How can I get a career in heritage?

on Friday, 20 June 2014. Posted in Archives

Here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre we often get requests for work experience by people interested in a career in heritage, so it seems timely, with the end of the school year approaching, to run through some key facts and provide some useful links. This guidance is primarily aimed at those living in England - other parts of the UK may need to use a search engine to find links more appropriate to them.


The first thing to note is that ‘heritage’ is a very broad term and you will need to decide which aspect of it you are most interested in, as there is specialist vocational training for different careers and you can save yourself a lot of time and money by investing in the right training sooner rather than later. (For example if you want to become a qualified archivist it is essential to have a degree plus a post-graduate qualification in an accredited topic such as Archives Management – you cannot simply have a history degree, or an MA in another topic, even if it’s heritage-based.)

The best way to discover which area you are most interested in is to read up about the different careers on the relevant websites, listed below, and by carrying out some work experience (normally unpaid although more rarely paid work may be available). For some careers extensive work experience may be required prior to being accepted on a post-graduate course and it is a good idea to get a variety of experience in a variety of different types of institution – for example, both private and public sector.

Broadly speaking careers in heritage divide into archaeology; archive work; building conservation; archive, fine art or object conservation; local studies librarianship; museums curation; and heritage management (eg looking after a historic site or property), although this is not exhaustive. There are paraprofessional roles in many of these fields (eg archive assistants or local studies assistants) but these do not require a formal qualification. Paraprofessional roles will normally be advertised locally via the parent organisation’s usual recruitment channels, eg local paper or the employer’s website, rather than nationally. 

Useful links:
Careers in archaeology – see: http://www.archaeologyuk.org/getinvolved/jobopps
Careers in archives – see: http://www.archives.org.uk/careers/careers-in-archives.html and join the Archives NRA listserve at www.jiscmail.ac.uk for job advertisements
Careers in archive conservation – see: http://www.archives.org.uk/careers/careers-in-archive-conservation.html and also: http://www.icon.org.uk/index.php?Itemid=7
Careers in building conservation – see: http://www.ihbc.org.uk/ and http://www.buildingconservation.com/
Careers in fine art or object conservation – see: http://www.icon.org.uk/index.php?Itemid=7
Careers in librarianship (including local studies) – see: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/starting-library-and-information-career
Careers in museum curation – see: http://www.museumsassociation.org/careers
Careers in heritage management – see: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/jobs/; http://www.nationaltrustjobs.org.uk/ and http://www.museumsassociation.org/careers

Work experience at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre
If you are interested in a career in heritage and live locally, you are welcome to apply for unpaid work experience at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, but please bear in mind we receive a lot of these requests each year and cannot guarantee a) to agree to your request or b) to offer you more than a limited quantity of time. In the first instance please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. indicating which aspect of heritage you are most interested in exploring. It can be helpful to attach a CV so we can see what your existing qualifications and experience are. Please note that we are normally unable to pay travel expenses except in exceptional circumstances eg as part of an externally funded project.
A job opportunity at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre
There is a fairly new scheme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund called ‘Skills for the Future’ which is helping to fund a range of training in heritage-based skills which could be of interest to anyone looking at a career in heritage. The National Archives has successfully applied for this funding in 2014 and is working in partnership with a variety of bodies, including Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, to provide one year traineeships as part of the Transforming Archives programme – see:
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/transforming-archives.htm
Wiltshire’s post will have a focus on community archives and collection development ie widening the type of material we hold. The closing date for this post is 9 July and any enquiries should be made via the National Archives recruitment team – please see the website for details.


Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist

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