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The information needs of governments, institutions, business and individuals can only be satisfied if they can be matched to the available resources, and those resources then be made accessible to the potential users. The quantity and complexity of information, and of the systems and services through which it can be provided, have grown in tandem with the growth of our information needs and our dependence upon effective provision. It's this growth that demands more people to begin an information management graduate career.

Information is obtained, sorted and manipulated in many ways and for many purposes (political, business, personal, historical etc) and many fields. Careers within information management (IM) possess a number of common traits. The context of these roles may differ but all are involved with managing information to make it accessible to certain groups. The end result is the same; a service to ease the time constraints on those searching for specific information.

There are three strands of information that can be identified. These all interlock but are essentially different. These might be might defined as:

  • public information
  • personal information
  • private information

There are also similarly interwoven aspects of information storage and provision. These are: 

  • information sources
  • information networks and systems
  • information agencies

The distinction between them is critical to understanding the role of today's information professional.

Public information is information which is intended to be in the public domain. This is information which is intended to be publicly available within the normal constraints of law and commerce. Public domain information - collected, analysed and prepared for use - takes many forms. The most common example is that of a conventionally published and printed book. However, statistical information assembled by the Government, for example, is available through various publications, printed, photographic and electronic, and, in some cases, also through online systems. Some of it is free of charge; the most spectacular growth of such information is on the Internet, while some (such as online access to certain databases or some Government publications) is very expensive to obtain.

Private information is information which is not intended for public circulation, having been assembled to satisfy some private purpose. The distinction between private and personal information is essentially that it is information relating to institutions, organisations, companies and groups, on the one hand, and on the other hand, information relating to identifiable individuals.

Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to anything coming from the human intellect (e.g. ideas, the arts, inventions) which is administered through and protected in legislation (national and international), also copyrights, trademarks, patents etc. 

A patent is a grant by the state of a limited term of right to exploit an invention. The invention must be technical and practical rather than purely intellectual. New mechanical, electrical optical devices etc, and new chemical compounds and formulations can be protected by patents. Some who invents any of these can (provided they do so before the invention has received any publicity) ask the Government Patent Office to grant them a patent.

A trade mark (sometimes known as a brand name or trade name) is a word or logo which a company applies to its products so as to identify them to potential purchasers as being from a particular trade source. A service mark is similar but applies to the provision of services (for example Estate Agency, Banking or Accountancy) rather than products. 

The trade marks and service marks used by a company are not necessarily the same as the name of the company itself, although they can be. The company name is the name by which the company is legally known, whereas its trade marks and service marks are the words or logos it has chosen to identify its products and services.

A patent attorney (or agent) is someone who is skilled in patent and other intellectual property matters and has passed the relevant qualifying examinations. Patent attorneys work in either patent departments or large industrial, in private firms or patent agents, or in specific Government departments. Their work involves obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights, so that trade marks and patents have protection under UK, European and International law.

For some years now, intellectual property has grown in importance on the global and commercial stage. The development of this sector has been more marked in English-speaking countries, but is now catching up in continental Europe, with many attempts being made within the European Union at consolidating IP legislation. Counterfeiting and parallel importing activities have also contributed to the rise in the importance of suitably protected IP assets.

Average Information Management Graduate Salary

Information Management Graduate Career Path

Information sources are the essential basis upon which all information provision rests. For much of the last 500 years, this has primarily meant printed sources and the spoken word. In the last hundred years, the development of new media for the storage and dissemination of information products has multiplied the variety of sources, and has been a factor in greatly increasing their number.

Information networks and systems are the means by which information is stored and disseminated. Both terms are now usually associated with the use of computers, but their applications can usefully be extended to other methods of storage and dissemination. In the library world, for example, the word 'network' has long been used to describe a group of libraries which collaborate or interact with one other for some purpose such as inter-lending or other cooperative activities intended to benefit their clients. The basic concept of the network is that or providing a communications link, regardless of the form which that link might take.

Such networks are essential in the provision of information, since no individual provider or agency (an institution or organisation) can be in possession of all the information which might be required by clients. It is only through networks which link providers with each other, and with the sources to which each has access, that clients can be fully and effectively served. The mechanism that facilitates this is most easily described as an information system. This might indeed be a complex computer-based system, it might be a very simple local agreements about library cooperation or it might be informal personal contacts. In essence, however, they are the same, all exist to anticipate specific demand in the hope that such as demand can, through their operation, be more effectively met.

If you are aiming for an information management graduate career, you will be at the heart of a profession that is vital in today's economy. You can aim to head up information departments, manage projects, rise through local government, become a consultant or even become the Director of an information service at a law firm. You will have the opportunity to make a difference in the community, in law, in education. 

Doctors and nurses need to know the latest medical findings. Children and teachers need support for the National Curriculum. Lawyers have to be informed about case law, businesses have to gain access to information on international trade agreements, the general public want to know what’s the best read, Parliament needs facts to debate properly, and the Government has to know what’s going on. The role of the information professional can take on a broad range of challenges.

With a university degree in Information Management or Information Science you will be equipped to develop your career in jobs which include the management and dissemination of information of various types and in jobs at the 'user-system interface'; your understanding of information, the human user and the organisational environment. This combined with your appreciation of systems and technology, enables you to bridge the gaps between the user and the information system. Such careers are found in banks, consultancies, pharmaceutical and other industries, central and local government, the education and health sectors, and so on. Some graduates prefer to continue in a research career as a student or research assistant.

For those who have gained experience in information work there is the opportunity to become self-employed or undertake specific projects (as a consultant or broker). The projects could range from finding specific information for clients, undertaking contract-based indexing, abstracting or records management projects.

The field of information management can cover a range of varied careers. The most obvious include publishers, librarians and archivists. There are, however, many other roles associated with information, for example: information officer, information specialist, information adviser, information resource coordinator, information development worker, knowledge management officer, knowledge assistant, knowledge point consultant, management information systems officer, systems analyst, data analyst/adviser, junior software engineer, web projects manager, distance learning services coordinator, researcher, junior researcher and research assistant.

Generally graduates involved in this sector are employed at various stages of information processing from production to storage and retrieval to dissemination. Many hours can be spent gathering information and it can be from internal and external sources and in any format. Career progression varies according to what sort of job you go into so you should do your research before you apply. Graduate salaries tend to start off quite low but this can be counter balanced by gaining extra responsibility for vast amounts of information or knowledge and also funding can be obtained in order to gain professional qualifications.

Broadly speaking a patent attorney assists his or her clients or employers (some firms have so much patent and other intellectual property work that they employ their own specialists) to secure effective protection for their innovations and developments, and advise on the intellectual property rights of others.

You will have to undergo further training in order to qualify fully as a patent attorney. The training is for the most part in the form of on-the-job training. Usually this will involve working for one or more fully qualified patent attorneys, in conjunction with taking exams. There are two qualifications, which are usually required in order to function fully as patent attorney in the UK. These are set by the CIPA and the EPO (European Patent Office). In addition, many patent attorneys also handle trade mark work and so may also benefit from becoming qualified in this area.

Each qualification requires you to sit a number of exams. The minimum length of time required to become qualified is two years, although it can often take longer. Typically is takes four to six years to qualify in the UK in order to become a Registered Patent Agent.

Patent attorneys are in greater demand than ever before, with salaries increasing accordingly. In private practice, most attorneys are paid a salary with participation in a performance-orientated bonus scheme relating to chargeable hours, until they become Partners, when they add a share in their firm's profits to their salaries. In industry, salaries tend to be lower, but are only a part of the remuneration packages - with car, pension, life insurance health scheme, share option scheme, all usual benefits, along with 'signing-in' premiums in some cases. By the time you qualify, you can expect upwards of £50,000 and if you make Partner six-figures packages and above are common.

Another key role within the patents professional is that of a patent administrator. Because patent agents are involved in obtaining patents for clients in all countries of the world, there are many different requirements and deadlines which must be met in order to satisfy relevant Patent Offices around the world. The patent administrator is responsible, among other things, for dealing with the meeting of the requirements and ensuring that deadlines are adhered to.

Qualifications and Skills Needed

What proportion of candidates as a percent we place into Information Management graduate careers and the typical qualities graduate employers look for.

GRB Placements for Information Management by Degree

Typical Candidate Attributes

Those considering moving careers from another sector, may find that their experience and transferable skills are sufficient to land them a job within the industry. Positions involving manipulation of computerised information may require a qualification in computer science. Indexing or database production may require relevant qualifications to that area. 

Organisational skills are important in order to manage the wide variety of information resources found in today's libraries, information and knowledge centres. Maintaining logical and disciplined procedures will help you and others save time. Knowledge of a second European language can also be an advantage.

Information professionals need to be able to work well under pressure, and be able to use the Internet and other electronic media to retrieve, manipulate and store information. Inter-personal skills are also vital, as information needs to be communicated as accurately and effectively as possible, irrespective of format. Virtually without exception information professionals are required to be pro-active, often marketing their service to colleagues and fee-paying customers. This is not a career move for the shy and retiring with many graduates having to demonstrate their diplomacy, patience and clarity skills. As with most occupations today an understanding of IT will be essential. 

Generally to get a job in this sector a degree course such as English, History, Politics, Library Studies, Business or any Social Science would be considered. In most cases it is necessary to have a 2:1 in a degree in a science or engineering subject from a recognised university to become a patent agent/attorney. It is necessary to have this scientific background in order to be able to think logically about and gain an understanding of a client's invention, even if it relates to the subject-matter which is initially unfamiliar to you. The patent professional can thus be viewed as a hybrid profession lying somewhere between science/engineering and law. This is one of the aspects which makes it such an interesting career.

As well as the skills and qualifications mentioned above, it is also necessary to have good communication skills, both oral and written. As a patent agent it is necessary to be able to communicate effectively with people at all levels within an organisation, as well as having varying levels of understanding about patents in general. One of the main skills of a patent agent is to be able to understand completely an inventor's new invention through discussions with the inventor and/or through reading written details of the invention, and then to draft a patent specification. This process requires, in addition to good communication skills, an ability to get to the heart of a new invention.

One way to get a job as trainee patent agent is to apply with a CV and cover letter on a speculative basis to potential employers. Depending on the subject you have studied at university, there may be particular companies to which you would be specifically suited, and you could start off targeting those companies. Alternatively you may wish to decide whether you would prefer to work in an industrial patents department or in a private practice firm of patent agents.

Sources for Further Information

Chartered Institute of Patent Agents
Intellectual Property Office
Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys
Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals
National Centre for Social Research
Society of Indexers
Society of Archivists