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Professional Certification: Part 2

Here is Part Two of the two part informational series on professional certification in the records management industry.

Read Part 1

The profession of archivist is much better known around the world, than the records management profession. As a result, many archivists have taken on responsibilities for records management, either by choice, or by directive. The largest international association of archivists is the ICA (International Council on Archives) which was formed in 1947 to assist national archival associations in coordinating activities and in promoting archival science around the world. The ICA works closely with UNESCO and other NGOs to produce RAMP (Records and Archives Management Programme). The ICA does not operate an independent certifying body, since many national archival associations and societies have their own certifications. An example of one certifying body and certification is the CA (Certified Archivist) designation, which is administered by the Academy of Certified Archivists.

Like the ICRM, the ACA requires candidates to qualify prior to being tested. The ACA provides three combinations of education and experience in order to qualify to sit for the examination: a graduate degree which has a concentration in archival science and one year of professional archival experience, a graduate degree without concentration in archival science and two years of professional archival experience, or a previously qualified certified archivist. Through the year 2004, applicants who do not qualify through one of these criteria, but who have significant archival experience, may petition the Board of Regents of the ACA in order to qualify to sit for the examination. The ACA will not offer this option after 2004.Unlike the CRM test, the certified archivist test can be completed in three hours time.

The examination for the certified archivist designation is focused on seven areas of archival competency, these are: Selection of Documents; Arrangement and Description of Documents; Reference Services and Access to Documents; Preservation and Protection of Documents; Outreach, Advocacy, and Promotion of Documentary Collections and Archival Repositories; Managing Archival Programs; and Professional, Ethical, and Legal Responsibilities. The ACA provides a description of the specific knowledge requirements for each of these competency areas in its Handbook for Archival Certification, which can be downloaded at no charge from the ACA website. This handbook provides complete descriptive information about the application process, where the exam is administered, and the process for requesting that it be administered in a new location, several sample test questions and additional tips and techniques for taking the exam. In addition, the handbook provides a general reading list of archival texts, lists of relevant periodicals and detailed reading lists that address each of the seven competency domains.

Certification as an Archivist lasts for five years. Once an applicant has become certified, they are automatically qualified to sit for the examination, should they be required to recertify. All certified archivists are required to recertify every five years. Applicants who are unsuccessful in passing the examination may sit for the exam again, at any time of their choosing. There is no limit on the number of times an applicant can sit for the exam.

Acquiring professional credentials lifts you to the top of your profession. Professional certification programs are very challenging, even for those with considerable experience in records management or archival science. The certification process requires you to focus on your professional skills and expand your knowledge of various techniques, standards, new technologies and best practices. Information learned during the certification process can benefit both you and your employer, as these new ideas are applied in ways that improve productivity, reduce cost and improve quality. Please explore the web links below for more information about the CRM and CA certified designations.

For more information:
Institute of Certified Records Managers:
Academy of Certified Archivists:
International Council on Archives:

This series is courtesy of PRISM (Professional Records & Information Services Management).

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