Information officers manage and develop the procurement, supply and distribution of information for an organisation or client to support their needs and objectives. They work with electronic information, especially online databases, content management systems and internet resources, as well as traditional library materials.
Services may be provided internally and/or externally and the role may involve managing and exploiting internally produced information as well as sourcing and providing materials from outside organisations.
Job titles vary, so it's important to look beyond the title to the actual work involved in the role. Related roles include: information specialist; internet librarian; careers information officer; information scientist; knowledge assistant; information manager.
Information officers play a key role in a wide range of organisations and handle all types of information, including:
Information officers are concerned with managing information to make it easily accessible. Work activities vary, depending on the needs of the organisation or client, but typically include:
- selecting, managing and acquiring resources - both hard copy and electronic - to meet an organisation's current and anticipated needs;
- classifying, collating and storing information, usually using special computer applications, for easy access and retrieval;
- creating and searching databases;
- cataloguing and indexing materials;
- scanning and abstracting materials;
- conducting information audits;
- developing and managing electronic resources using, for example, online databases and content management systems;
- writing and editing reports, publications and website content;
- developing and managing internal information resources and networks via intranet sites;
- designing for the web;
- overseeing the development of new information systems;
- responding to enquirers' requests using electronic and printed resources;
- running effective enquiry and current awareness or 'alerting' services and developing communications strategies;
- providing user education via leaflets, websites and tours of the library/information room;
- publicising and marketing services, internally and externally, through publicity material, demonstrations, presentations and/or social media;
- providing training and advice to colleagues and sometimes clients on the use of electronic information services; managing a range of projects;
- developing and exploiting multimedia information;
- giving presentations and individual consultations.
Staff may also be involved in:
- supervising and training other information staff;
- budget management.
- Typical salaries for those starting out, at paraprofessional level, are around £17,000 to £21,000.
- Salaries for newly qualified staff with up to 2 years' experience are in the region of £21,000 to £28,000.
- The range of typical salaries at chartered or senior level/with experience is £26,000 to £45,000. Senior posts attract salaries of £50,000+.
The highest salaries tend to be achieved in private sector companies, particularly in the legal and financial sectors, in government and, occasionally, in consultancy. Salaries improve with increased experience and responsibilities, as well as with qualifications held. Salary guides and scales for some sectors, including government, law and health, are available from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm, but this depends on the needs of the organisation you work in. For example, information officers in investment banks may work shifts so they can liaise with financial markets and different time zones.
What to expect
- The work tends to be office based and more time is spent dealing with users or staff than working alone.
- The work environment varies depending on the organisation. The culture and values of the organisation will affect the position, resourcing and status of its information units.
- Self-employment/freelance work is possible for those with significant professional experience. Expertise and contacts can bring opportunities for freelance work as an information consultant or trainer.
- Career breaks and part-time or freelance work are possible for qualified information professionals.
- Men are currently underrepresented in this profession.
- Jobs are fairly widely available in most towns and cities, particularly London, with fewer jobs in smaller towns and rural areas.
- Management responsibilities, working to tight deadlines, and constant availability to users may be stressful.
- Travel within a working day or absence from home overnight are uncommon, though occasionally required for training or to meet with professional colleagues.
- Overseas work or travel is uncommon.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in library and information management or information science may improve your chances.
However, in posts where specific subject knowledge is useful like information services provided in scientific or technical contexts, some employers prefer a degree in that subject, followed by a postgraduate qualification in library studies/information management.
Posts also exist where a humanities, social sciences or arts degree might be especially useful.
Most employers require a degree or specialist postgraduate qualification accredited by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). You'll see that, as well as full-time study, it's possible to take postgraduate courses on a part-time basis or by distance learning.
It's difficult to progress without relevant qualifications. A vocational postgraduate qualification at diploma or MA/MSc level is highly desirable, unless your first degree is in information or library management. Search for postgraduate courses in library and information management.
Some financial help may be available for postgraduate information and library management courses from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), but competition is keen, so apply early. See the CILIP website for more information on possible sources of financial assistance.
Postgraduate library/information management courses may require some pre-entry work experience, usually at least one year. Many employers offer fixed-term appointments for one year, which are designed to provide relevant pre-entry experience. For further details, see CILIP Graduate Training Opportunities. Some specialist recruitment agencies also offer vacancies for these posts.
