career, you will probably want to become a member of a relevant professional organisation.

They can advise you on developing your career; tell you about which qualifications are most useful to you; and help you network amongst colleagues in the profession.

Depending on which area you decide on for your career, you may want to look at:


Also of interest


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