How Long Does it Take to Become a Genealogist?

Becoming a genealogist requires thorough research and training in order to properly provide accurate family history information. The length of time it takes to become a genealogist can vary depending on individual goals, education, and experience.

A basic genealogy research course can take anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on the program and intensity of study. However, to become a certified genealogist through a recognized organization such as the Board for Certification of Genealogists, it typically takes at least two years of dedicated study and practice. This includes extensive knowledge of various research techniques, proper citation practices, and analysis of records.

In addition, a degree in history or a related field and experience working with historical records can also be beneficial in becoming a successful genealogist. Ongoing education and staying up-to-date with technological advancements in the field are also crucial for genealogists to maintain their skills and provide high-quality research.

Overall, becoming a genealogist can require a significant amount of time and dedication, but the rewards of uncovering family history and helping others with their genealogy research can make the journey worthwhile.

What does a genealogist do?


Genealogists are persons who study and research family histories, tracing back hereditary lines of descent through various records, documents, and resources. They are experts in uncovering ancestral information, piecing together family trees, and decoding different sources to find out about people’s origin, identity, and culture. Genealogists may work for private clients, businesses, non-profit organizations, or government agencies, providing specialized services to help individuals or groups clarify their family origins, identify relatives, establish legal disputes, or connect with cultural heritage.

Genealogy is an exciting and fascinating field that involves a wide variety of skills and knowledge. Genealogists need to have a deep understanding of genealogical research methods, historical analysis, documentation and source evaluation, computer and database management, communication and presentation, as well as legal and ethical considerations. Good genealogists are passionate about their work, meticulous in their research, and committed to providing accurate and reliable information to their clients.

To become a genealogist, you need to have a combination of education, training, and experience. While there are no set requirements or regulations for becoming a genealogist, most professionals have some form of formal education and certification in genealogical studies. Many colleges, universities, and genealogical societies offer courses, workshops, and training programs in genealogy, history, library science, and related fields. Some genealogists may also have a degree in history, anthropology, sociology, or other social sciences.

Beyond formal education, a genealogist must have several key traits to be successful in their work, including attention to detail and ability to analyze and synthesize complex information, strong communication skills, an understanding of ethical and legal obligations, and knowledge of the latest technology and resources used in genealogical research.

Genealogy is a rewarding and challenging career that requires a passion for history, culture, and identity. Whether you are researching your own family history, or working with clients to uncover their roots, being a genealogist can give you a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and pride in helping uncover hidden family stories and legacies. Becoming a genealogist takes time and dedication, but with the right training, education, and passion, anyone can enter this exciting and rewarding field.

What qualifications does a genealogist need?

Certificate of Completion in Genealogy

Genealogy, the study of an individual’s family history and lineage, is a passion for many people around the world. While it originally started as a hobby, as technology and resources improved, individuals have started to pursue it as a career option. With the growth in demand and interest in genealogy, it’s essential to have the proper education and qualifications to become a professional genealogist.

As the field of genealogy and family history becomes more popular, it has also become more competitive, requiring specialists to have formal education in this area to demonstrate their expertise. While there are no specific or legal requirements to become a genealogist, most genealogists have a college degree in a relevant field or a certificate in genealogy or family history. These formal qualifications help demonstrate a higher level of knowledge, skill, and proficiency when it comes to the practice of genealogy.

The following are some of the most common qualifications that a genealogist may need to work in this specialized field:

Certificate in Genealogy Studies

Certificate in Genealogy Studies

A certificate in genealogy studies provides students with a basic understanding of genealogy and family history research. The certificate program is typically short and intensive, requiring students to complete a series of core courses in genealogy, research methodology, and analysis techniques. After completing the program, students receive a certificate as proof of their ability to conduct genealogical research both in-person and remotely. It’s a great starting point for those who have a keen interest in genealogy but do not necessarily plan to pursue it as a career.