Some posts also require CILIP Chartered Membership. These are more often in the public sector.
You will need to have:
- excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
- IT skills, above and beyond the usual familiarity with packages, to create and search databases, design for the web, manage the content of internets and intranets, etc;
- research skills;
- the ability to work accurately with attention to detail;
- flexibility - in order to undertake a variety of tasks ranging from managing a unit by yourself to opening the post or unpacking boxes;
- organisation and time management skills - to organise resources as well as your own time and, as you progress professionally, the time of others;
- initiative and a creative approach to problem solving;
- customer service skills;
- confidence and assertiveness;
- teamworking and networking skills;
- the ability to develop the information literacy of users;
- specialised subject knowledge in the sector you wish to work in;
- a willingness to keep up to date with advances in technology and social media.
Information officers work in a variety of organisations, including:
- commercial organisations, including banks and other financial institutions, insurance companies, advertising agencies, media companies and management consultancies;
- professional practices, including architects, law firms, accountants and trade and research institutions;
- professional associations and learned societies;
- schools, further education (FE) and higher education (HE) institutions;
- non-governmental, not-for-profit and voluntary organisations (charities, pressure groups, political parties, church organisations);
- industrial organisations, including manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies;
- government departments and agencies;
- healthcare organisations.
For contact details of more than 2,000 libraries and a good starting point for researching potential employers see the publication Libraries and Information Services in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
However, an approach to the headquarters of any fairly large organisation should enable you to make contact with its information unit. Visits to several of these can help you to find out first hand the variety of employment opportunities that exist in information management and perhaps even lead to invaluable work experience.
Look for job vacancies at:
- British and Irish Association of Legal Librarians (BIALL) - legal information professional jobs.
- CILIP Graduate Training Opportunities
- CILIP Update - magazine for CILIP members.
- Jobs.ac.uk - for jobs in research science, academic and related professions.
- Jobs for Info Pros
- National and local press.
Vacancies are commonly handled by specialist recruitment agencies, such as:
Chartered membership is the professional award by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Most members gain chartership two to three years after graduation. Applicants must:
- hold a CILIP-accredited library and information degree or postgraduate qualification, or CILIP Certification (ACLIP) or a non-accredited degree level qualification and substantial professional experience;
- have completed the appropriate period of professional experience and provided evidence of participation in a mentor scheme;
- have had membership of CILIP for at least a year.
Chartered membership of CILIP entitles the holder to use the letters MCLIP. It is considered the 'gold standard' for information professionals and is recognised throughout the world.
Short courses, conferences and seminars across a wide range of topics are offered by some training consultant and employers as well as professional bodies such as:
- ASLIB: The Association for Information Management
- Information and Records Management Society (IRMS)
Many employers provide or arrange for training in the use of specialist databases, IT systems and resources used in the workplace.
Masters degrees for mid-career professionals are available on a full or part-time basis, or by distance learning. Research degrees are also offered by university library and information studies departments.
The typical career path for an information officer is to information manager (managing collections or people), moving upwards to national or global management at a strategic level.
Taking on management responsibilities or specialising in particular professional areas, for example IT systems or training, are the usual routes to promotion. However, you should be prepared to move between jobs and employers to achieve this.
It's often necessary to work in a variety of posts to gain experience in a range of functions before being considered for more senior positions. Many information units aren't large enough to offer a clear structure for promotion to management positions, or even a great variety of roles.
Gaining chartered membership is sometimes required to progress beyond qualified entry level in public sector posts. This can be achieved through the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). CILIP also offers a revalidation scheme enabling members to demonstrate that they're maintaining and developing their professional skills and expertise.
Fellowship is the highest level of professional qualification awarded by CILIP and is given for a high level of achievement and personal contribution to the profession and entitles the holder to use the letters FCLIP.
Also useful and demonstrative of your commitment to your career is membership of other related professional organsiations, such as the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS).
Information officers often move sideways or diagonally for career development, perhaps into associated and support industries such as commercial online database providers, publishers and larger booksellers or library software suppliers. These roles are typically in customer support, sales, training and management positions.
Senior strategic information professionals can work as information consultants, either independently or as part of a consultancy practice. Training roles are also available (both permanent and contract roles), for example in a law firm when staff need training on a particular product such as LexisNexis.
University library and information management departments are involved in research over a broad range of specialisms in information science and management and there are some opportunities for research posts and higher degrees.