How to Become a Genealogist

How to Become a Genealogist: Career Path Guide

To become a genealogist, you need more than experience looking up your family history and an ad in the paper to sell your services. A career as a professional genealogist is complex and requires a great deal of personal and professional commitment.


If you'd like to become a professional genealogist, you'll need to determine if you are willing to make the personal and professional commitment necessary to handle the many challenges of this career. 


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a genealogist. We've also included helpful information for a career as a genealogist, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Educational Requirements to Becoming a Genealogist

Although it depends on the job and the employer, there are not typically any formal educational requirements to becoming a genealogist. Many genealogists however, hold a bachelor’s degree in areas such as history, family history, library studies and similar fields.


It is necessary to have education in some areas, even if it is not of a formal nature. Knowledge of locating and utilizing social and local history sources, in original and digital forms, is essential to the work of a genealogist. Also essential to work as a genealogist is some knowledge of Latin, and knowledge of paleography. As genealogists must prepare and present reports, good skills in all forms of communication is essential, including the use of software that helps prepare genealogical reports. 


Success Tip: Many professional genealogists recommend attending conferences, educational seminars and workshops as a way of gaining valuable informal education towards your career as a genealogist.




Genealogist Job Description

Genealogists are responsible for conducting research into the background of individuals or families in order to establish the specific ancestor they descended from. They may also act in a consulting capacity, which involves directing the research of archival technicians and records clerks and disseminating their research results into a report that can be presented to a cient.



Genealogist Job Duties

• Consult national genealogical tables from a specific country or group of countries

• Review genealogical publications and documents, such as church and court records, for evidence of births, baptisms, deaths and marriages in order to trace lines of descent

• Develop charts showing family relationships and lines of descendants

• Prepare brief sketches that emphasize points of interest in a particular family background

• May direct the research of archival technicians and records clerks

• Prepare genealogical reports

• Present reports to client and suggest further lines of research as deemed appropriate



Skills Needed to Become a Genealogist

To become a professional genealogist, you need a skill set that combines the ability to perform genealogical research with the ability to run your own business, as many genealogists are self-employed as freelancers. For those that are able to earn a full-time genealogical research position early on in their careers, the business skills listed below will not be essential.


Genealogy Skills Needed:


• Knowledge of how to locate and utilize local and social history sources (both original and digital)

• Knowledge of how to utilize genealogical data programs

• Ability to communicate effectively with clients

• Methodical approach to research activities

• Must be able to consult with others in order to coordinate information and disseminate data

• Must be able to effectively prepare and present reports to clients


Business Skills Needed:


• Time management

• Financial management

• Customer service

• Contract management

• Project management

• Business writing and communication

• Must be highly organized

• Marketing and sales abilities



Genealogist Salary: How Much Do Genealogists Earn?

The salary level for genealogists can vary depending on many factors, including their level of education, their level of experience, their specific skill set, where they work, whether or not they are self-employed, and many others.


Unfortunately there is no specific salary data available for genealogists, however if we take a look at the salary level of historians in general (which include genealogists), then we can get an idea of what genealogists earn on an annual basis.


Genealogist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Other Professional Occupations in Social Science occupational group earn an average wage of $43.12 to $58.21 per hour.


Genealogist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, workers in the Other Professional Occupations in Social Science, n.e.c. occupational group, which includes historians and genealogists, earn an average salary of $54,718 per year.


Genealogist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level for workers in the Historians occupational group is $53,520 per year.




Where Do Genealogists Work? Who Hires Them?

Although there are a number of organizations that may be able to employ the skills, knowledge and competencies of genealogists on a full-time basis, such opportunities in this field are rare, and those that do exist are often highly competitive.


Many genealogists often supplement their income by writing, teaching or lecturing, looking for living people, transcribing and indexing records, maintaining databases, working in archives and libraries.


Organizations that hire genealogists include:


• Colleges and universities

• Municipal, provincial and federal government departments

• Local or regional heritage societies

• Libraries and archives

• Private businesses and agencies (such as genealogical research companies)

• Self-employment



Tips for Becoming a Successful Genealogist

Below is a list of tips compiled to help you become a successful professional genealogist. Following these tips can put you in a position to greatly increase you knowledge, skills, competencies, reputation and client base as a genealogist.


• Join your local professional genealogy association

• Prepare and Apply for Certification and/or Accreditation

• Volunteer with the local genealogical society

• Network with genealogists, librarians and archivists

• Explore the local courthouses, libraries, and archives

• Continue (or begin) researching your family history

• Subscribe to genealogical journals and publications

• Attend educational seminars and workshops



Genealogist Jobs

Our job board below has "Genealogist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Careers Similar to Genealogist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to that of a genealogist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.







Museum Researcher



References: How to Become a Genealogist

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a genealogist.


Alberta Learning and Information Services website:

Association of Professional Genealogists website:

Society of Genealogists website (U.K.):

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website:



Scholarships for Becoming a Genealogist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Genealogist can be found on our Classical Studies Scholarships and History Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Genealogist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a genealogist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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