Education the key to high RM salaries

Education the key to high RM salaries

Record managers are in demand, but disparities in pay are noticeable.

By Siobhan Chapman

The records management industry is booming. Demand for workers and the average salary have both increased in the past 12 months, a recent survey conducted within the sector has revealed.

In addition, the industry playing field is becoming level, with the gender split of undergraduates equalising over the past few years.

The Privacy Act, the recent alleged British American Tobacco shredding and Andersen’s destruction of Enron documents have put a spotlight on records and knowledge management. This highly specialised area has become increasingly mainstream as these events focused our attention on the importance of having legitimate records management policies in place.

The 2002 Records Management Salary Survey, conducted by information recruitment specialists The One Umbrella Group, concluded that this trend places records management (RM) services in demand.

However, whilst experience is still the key attractor for prospective employers looking to hire RM professionals, the survey revealed that educational qualifications are becoming more prevalent in the RM industry. 57 per cent of respondents said they hold a record or information qualification. This compares to a mere third of the sector from the previous survey, conducted in 2000.

In the 2002 survey, 23 per cent of respondents claimed to hold a TAFE level records or information qualification, 11 per cent hold a university level records or information qualification, with this figure including six per cent who have a qualification at postgraduate level and above.

Marion Nicolson, One Umbrella Group managing director, said the results highlighted a greater demand for RM qualifications.

”There’s certainly an increased focus on RM qualifications. The issue is the availability of professionally recognised courses. As a result, RM is a unique professional sector in that experience and expertise with hands on RM activities and software programs is still of primary importance for success in the field,” she said. ”The increasing value placed on formal RM qualifications will drive the provision of courses to meet the demand,” she added.

Qualifications can also significantly drive up the salary for a RM professional, according to the survey results.

”The highest paid records managers have University or TAFE level RM/information management qualifications. The median salary for respondents with a postgraduate qualification is $55,000 compared with a median salary of $36,000 for respondents with no records management qualification - a difference of 53 per cent,” Ms Nicolson said.A growing need for qualifications has also inspired tertiary institutions to introduce records management streams.

In order to meet an increased demand for knowledge management workers, both from prospective students and employers, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) is revamping its Bachelor of Business and Information Management course to incorporate a knowledge management component. The course has been taken off the program next year to be reworked, and will be reintroduced in 2004 as Bachelor of Business, Information and Knowledge Management.

Henric Beiers, program co-ordinator for Bachelor of Business and Information Management at RMIT, said the course is designed to straddle the two worlds of traditional librarianship and archiving practices with information technology.

Mr Beiers said the need for KM workers has grown in the private sector. Last year, a head hunter from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu who worked in the KM sector interviewed students in the course, and employed a graduate. The head hunter was so impressed with the student that he said he intended to poach more RMIT students. This highlighted the growing popularity of KM within the private sector, according to Mr Beiers.

The Bachelor of Business and Information Management course attracts a balanced mix of undergraduates, enticing both high school graduates and mature age students with some background in the field of librarianship.

Nowadays there is a 50-50 split of male and female students enrolled. Mr Beiers said this was a significant change from the gender split in the early days, back when the course bore the name Bachelor of Social Science in Librarianship, when almost 75 per cent of the students were female.

Dr Trish Milne, program director of library information studies at the University of Canberra, agreed that demand was growing, particularly in the private sector.The Masters of Knowledge Management at University of Canberra is an online course that can take up to four years to complete. Dr Milne, who is program convenor for the Masters program, said the majority of students in the course are already working in middle management from a wide range of different industry sectors across Australia. These students have recognised the importance of knowledge management within their organisations.

”KM is increasingly important to many businesses in any sector. Our students work in a wide variety of areas. Many come from big organisations that are in the middle of implementing a KM project. Some of these students have been dumped in the position of having to work on KM practices and need the skills,” Dr Milne said.

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