Put your communication, analytical and organisation skills to the test as you start your career in records management

As a records manager you're responsible for the effective and appropriate management of an organisation's records from their creation, right through to their eventual disposal.

You'll provide access to accurate records for a range of operational and strategic purposes and ensure that legal obligations are met. This includes controlling the number of records created and stored, and identifying which records are to be preserved for historical and research purposes and which should be destroyed.

Records management is often closely related to knowledge and information management, as well as information compliance (data protection and freedom of information). Some jobs will be an amalgamation of these roles.

Responsibilities

As a records manager, you'll need to:

  • oversee the management of electronic and/or paper-based information
  • identify the most appropriate records management resources
  • design and develop filing systems, business classification schemes and undertake records surveys
  • set up and review documenting records systems
  • establish retention and disposal schedules
  • advise on new records management policies, providing a framework to guide your staff in the management of their records and use of the employer's records system
  • standardise information sources throughout an organisation or group of organisations
  • manage the changeover from paper to electronic records management systems
  • respond to information enquiries, giving appropriate access to information
  • ensure compliance with relevant legislation and regulations
  • advise on complex legal and regulatory issues, often involving judgements in areas such as the Freedom of Information Act and other national or regional legislation
  • preserve corporate memory and heritage
  • manage budgets and resources
  • train and supervise records staff.

Salary

  • The Archives and Records Association (ARA) recommends that the minimum starting salary for recently qualified records managers, archivists and archive conservators is £22,443.
  • With experience, you can expect to earn in the region of £25,000 to £45,000.
  • Salaries at senior level can rise to in excess of £55,000.

Salaries with local authorities, central government, the NHS and universities usually follow a pay scale.

Salaries vary depending on a range of factors including the sector you work in, your location and experience. See the annual TFPL and Sue Hill Knowledge & Information Management Salary Survey for a breakdown of records manager salaries between sectors.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with the potential for some extra hours depending on your workload.

Freelance and consultancy work is possible, particularly for short-term projects.

What to expect

  • Records management may form the whole or only part of your job along with other information-related activities, such as knowledge and information management, data protection, freedom of information and information governance.
  • The work is mostly office-based and, depending on the role, you may have regular contact with other staff or do mostly solitary, computer-based work. With the increased use of electronic document and record management systems (EDRMS), you're likely to be involved in a lot of IT-based work.
  • Most opportunities exist in large towns and cities.
  • Records management is often project-based and involves working to specific deadlines.
  • There are some opportunities for senior professionals to become self-employed, working for several clients, or to join a large management consultancy or specialist agency.

Qualifications

You'll usually need a first degree followed by a postgraduate qualification accredited by the ARA.

The subject of your first degree isn't particularly relevant, and records managers come from a range of backgrounds, including archives management, financial and retail management, scientific research and the civil service.

Competition for places on a postgraduate course is fierce and you'll normally need a good honours degree and previous work experience. Courses lead to a nine-month postgraduate diploma, the minimum requirement for employment as a professional records manager, or a full one-year Masters degree on completion of a dissertation.

Most courses are combined archives and records management programmes. Part-time and distance learning options are available at some institutions. For a full list of accredited courses, see Careers in Records Management.

You can apply for a position at records assistant (paraprofessional) level without a postgraduate qualification. Posts are available in most records management services and it may be possible to complete further study in-service or after a period of employment.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • strong communication skills to deal with senior colleagues, suppliers and contractors
  • negotiation skills to persuade senior colleagues to follow agreed record storing guidelines
  • problem-solving and analytical skills to develop an understanding of how your organisation works and build integrated records systems
  • good project management and organisational skills
  • a good grasp of new technology and adapting to new IT packages and systems
  • an awareness of information management principles and familiarity with information systems and archives
  • attention to detail
  • flexibility to get involved in all aspects of information provision.

Up-to-date knowledge of data protection and freedom of information legislation is also important.

Work experience

You'll need to have good quality voluntary or paid work experience in a records management environment to get a place on a postgraduate course. Search ARA Placement Opportunities for a list of organisations offering placements. Make contacts wherever you can.

Records assistant positions are advertised in the local and national press. It may also be worth contacting organisations speculatively close to where you live. Many of the archives services listed on The National Archives – Find an archive will have a records management section that you can approach. In general, larger local government and university records management departments are likely to have opportunities.

Student membership of a relevant professional body, such as ARA or the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS), is useful. Benefits include discounts on training and networking opportunities.

Employers

You're likely to work in a large company or organisation that needs support with the management of their range of records and records systems. Typical employers include:

  • central and local government
  • public institutions such as the BBC, The National Archives, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and The British Library
  • academic institutions
  • the banking and financial sector
  • the retail sector
  • legal firms
  • hospitals
  • the corporate sector, including multinational companies in major industries such as pharmaceuticals
  • museums and galleries
  • charitable organisations.

Although there's competition for jobs, The Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts have created more demand for qualified records managers. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which supersedes the Data Protection Acts, may also have an effect on the number of jobs available.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies such as Sue Hill Recruitment and TFPL also advertise vacancies.

Professional development

Once qualified, you're encouraged to continue your professional development in order to develop your skills, build up your professional knowledge and establish a network of contacts.

Your employer will usually provide training on in-house systems and procedures. They may also pay for external training and distance learning courses, including postgraduate professional qualifications, if you don't already have one. Training in the form of workshops, seminars, conferences, mentoring and specific CPD schemes is provided through organisations such as:

Members of IRMS with five years' experience in the profession, or three years and a recognised professional qualification, can apply for IRMS Accreditation which entitles you to use the the post-nominal letters AMIRMS. To apply, you'll need to submit either a written application or a shorter summary application and an oral interview. Once you have a minimum of ten years' experience, you're eligible to apply for Fellowship (FIRMS).

ARA offers a professional development programme through which you can qualify as a Foundation (FMARA), Registered (RMARA) or Fellow (FARA) member of the ARA, depending on your qualifications and experience. It's based around a framework of competencies and to qualify you'll need to submit a portfolio of evidence showing how you meet the required standard for each level of membership (and professional qualification) you apply for.

Career prospects

You may start as a records management assistant before moving into a records management role. In larger organisations, such as government or universities, there may be a team of records management staff and a career structure in place, for example, records manager, senior records manager and head of records (or information and records) management. In more senior positions, you're likely to lead a team of records management staff, develop strategy and coordinate policy developments.

In smaller organisations, however, records management teams are often small and records manager may be the most senior position. You may need to be flexible and willing to relocate if you're looking for promotion. Progress will often depend on developing your own route based on your interests and experience.

IRMS Accreditation and professional membership of ARA can help progress your career as it shows that you have the highest standards of professionalism, your skills, experience and knowledge are up to date and that you're committed to the profession.

As your career grows, you may develop a specialist interest or broaden your skills and expand your career across archiving and archive conservation. Other related areas of work include genealogy and historical research.

There are also some opportunities for consultancy work (usually senior professionals) and to work on a freelance basis with organisations that require short-term support in records management.