All Archivists Survey Details Employment, Education, and Demographics of Archives Field

In the archives profession, MLS/MLIS degrees are becoming more important; Black, Indigenous, and people of color continue to be underrepresented; and as many as 20 percent of workers are considering leaving the profession within the next five years. These are just a few of the findings in “A*CENSUS II All Archivists Survey Report” from Ithaka S+R and the Society of American Archivists.

Archivist Census Report IIIn the archives profession, MLS/MLIS degrees are becoming more important; Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) continue to be underrepresented, although the proportion of BIPOC individuals in the profession has doubled since 2004; and as many as 20 percent of workers are considering leaving the profession within the next five years, citing retirement, burnout, and limited compensation as key reasons. These are just a few of the findings in “A*CENSUS II All Archivists Survey Report” published on August 22 by Ithaka S+R and the Society of American Archivists. Funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the report reflects the experiences and insights of 5,699 archivists and memory workers throughout the United States who responded to the survey when it was fielded in 2021 as a follow up to the original “A*CENSUS All Archivists Survey Report” in 2004.

“The archives field is highly educated,” the report states, noting that 86 percent of respondents have an advanced degree, and 27 percent have two or more advanced degrees. Some 60 percent of respondents reported having an MLS/MLIS, compared with 39.4 percent of respondents to the 2004 survey. Of those degree holders, 58 percent said that they had earned their MLS/MLIS after 2010. Of all MLS/MLIS earners, 47.4 percent said that they had majored in archives (compared with 50.4 percent who majored in library and/or information science).

By contrast, the number of respondents who have an MA, MS, or MFA held steady at 43.6 percent in both the 2004 and 2021 surveys, while PhD holders declined from 8.4 percent to 6 percent. Among respondents with an MA, MS, or MFA, history was by far the most popular concentration, reported by 37.2 percent, followed by public history at 10.3 percent, museum studies at 6.2 percent, and archives at 6 percent. Less than five percent of respondents reported having an MA, MS, or MFA in other topics including literature (4.6 percent), information science (3.6 percent), fine arts (3 percent), education (2.5 percent), American studies (2 percent), religious studies (1.6 percent), or film studies (1.5 percent).

Unfortunately, MLS/MLIS earners were the most likely group to report having student loan debt, with 61 percent taking out loans to obtain the degree, compared with 51 percent of MA/MS/MFA graduates, and 40 percent of PhD holders. While six percent of MLS/MLIS graduates reported debts of less than $9,999, 19 percent reported debts the $10,000 to $29,999 range, another 19 percent reported debts of $30,000 to $49,999, and an additional 9 percent reported owing $50,000 to $69,000. Eleven percent reported student loan balances of more than $70,000.



The proportion of BIPOC respondents to the survey rose from 8 percent in 2004 to 16 percent in 2021, and half of all respondents said that they had witnessed others taking action to improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in the archives profession. Some 37 percent said that they had worked on DEIA efforts themselves. However, the profession continues to be overwhelmingly white (82 percent). The proportion of women in the archives field actually increased from 65 percent in 2004 to 71 percent in 2021.

Many respondents viewed this lack of diversity as a problem. When asked to agree, disagree, or “neither agree nor disagree” with the statement “the archives profession has adequately addressed issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access” only nine percent agreed, while 35 percent disagreed. Similarly, 23 percent disagreed with the statement “rewards (e.g., recognitions, promotions) are distributed fairly in the archives profession to all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or other identities,” compared with 11 percent who agreed. And while 49 percent of white respondents agreed with the statement “I feel included in the archives profession,” and only five percent disagreed, BIPOC respondents did not feel the same. Only 25 percent agreed with the statement, and 14 percent disagreed. And 28 percent of BIPOC respondents disagreed with the statement “I feel represented by the membership of the archives profession,” compared with 16 percent who agreed.



Only 55 percent of respondents were confident that they would remain in the archives profession in the near term. Twenty percent said they were considering leaving the field within the next five years, and 25 percent said they weren’t sure about staying. While this potential for high levels of attrition may be alarming to leaders in the profession, the report notes that “it is important to contextualize these findings. The All Archivists Survey was fielded in late fall 2021, arguably at the height of the Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffle, which saw staff departing employers at a rapid rate. Further, without being able to directly compare these numbers with other professions, it is difficult to say whether the archives profession is facing higher or lower rates of potential attrition.”

Nonetheless, dissatisfaction appears to be high among respondents who were considering leaving. Only 47 percent of those considering leaving said they were excited by their work, only 34 percent said they were satisfied by their careers, only 32 percent said they feel valued by their employer, and only 32 percent said they were satisfied with their current salary and benefits.

For those considering leaving the archives field, 43 percent cited retirement, but 35 percent said “burnout,” and 35 percent were dissatisfied with their compensation. Lack of opportunity for career advancement was cited by 33 percent, and 22 percent said they wanted to pursue work in a different field. (Multiple responses were allowed.)

Regarding compensation, 14 percent of respondents with full-time positions reported earning $40,000 to $49,999; 18 percent said their salary was $50,000 to $59,999; 16 percent, $60,000 to $69,999; 13 percent, $70,000 to $79,999; eight percent, $80,000 to $89,999; six percent, $90,000 to $99,999; and five percent said $100,000 to $109,999. In addition, eight percent of respondents reported income of more than $110,000, and 10 percent reported salaries of less than $39,999. (The remaining two percent did not list their income.)

The full 210-page report, including 62 pages of analysis and an appendix of aggregate charts and tables, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, and is available for free online or as a PDF at

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Matt Enis


Matt Enis ( is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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