Put your communication and analytical skills to good use with a career as a records manager

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), and 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 £38,000.
  • Salaries at senior level can rise to around £55,000.

Rates of pay can vary considerably between employers and sectors.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, possibly with some extra hours, depending on the 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. However, as posts are spread in small numbers throughout the UK and Ireland, you may need to be geographically flexible.
  • Records management is often project-based and involves working to specific deadlines.

Qualifications

To become a records manager, you'll normally need a first degree followed by a postgraduate qualification recognised and 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, scientific research, financial and retail management, and the civil service.

Entry onto a postgraduate course is competitive and you 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, visit the ARA website.

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.

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

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 to use and adapt 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.

Knowledge of the data protection and freedom of information legislation is also useful.

Work experience

Competition for places on one of the postgraduate training courses is fierce and you'll need to have good quality voluntary or paid work experience in a records management environment to be successful. 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 website 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.

Employers

As a records manager 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, 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 is competition for jobs, The Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts have created more demand for qualified records managers.

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, 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:

Until the end of 2017 you can take the Archives and Records Association Registration Scheme and work towards achieving registered status. Supported by a mentor throughout, you need to submit a portfolio and other evidence of your competence. The scheme takes a minimum of three years to complete and on successful completion allows you to add the letters RMARA after your name.

From 2018 the ARA will offer members the opportunity to participate in a career-long CPD Programme. The new programme will be based around a framework of competencies and you will need to submit evidence of a range of competencies to achieve Foundation, Registration and Fellowship status. To maintain your status, you will have to revalidate every five years.

Career prospects

Records management teams are often small and the records manager may be the most senior position. A degree of flexibility and a willingness to relocate to a different area may be necessary if you're looking for promotion. However, there's no defined career path, so progress will depend on developing your own route based on your interests and experience.

Opportunities to work on a freelance basis are available with organisations without in-house specialists that require short-term support in records management. It's also possible to be self-employed, working for several clients, or to join a large management consultancy or specialist agency.

There are opportunities for consultancy work (usually senior professionals), occasionally involving overseas travel, as employers recognise the need for expertise they lack in-house. Consultants may provide services, for example to commercial data storage companies or the management consultancy section of large accountancy practices.