Hi! I'm currently a Classics major (3 years of Classical Greek, 2 of Latin) hoping to get into grad school for Archives/Preservation, and maybe work in Special Collections someday... What should I be looking for in the grad schools I apply for, and just how bad is the job market? I've heard quite a bit about the boom in graduate students and competition for jobs, but I don't know what to take seriously and what to assume is simply cynicism.
Hello! Glad to see people showing interest in this field. I covered my rather simple (and probably not the best) thought processes when choosing a grad school in this post. It boils down to: 1) Does the degree offer courses/specializations in the field I want? and 2) What’s the cheapest/easiest school to attend? Any school accredited by the ALA/SAA offers you the same basic trusted degree, so in my opinion it’s best to pick one that you can make the most of by having courses that pique your interest and will put you in the least debt.
As for the job market, yes it is bad for most specializations. I know people who have been job hunting for over a year after graduating and still haven’t had a single interview. There’s a bunch of factors for why there are slim pickings for jobs, but I don’t have room in this post to get into it. I’ve had professors and employers flat out say there are no new jobs in rare books, museums, conservation, archives, etc. THAT SAID, there are jobs in the archives field, but most are not for “traditional” archivists. I’ve seen way more jobs in the private/IT sector under job titles such as records management, metadata specialist, digital archivists, digitization project manager, digital preservation specialist, information officer, etc.
There are ways to increase you chance of getting a job after graduating. Every graduate of our program said the most valuable course offered was the internship/practicum, and I’m now realizing how true that is. Getting work experience before you graduate is a major boost is passing the absurd requirements of “1-2 years library/archive experience” required for most entry-level jobs. For you, I’d recommend trying to get a job in your university’s special collections department while attaining your degree. Most schools have student employment programs for jobs on campus, and they really help. If you’re not interning or working part time while studying, volunteer instead. If you’re lucky (and if they magically get money) they might hire you as in the case of some of my peers. Working, interning, and volunteering also puts you in contact with people who can recommend you to others for jobs and act as valuable references on your job applications. It’s all about hands-on experience and networking.
Anyways, I wish you luck in your grad school applications and hope the grim job prospects turn around by the time you graduate.
Dear Antelope! I recently (i.e. miraculously, unthinkably) got acceptance letters from UT Austin and U North Carolina at Chapel Hill for their MSIS programs. Do you have an opinion on either one, or would you be able to offer any advice on choosing between two great grad programs for a frightened, elated baby info-sci antelope? Thank you so much in advance <3
First of all, congrats on the acceptance letters!
Secondly, I’ll say up front I have a number of biases towards favoring UNC Chapel Hill (sorry UTexas folks) because 1) I see a lot of academic articles for our field getting published out of there 2) Some of my profs call it their alma mater 3) I’ve seen an unusually high number job postings for library/archives students in the area and 4) My parents wish I went there instead so I’d be closer to home. That said, UT is a close second/third in the ratings of top information science programs in the US and I hear has the best archival/preservation program in the country.
Other than seeing if the program has courses or specializations in your primary area of career interest(s) (museums, knowledge management, records management, digital libraries, archives, etc.), I’m sorry to say I don’t have much wise advice on choosing a program. I just went with the one that’s the cheapest to attend!
Good luck to you and all the others with their applications!
Hello, Antelope! I am working on grad school applications for library/information science programs (hoping to go the archival route!). Do you have any advice for completing that process successfully? Good things to put in one's personal statement, and all that? Thanks!
Depending on the institution, I find most schools are looking for some the following in resumes, CVs, cover letters and/or personal statements:
Volunteer Experience - Looks good, especially if you don’t have much relevant work experience. I’ve noticed a few places that specifically mention they’re looking for students that like to volunteer, even if it’s not in libraries, archives, etc.
Research Skills - Can you use academic databases? Are you really good/quick at finding a variety of resources for your papers or for others? This is one of the things they’re looking for in future information professionals.
Computer Skills - Computer/Internet literacy is required in most places, so mention all the cool things you can do. You can even mention little things that are often overlooked like if you can do basic computer troubleshooting, use Microsoft Word/Office, or write a little HTML. Being a quick learner with new technology is a bonus. Also, don’t underestimate knowing how to use different social networking or blogging sites.
Enthusiasm - This is probably most important. It’s what the school’s looking for to see if this is really what you want to go into and what employers are looking for to make sure you don’t die of boredom or quit after your umpteeth hour of cataloging. What’s your personal attachment or connection to libraries/archives/information? Mention anything relevant to the field that gets you excited (just short of “the smell of old parchment makes me sexually aroused!”).
These tips can equally apply to future cover letters as well.
Hello! I just wanted to say that I LOVE this so much!!! I am a high school senior, and I am hoping to major in history and then go into an MLIS program. Career adviser at school says that I would make a great archivist/research librarian/curator. Your blog makes me feel like I'll fit right in!!! Thank you so much, finding this made my evening!
It’s certainly great when you have that feeling of finally “finding your people” and getting excited about your chosen career path. It certainly clicked for me right away after meeting all my peers during MLIS orientation. I’m glad your evening was made and I wish you all the best in your studies. ♥