How to become a document management specialist (with skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Document management tools allow organisations to monitor and store information digitally. Many businesses rely on software and systems to make sure that all members of the organisation can easily access the documents and files they use for work. If you're interested in a career creating systems to improve a company's data security and efficiency, then becoming a document management specialist might be a perfect goal for you. In this article, we explain how to become a document management specialist, list the role's responsibilities, explore the key skills and discuss what it's like to work in document management.

What is a document management specialist?

A document management specialist, or a document manager, is an information technology (IT) professional responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining an organisation's document management systems. Currently, digital document processing is a standard for most companies and institutions. This means document managers can explore attractive work opportunities across various industries, like accounting, health care or technology. Depending on the size of the organisation, they may be the only document specialists at the company or work within a larger team of managers and technicians. Typically, a director of information services is the person to whom document managers report.

Related: What is document management? (Plus use in the workplace)

How to become a document management specialist

Learning how to become a document management specialist helps you better plan your future and set more realistic career goals. Here are the key steps to take to pursue a career in document management:

1. Obtain a degree

One of the most effective steps you can take to improve your qualifications in document management is obtaining a relevant degree. For this particular role, good courses to consider include computer science, data science, IT, business administration or other technology-related subjects. To qualify for a programme of this type, it's usually necessary to have A-levels in maths and English. In addition, more prestigious schools with higher levels of competition may also require at least one science subject.

Completing a degree adds a lot of value to your CV, as it equips you with a basic understanding of management systems and processes. Most three-year university courses related to document and data management combine lecture hall learning with practical assessments. It's also possible to enrol in a four-year programme with a one-year placement in the industry.

Related: 10 jobs you can pursue with computer degrees (salary info)

2. Gain entry-level experience

Gaining experience helps you test your skills in practice and make sure document management is what you want to do. Depending on your expectations and locations, there are various jobs you can secure to improve your qualifications. If you aspire to one day lead a team of document specialists, it may be beneficial if your first job is with a larger employer that already uses advanced document management systems. If you'd rather enter the profession slowly and have time to learn all the basics, it's good to apply for a clerical or administrative entry-level role at a smaller company.

Related: Computer science vs. IT: differences and common jobs

3. Continue expanding your knowledge

Document management, just like any technology-related field, is continuously expanding. Every couple of months or even weeks you may learn about new software or a process that improves your document management procedures. Being eager to learn, staying up-to-date with industry news and knowing how to implement new solutions effectively helps you find better solutions to an organisation's problems. It also improves your efficiency as a document manager, as some of those tools can automate specific tasks for which you're responsible.

Related: What is off-the-job training? (Plus methods and benefits)

4. Get professional certifications

To improve your professional qualifications, it's good to invest in your off-the-job training. There are various diplomas and certifications that you can obtain to improve your understanding of documentation systems, like certificates in records management or document control. Some aspiring document managers also choose to obtain an independent diploma in electronic document management systems (EDMS). What's attractive about this form of training is that it's often part-time and lasts for up to a few months, which allows you to maximise your professional potential in a relatively short time.

5. Keep networking

Networking is one of the most important parts of building a career for yourself. Document management is a highly computerised field, which means it's possible to build a strong professional network just by using online tools. This includes participating in online conferences or contacting people on professional networking websites. Another way in which you can connect with like-minded professionals is through joining online forums and social media communities.

Related: 14 of the best networking strategies and where to use them

6. Consider a postgraduate degree

Some document specialists hold MBAs or other postgraduate degrees in subjects related to document management. This makes them more competitive for positions and allows them to explore more attractive work opportunities. If you're considering going back to school, you might choose to pursue a degree with a focus on information management, data science or database management.

Skills for document management specialists to develop

As an aspiring document management specialist, it's necessary that you build a strong skill set that helps you take advantage of your analytical and organisational abilities. Here are some of the most important skills in document management:

  • Organisation: Helping businesses organise and better manage their documentation is the primary responsibility of document managers. Having strong organisation skills is necessary for this role, as it also helps them oversee the development, implementation and maintenance of several documentation systems simultaneously.

  • Attention to detail: When working with digital databases and systems, attention to detail helps with standardising document types and descriptions. It also allows professionals to avoid system errors, which might result due to inaccurate document tagging.

  • Tech-savviness: Modern document management processes rely strongly on computer networks and systems, including software applications and hardware devices, like scanners. Tech-savviness helps document managers quickly learn new systems and troubleshoot simple issues, like documentation processing errors.

  • Verbal and written communication: Document specialists regularly communicate their ideas, suggestions and observations to others, including their team and key company stakeholders. They use communication in meetings and when they're explaining new processing systems to the team.

  • Discretion and confidentiality: Document managers have admin access to most, or all, files and documents that a company stores and processes, which may include client or patent information. Being discreet helps them maintain that information confidential.

What do document managers do?

Document managers are responsible for the documents' entire lifecycle, from creation through to storage and deletion. Thanks to their work, organisations can maintain the highest quality of documentation management standards. The following are some of the primary responsibilities of document management professionals:

  • participating in meetings to assess the organisation's or project's document needs

  • collaborating with IT and document specialists to develop document storing systems

  • working with internal and external specialists to ensure the digital safety of documents

  • developing document workflow procedures

  • providing document management training to new and junior colleagues

  • auditing existing documentation processes to check for compliance

  • classifying documentation and identifying their various lifecycles

  • maintaining policies for document creation, editing, retention and deletion

  • coordinating and monitoring document delivery

Related: 9 essential contract management software and their functions

What it's like to work in document management

Most document managers and specialists have a routine work schedule, like a traditional 5-to-9 job that requires them to work from the office Monday through Friday. Due to the nature of the job, some specialists have flexible schedules, as they perform most of their tasks using a computer. This means that working from home, or any other location, is an option for them as long as they have a reliable and stable Internet connection.

Document management specialists handle tasks that require them to work both independently and in a team. Being flexible is an advantage in this profession, as they may be responsible for handling urgent software and documentation issues. On other days, they may perform mostly routine tasks, like handling document access requests or generating periodic system reports.

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