If you have good IT and research skills and enjoy helping people, this could be the career for you

As an information officer you'll manage and develop information to make it easily accessible to others. You'll work with electronic information, especially online databases, content management systems, open access and digital resources, as well as traditional library materials.

Job titles vary so you need to look beyond the title to the actual work you'd be doing. For example you could be called:

  • information adviser;
  • information manager;
  • information scientist;
  • information specialist.

Types of information officer

You will play a key role in a range of organisations and handle all types of information, including:

  • careers;
  • commercial;
  • educational;
  • financial;
  • health;
  • legal;
  • medical;
  • scientific;
  • technical.

Responsibilities

As an information officer you'll need to:

  • select, manage and source information resources - both hard copy and electronic - to meet your employer's or your client's needs;
  • classify, collate and store information, usually using special computer applications, for easy access and retrieval;
  • create and search databases;
  • catalogue and index materials;
  • scan and abstract materials;
  • conduct information audits;
  • develop and manage electronic resources using, for example, online databases and content management systems;
  • write and edit reports, publications and website content;
  • develop and manage internal information resources and networks via intranet sites;
  • design for the web;
  • oversee the development of new information systems;
  • respond to enquirers' requests using electronic and printed resources;
  • run effective enquiry and current awareness or 'alerting' services and develop communications strategies;
  • provide user education via leaflets, websites and tours of the library or information room;
  • publicise and market services, through publicity material, demonstrations, presentations and/or social media;
  • provide training and advice to colleagues, and sometimes clients, on the use of electronic information services.

Salary

  • Typical salaries for those starting out, at paraprofessional level, are around £17,000 to £21,000.
  • Once qualified, salaries can range from £21,000 to £28,000.
  • With the right combination of qualifications and experience you can earn £26,000 to £45,000+. Salaries for those working in London are usually higher.

Salaries vary between sectors and tend to be higher in certain areas such as academia and financial services. In areas such as academia and local government salaries follow a grading structure.

Pay guides and scales for some sectors, including government, law and health, are available from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and Sue Hill Recruitment.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm, but you may need to work evenings and weekends in some instances, for example if working in a library environment.

Career breaks and part-time work are possible.

What to expect

  • The work tends to be office based and you will spend a lot of time working at a computer. You may also spend time working with other staff and users.
  • You may need subject-specific knowledge to work in some sectors, e.g. legal and medical.
  • Jobs are widely available in most towns and cities, particularly London, with fewer jobs in smaller towns and rural areas.
  • With significant professional experience you can become self-employed or work on a freelance basis.
  • It's unlikely you'll need to travel, except to attend conferences and training.

Qualifications

You'll generally need a library and information qualification accredited by the CILIP to work as an information officer. This is usually a postgraduate specialist qualification, with options to study full time, part time or by distance learning. Search the list of CILIP accredited qualifications for universities offering relevant Masters courses.

There are also a small number of accredited undergraduate degrees available, generally aimed at staff already working as paraprofessionals.

For jobs in the health, law and science sectors, you may need relevant subject knowledge, so a first degree in these areas is particularly useful.

Some posts also require CILIP Chartered Membership.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
  • IT skills in order to create and search databases, design for the web, manage the content of internets and intranets, etc;
  • well-developed research skills;
  • attention to detail;
  • flexibility to take on 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 and commercial awareness;
  • confidence and assertiveness;
  • teamworking skills;
  • a willingness to keep up to date with advances in technology and social media.

Work experience

Entry on to an accredited postgraduate library/information management course is competitive and you will often need to have at least one year's experience in a library and/or information role to get a place.

Many employers offer paid fixed-term appointments for one year, which are designed to provide this experience. Search CILIP Graduate Training Jobs for opportunities. Some specialist recruitment agencies also offer vacancies for these posts.

It's also possible to build up experience through voluntary work.

Employers

Typical employers include:

  • 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 colleges and universities;
  • third sector and voluntary organisations including charities, pressure groups, political parties and church organisations;
  • industrial organisations, including manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies;
  • government departments and agencies;
  • prisons;
  • healthcare organisations.

Developing your expertise and contacts can bring opportunities for freelance work as an information consultant or trainer.

Look for job vacancies at:

  • CILIP Graduate Training Jobs - for jobs aimed at graduates from non-library and information disciplines and who have no or little library and information work experience.
  • Jobs.ac.uk - for jobs in research science, academic and related professions.
  • Lisjobnet

Vacancies are also handled by specialist recruitment agencies, such as:

Professional development

Once qualified and working as an information officer, you're encouraged to undertake professional registration and become chartered with the CILIP. This is a great way to gain formal recognition of your skills and knowledge. Chartered membership of CILIP entitles you to use the letters MCLIP after your name.

To achieve chartership, you'll need to need to do a range of continuing professional development (CPD) activities and submit a 1,000 word portfolio. Relevant activities include taking short courses, getting involved in specialist information groups and attending conferences and seminars on a range of information-related topics. These activities are provided by organisations such as CILIP and the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS). There are also opportunities to study for a PhD.

Many employers will also arrange training in the use of specialist databases, IT systems and resources used in your workplace.

Once you've achieved chartered membership and hold a senior position or have made a significant contribution to information work, you can work towards fellowship of CILIP, the highest level of professional registration.

Career prospects

As many information departments are small, you're likely to get a lot of responsibility early on in your career. The typical career path is to progress from information officer to information manager (managing collections or people) and then on to a more senior management role involving the strategic development of a service.

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, as many information units aren't large enough to offer a clear structure for promotion, or even a great variety of roles.

Some information officers move 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.

Once you've reached a senior strategic position, you can find freelance work as a consultant, either independently or as part of a consultancy practice. Training roles are also available (both permanent and contract roles), for example when information staff need training on a particular product.