Now available: Job search experiences and career satisfaction among recent archives program graduates

After posting so many links to surveys, it’s nice to be able to follow up and announce when people have survey results to share. This comes from Rebecca Goldman (aka DerangeDescribe):

Last year, Shannon Lausch and I conducted a survey to evaluate employment and career satisfaction among recent archives graduates. We received over 200 responses, and the data is now ready to share! If you go to , you’ll be able to download our survey questions, our presentations from SAA12, and our data.

You are free to use this data for your own research–just cite and link back to it.

Thanks so much to all of you who took the survey, and we hope you find our results useful. Please contact us if you have any questions or suggestions.

I only looked through Rebecca’s presentation, and found the results not as bad as I thought they might be. I do wonder though, regarding the issues of negative effects of career choices on finances, personal and family life and other aspects of life, how similar those results would be across the board for post-graduate programs. I suspect that those issues are not unique to graduates of archives programs (not that Rebecca said they were).

I’ll share here the questions she asked at the end of her SAA presentation:

  • If we repeat our survey of recent grads, how can we make it better?
  • Is there a better way to investigate the “too many grads” problem?
  • Besides offering better salaries, how else can we  improve the quality of life of recent grads?
  • If temp positions and relocation are inevitable, how can we better support new grads through temporary work and help them move into permanent employment?

Any thoughts on those questions or reactions to the data collected by the survey?

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4 thoughts on “Now available: Job search experiences and career satisfaction among recent archives program graduates”

  1. I’m sorry I missed this presentation at the annual meeting. Rebecca’s discussion questions are excellent and thought-provoking. The last one especially weighs on my conscience as a hiring manager that has and inevitably will be inclined to create temporary jobs. One solution I might suggest is for those of us fundraising for this type of temporary employment to include work that will challenge the person who takes this position and require them to develop new skills that will make them stand out when they eventually re-enter the job market. In other words, maybe it is our responsibility to design jobs that are not just conventional processing projects.

  2. Thanks, Jordon. Another thing that think is valuable about this survey is that is delves into the question of what “employed” means. In other words, surveys that ask (even for just demographic purposes) whether or not archivists are employed can get more specific in that question as to whether or not that employment is in archival work. A survey should not assume archivists only have traditional archival responsibilities, or that employed/unemployed is a binary variable. I think even SAA A*CENSUS’s question about this could have been improved in this regard. It was:

    Q1. Please indicate if you currently are:

    1 Working as an archivist or manuscript curator
    2 Managing a program that employs archivists
    3 Retired from employment as an archivist
    4 Teaching in a graduate archival education program
    5 Studying to be an archivist
    6 Working in another profession or occupation, but with archives-related responsibilities
    7 Working as a technical or support staff member with archives-related responsibilities
    8 Administering a program serving archival interests but not working directly with archival records (e.g., granting agency, education provider, professional association)
    9 Other (Please specify)
    10 Rather not say

    And SAA’s recent member needs survey only asked whether people were employed full time, employed part time, or employed and seeking either part time or full time work (as well as retired, student, other, rather not say).

    I suppose I should add the usual caveat that I don’t know anything about constructing surveys, etc. I just think the issue this survey brought up is that people with different employment situations may have different perspectives and that without capturing that granularity about employment you can’t see those differences in the rest of the survey.

  3. Yee-ikes. That free response section is a veritable cavalcade of bitterness. I’m not sure I would describe an archival education program as “an expensive career suicide note”, though certainly given the glut of graduates for available jobs you want to think long and hard before committing the funds. (Personally, I wouldn’t pay more than in-state tuition for an MLS unless I were a) independently wealthy or b) coming into the program with a teaching or research assistantship, with a possible option of c) doing it part-time while working so you don’t have to *live* on your meager student loans.) Props, incidentally, to Rebecca and Shannon for both sharing their data and providing conditions for reuse of same.

    We talked about this on Twitter a few days ago, but I think it’s worth repeating that it is very easy for processing jobs to have a ghettoizing effect. Which is not to say that we shouldn’t *have* them (because stuff has got to get processed), but it’s easy for the processing archivist to get shut out of the loop in terms of the other operations of the institution with which he/she is contracting. That should change, if only to the extent of “let the person have some time on the desk” or “bring the person in to staff meetings and seek their feedback on department-wide issues”.

    Ultimately the whole “contract archivist” thing is inherently destabilizing and I would not be sad if it went away, but on the other hand that would tend to decrease the (already too small) total number of entry-level archives jobs available. Hm. Tricky. I obviously don’t have answers but it’s good that people are asking the questions.

  4. An interesting parallel to Rebecca and Shannon’s findings are those highlighted in a new report on freelancers in America. Following only one other industry (community & social services), the category titled “education, training, library” experienced the highest rates of growth in self-employed workers.

    Assuming archives are lumped into this category, this means increasing percentages of archivists lack health care coverage, retirement plans, and many of the other “perks” that come with full-time, permanent employment.

    Kate asks, “If temp positions and relocation are inevitable, how can we better support new grads through temporary work and help them move into permanent employment?”

    Has SAA ever thought about investigating some sort of group insurance plan for the growing ranks of part-time, contract, freelance, self-employed, and under/unemployed knowledge workers comprising its membership?

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