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Becoming a Professional

(Click here for .pdf version)

Are you ready to become a professional? You may be, if you can answer YES! to the following questions...

Do you have extensive experience in the genealogical specialty that you select as your profession?

Do you have the financial-management skills to be self-employed?

Do you have the time-management skills to schedule your workload, stay on task, meet deadlines, and produce results?

Do you have the written and oral communication skills necessary to negotiate contracts, convey results, and build good relationships with clients?

Do you enjoy solving problems and dealing with clients or students in a service-oriented environment?

Have you read Professional Genealogy...A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians?

Have you developed a business plan and set realistic goals?

Have you developed a marketing plan?

Have you attended regional and national genealogical conferences to learn about the genealogical specialty in which you are working?

Are you a member of the APG?

Formal Education

Modern genealogists come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Formal education will help you develop the skills you need to be successful. Many universities offer online classes for business management, technology, and other relevant skills. Additional education opportunities specific to genealogy are available through Boston University, Brigham Young University, International Society for British Genealogy and Family History, National Institute for Genealogical Studies, National Institute on Genealogical Research, Regional In-depth Genealogical Studies Alliance, Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, and the University of Washington Genealogy and Family History Certificate Program. Your local community college may have a family history program as well.


Attending national genealogical conferences such as those sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the National Genealogical Society (NGS) will boost your career dramatically. The APG hosts an annual Professional Management Conference (PMC) to help build your professional skills. Read more about the PMC.

Skill Building

Sharpen your skills and stay abreast of the industry by reading books and articles by experts. The APG Quarterly provides valuable articles and information about professional genealogy. An index to articles from past editions is available online. APG members also receive a discount on books at the online bookstore.


An excellent way to judge whether your skills are at the professional level is to explore the requirements of major genealogical testing programs. These include the Board for Certification of Genealogists at and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists at Whether or not you decide to become certified or accredited, exploring these programs will help you objectively evaluate and improve your genealogical skills.


Becoming a professional genealogist also means running your own business. It is not enough to be a good genealogist; you must also have the requisite business skills. Self-employment in genealogy can present many challenges to establishing a profitable enterprise.

Time: Billable hours determine your income, but nonbillable time is a part of every professionals workweek. Many hours are spent answering inquiries, marketing services, networking, managing finances, and attending to the details of running your business.

Expenses: Business expenses should be expected. These may include insurance (personal and liability), self-employment taxes, advertising, legal and financial counsel, office supplies and equipment, telephone, and Internet access.

Continuing Education: Professional growth aids longterm success. Courses, subscriptions, society dues, and attending conferences are all necessary, and all require money and non-billable time away from your business.

Customer Service: Balancing client satisfaction with profitability can be a significant challenge. Accepting or rejecting projects, managing client expectations, collecting fees, and building and maintaining a good reputation all require special skills in dealing with people.

Essential Business Skills

Standards of Professionalism

A professional genealogist should always produce work that meets an acceptable professional standard. Attributes that help define professionalism include:

A professional genealogist should always produce work that meets an acceptable professional standard.

A Network of Professionals

The Association of Professional Genealogists is an independent organization with nearly 2,000 members worldwide whose principal purpose is to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work.

Networking with members of the APG at conferences and through the APG online community will help you establish relationships with other professionals in your area of expertise. Working with other professionals will not only help you build your business but will also provide you with rewarding education and lasting friendships.

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