Bachelor’s Degree in History or Anthropology

Bachelor's Degree in History or Anthropology

Most genealogists hold a bachelor’s degree in history or anthropology. These degrees provide a deeper look into historical events, enabling them to analyze documents and identify linkages between generations. Additionally, students also learn about research methodology which is essential to genealogy work. With their knowledge of historical events and methodology, they can easily identify the originals, such as birth certificates and government files, and create accurate family trees.

Master’s Degree in Library Science

Master's Degree in Library Science

For those who wish to work in the library sciences profession, a Master’s Degree in Library Science would allow them to specialize in genealogy and family history. They would learn how to keep records, categorize, and differentiate them and offer information about how to find resources online and in libraries. With their advanced knowledge of library sciences, they are better equipped to help clients with their research. Additionally, genealogists can also specialize in specific areas such as religious or geographic-based family history, further making them a valuable resource.

Experience and Training

Experience and Training

Experience and training can also serve as essential qualifications for genealogists. They may obtain on-the-job experience working within libraries, historical societies, or government agencies. The more diverse practical experience a genealogist has, the better equipped they are to handle research requests, understand documents and records, and provide insightful guidance to their clients.

Becoming a professional genealogist is a time-consuming, yet rewarding process. The qualifications needed may vary from individual to individual, but one thing remains constant – passion for the pursuit of ancestral research. These various certification and training options are an excellent way to grow in knowledge, skills, and abilities in genealogy, paving the route to a fulfilling career.

How long does it take to complete genealogy certification programs?

Genealogy certification programs

While there is no one definitive answer to this question, a few factors can play into how long it takes to complete a genealogy certification program. These programs are designed to provide students with the knowledge and practical skills necessary to become a professional genealogist. The length of the program will depend on several variables, including the specific program and the student’s availability and commitment to coursework.

One popular genealogy certification program in the United States is the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). This program takes between 1-3 years to complete depending on the student’s availability. This program is designed to prepare students to work professionally in the field of genealogy. Students will learn practical research skills, gain knowledge on historical recordkeeping, and gain expert-level knowledge of genealogical standards.

Another program that is often recognized by professional genealogists is the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR). The program is designed for students to study genealogy in-depth, covering topics such as methodology, wills, and probate records, and advanced DNA analysis techniques. Students in this program can typically complete it in a one-week intensive course. Some professionals consider this program to be one of the best genealogy certification programs available.

Genealogy certification programs in online

There are also several online genealogy certification programs available that students can complete at their own pace. These programs range from 10 months to two years, and some even longer, depending on the program. These online genealogy certification programs offer students flexibility in scheduling, allowing them to work full-time while pursuing their certification full-time. Some of the top online genealogy certification programs include The National Genealogical Society’s American Genealogical Studies (AGS) and the Boston University Genealogical Certificate Program.

Choosing a genealogy certification program is a personal decision that depends on the student’s needs, goals, and schedule. For those who want a flexible program that they can complete quickly without compromising the quality of the program, online genealogy certification programs may be the best option. For students wanting to receive expert-level training, attending an intensive genealogy program may be the better choice.

While the length of time it takes to complete a genealogy certification program varies, it should be noted that these programs are rigorous and require a commitment from the student. Professional genealogists have thorough research skills and a deep understanding of the field, which requires a significant amount of dedication, practice, and continuous learning.

Can you become a genealogist through on-the-job training?

On-the-job training genealogist

On-the-job training is a popular way to enter different professions. It refers to learning and acquiring skills while performing the job in a real work environment. While several careers require formal education and certification, individuals who want to become genealogists may opt for on-the-job training.

On-the-job training for genealogists may depend on the nature of the job and specific hiring requirements. Some genealogists work independently, while others are employed by organizations or as government genealogists.

Independent genealogists often have to be entrepreneurs and know how to market their services to potential clients. On-the-job training may involve acquiring skills such as how to set up a business, create invoices, develop a client base, and communicate professionally.

Working for organizations or government agencies may require specialized genealogical skills or knowledge in a particular area of history or ethnicity. On-the-job training may involve learning about local and national archives, genealogical research databases, and other relevant tools of the trade.

One advantage of on-the-job training for genealogists is the opportunity to network and learn from experienced professionals in the field. Mentors can provide valuable insights about the business, share best practices, and even give feedback on research methods. Genealogy conferences and workshops are also excellent venues to meet fellow professionals and learn about the latest trends and technology in the industry.

The length of on-the-job training to become a professional genealogist may vary depending on the individual’s previous experience and the amount of time they can dedicate to learning on the job. Some may take a few months, while others may require several years before they can establish themselves as successful genealogists.

However, it’s essential to recognize that on-the-job training is not a substitute for formal education and accreditation. Genealogists who receive a degree or complete a certification program generally have an advantage over those who merely rely on on-the-job training. A degree or certification demonstrates commitment, knowledge, and professionalism in genealogy and can help open doors to more job opportunities.

In summary, on-the-job training can be a viable way to become a genealogist, especially for those who want to work independently. On-the-job training may involve acquiring business and research skills, learning from experienced professionals, and networking. However, individuals may want to consider augmenting their on-the-job training with formal education and certification to enhance their credibility and professionalism in the field.

How much time does it take to build a successful genealogy practice?

Successful genealogy practice

If you have an interest in genealogy and you want to make a living from it, you may be wondering how to become a genealogist and how long it will take to establish and grow a successful genealogy practice. There is no one answer that suits everyone, as it largely depends on a number of factors – your background, your experience, your network and the kind of services you plan to offer. However, as a rule of thumb, it can take several years to build a thriving genealogy business, and it requires ongoing effort and commitment.

1. Education and training

Education and training

The first step towards becoming a professional genealogist is to educate yourself about the field and develop the necessary skills. While a degree in genealogy or a related field may be helpful, it’s not always necessary. Many genealogists are self-taught or have taken courses online or in person to learn the basics of research, documentation, analysis, and reporting. Depending on your level of interest and your career goals, you may spend a few months to a few years getting the education and training you need to become a competent genealogist.

2. Building a portfolio of work

Building a portfolio of work

Once you have developed your research skills and knowledge, you need to start building a portfolio of work that showcases your expertise and demonstrates your ability to deliver quality genealogy services. This may include doing pro bono work to gain experience and exposure, offering discounted services to attract clients, or volunteering with genealogy societies or organizations to build relationships and hone your skills. Depending on your level of commitment and availability, it may take several months or years to build a portfolio of work that can attract paying clients.

3. Establishing a network

Establishing a network

Networking is an essential part of building a successful genealogy practice. You need to establish and maintain relationships with other genealogists, archivists, librarians, researchers, and professionals who can help you find clients, refer work, and collaborate on projects. This may involve attending genealogy conferences and events, joining online and offline genealogy communities, and participating in social media groups. Depending on your availability and engagement, it may take several months or years to establish a network that can generate a steady stream of business.

4. Marketing and branding

Marketing and branding

Once you have the skills, portfolio, and network in place, you need to market yourself and your services to potential clients. This involves developing a strong brand identity that reflects your values, expertise, and personality, and communicating it effectively through your website, blog, social media, business cards, and other marketing materials. Depending on your design skills and marketing budget, it may take several months or years to create a compelling brand image that grabs the attention of your target audience.

5. Scaling and diversifying your business

Scaling and diversifying your business

As your genealogy practice grows, you may want to scale and diversify your business to generate more revenue and serve more clients. This may involve adding new services such as DNA testing, forensic genealogy, or archival research, or expanding into new markets such as corporate clients, genealogy tourism, or genealogy education. Depending on your resources, expertise, and market demand, it may take several years or more to scale and diversify your business successfully.

In summary, the time it takes to build a successful genealogy practice can range from a few months to several years, depending on your level of education, skills, experience, networking, branding, and business strategy. The key is to be patient, persistent, and passionate about genealogy, and to keep learning, growing, and adapting to the evolving needs and opportunities in the field. With dedication and hard work, you can turn your passion for genealogy into a rewarding and fulfilling career.

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