Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in a career in genealogy, you should study history, English literature and composition, geography, sociology, and psychology while in high school. Foreign languages and research and library skills are also valuable. Develop your computer knowledge, since libraries and document archives now have computerized catalogs and research systems. Because you may do genealogical work only on a part-time basis, you may wish to look into part-time work in related jobs, such as librarian, historian, archivist, and freelance writer, which will offer the free time to conduct genealogical research.

Postsecondary Training

There are no formal requirements for becoming a genealogist. Many competent genealogists are self-taught or have learned the trade from other established genealogists. However, a bachelor's degree in genealogy, history, English, or journalism can be a distinct advantage as it demonstrates your capacity for research and dedication to the profession. There are few colleges that offer major programs of study in this field. Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, offers a bachelor's degree in family history; other institutions may offer similar credit or noncredit courses. In addition, many adult education programs and extension courses are available.

Other Education or Training

The Association of Professional Genealogists offers continuing education (CE) opportunities via online classes and at its annual conference. Recent classes and workshops included Overcoming Research Barriers, Order in the Court: Hands-on with Court Records, Launching an Effective Marketing Campaign, and Video Marketing: Killer YouTube Strategies. The National Genealogical Society, National Institute for Genealogical Studies, and state-level associations also provide CE courses. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Becoming certified, while not a requirement, may be a beneficial step for genealogists. Customers often ask for any professional certifications that testify to a person's qualifications and show that work is done according to a code of ethics. The Board for Certification of Genealogists offers the certified genealogist and certified genealogical lecturer designations. The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists offers the accredited genealogist designation to genealogists who complete a number of professional requirements. The Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes grants genealogists working in Canada the following certifications: genealogical record searcher (Canada) and certified genealogist (Canada).

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

No experience is needed to become a genealogist, but those with prior work experience will increase their chances of landing a job, building a large client list, and earning higher pay.

Genealogists need an inquiring mind and an interest in history to do their work. They should also be patient, thorough, and well organized when detailing documentation of facts and sources. Genealogists must also be good with people, as they spend a lot of time conducting interviews. In addition to these skills, the Association of Professional Genealogists cites the following traits as important for successful genealogists: time management, financial management, customer service, contract management, project management, business writing, organization, and marketing and sales.