How to Become a Genealogist


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 work in this field, 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 occupational information, 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 for getting into this line of work. 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.





General 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 client.



Typical Job Duties & Responsibilities

• 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 Be Successful

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-specific 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



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 - Canada: According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Other Professional Occupations in Social Science occupational group earn an average wage of $34.92 to $47.66 per hour. According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working in the same occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $64,667 per year.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level for workers in the Historians occupational group is $61,140 per year.





Who Employs 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 Successful

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



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "genealogist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Similar Careers in Our Database

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




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


Occupations in Alberta:Historian.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 30, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Historians.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 30, 2019.

Explore Careers:Other professional occupations in social science, n.e.c.” (July 18, 2018) WorkBC website. Retrieved November 30, 2019.

Learn:Hints & Tips Four: Genealogy as a Career.” (2017) Society of Genealogists website. Retrieved November 30, 2019.

Articles:Becoming a Professional.” (n.d.) Association of Professional Genealogists website. Retrieved November 30, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Genealogist

All of the scholarships that can be found on our Classical Studies Scholarships and History Scholarships pages are relevant for becoming a genealogist. Just 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.



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below can help set an excellent educational foundation for this profession:


Top Banner Image: 
Top Banner Image Title: