Records assistants are employed by a variety of organisations including local and central government, universities, large companies, banks and other financial institutions, museums, galleries and charities.
Every day, organisations of all kinds generate huge numbers of documents. Many of these are now in electronic form, for example emails and websites. Others are still in paper format.
Documents, and other records such as films and photographs, need to be kept, organised and stored as a record of the organisation’s activities.
The work of a records assistant
Records assistants work under the supervision of a records manager. They help with the day-to-day running of an organisation’s records department.
Records assistants need to be confident communicators, with good IT skills.
Key tasks include:
- looking after and organising filing and storage systems
- classifying and indexing documents
- dealing with requests from users
- finding the files, documents and other resources that users require
- making sure all records are kept safe and secure
- complying with legal requirements, particularly the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts
- destroying records when they are no longer needed.
The records profession is growing, partly as a result of legal requirements such as the Freedom of Information Act, partly because of the exponential growth of electronic information.
Becoming a records assistant
Records assistants need to be confident communicators, with good IT skills. There are no set entry requirements and it is possible to enter this type of work from a variety of backgrounds.
However, many posts are filled by graduates who are either:
- gaining relevant work experience before applying for postgraduate courses in records management
- working and studying part-time, often by distance learning, for postgraduate qualifications in records management.
There are Apprenticeships in Libraries, Archives, Records and Information Services, at Level 2 (intermediate) or Level 3 (advanced). For vacancies, check the Apprenticeships website or contact local colleges.
Qualifications for a records assistant
EDI offers a level 2 certificate and a level 3 diploma in libraries, archives, records and information management services, which are relevant to records assistants. CLIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) certification offers another means of gaining a recognised qualification.
University of Liverpool Centre for Archive Studies LUCAS offers online courses leading to a Diploma or Certificate in Professional Studies: Archives and Records Management or Records and Information Management for the Public Sector. These are undergraduate level courses, aimed at people who are working in archives or records management. They don’t lead to a full professional qualification, but provide opportunities for career development.
Building a career in records management
An assistant aiming to become a records manager would be well advised to study for a degree and postgraduate qualification, although this is not always essential. It is possible to qualify by part-time study or by distance learning.
Readiness to move to a different employer, possibly in another part of the country, is likely to improve promotion prospects.