What Does a Documentation Specialist Do?
A company that relies heavily on documentation needs some resources to properly create, manage, and protect its business-critical paperwork. One of those crucial resources is a documentation specialist.
Despite being a straightforward job title, people often confuse the roles and responsibilities of a documentation specialist.
To provide crystal clarity, in this article, we’ll breakdown the job description of a typical documentation specialist, and sketch down a career roadmap. If you’re an aspiring candidate or a recruiter confused about a hiring decision, keep reading.
Let’s get started.
Who is a Documentation Specialist?
A documentation specialist (or simply document specialist) is a professional who works under the administration department. They are responsible for looking after the precious documents of their company, cataloguing them, and retrieving them when needed, among other things.
Document specialists can have different job titles in different companies or sectors. For instance, in the healthcare sector, where these professionals are needed the most (apart from the finance and legal industry), they’re commonly referred to as “clinical documentation specialists.”
The employment rate for this occupation is expected to go up in the years to come. While there isn’t any data specifically for the documentation specialist job title, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does project an 8% growth in demand for medical records and health information technicians (a related role) through 2029.
What Does a Documentation Specialist Do? [Typical Roles and Responsibilities]
As discussed, the roles and responsibilities of documentation specialists vary across different sectors.
Despite the surface-level differences, at the end of the day, all document specialists have similar roles.
To keep things simple, we’re going to list down and discuss their typical duties below (if you’re a recruiter, you can use the following pointers as a template and customize them according to your requirements):
Coming Up with a Long-Term Storage Strategy
A document specialist’s most important responsibility is to come up with a long-term document storage strategy for their employer, and then execute it.
Also known as a “document management strategy,” a storage strategy is a crystal clear plan that outlines where to store company documents, how to store them, and rules and policies for retrieving them.
The purpose of this strategy is to protect sensitive information, make teams more efficient, and improve accessibility to company documents for authorized personnel.
The documentation specialist takes charge of the storage strategy, which entails:
- Creating and communicating crystal-clear rules for creating, storing, and retrieving documents
- Updating the filing system (or creating one from scratch)
- Determining who gets access to which documents (along with the steps required to request access)
Of course, there may be a lot more that goes into setting up and maintaining a long-term document storage strategy depending on the organization, but you can get the gist of it all from the aforementioned points.
Managing an Archiving System
A huge part of any document strategy is figuring out an effective archiving system.
As the name suggests, documentation specialists use this system for safely storing their documents and retrieving them whenever needed.
- Using a secured database for storing the documents (the specialist may have to collaborate with an IT team for this purpose)
- Properly categorizing/cataloging the documents for ease of retrieval
- Removing documents when they become obsolete to free up space
In addition, a document specialist may also be responsible for training their employees on how to store documents (more on this later).
Creating, Updating, and Managing Documents
Taking care of the documentation process for the company is the primary responsibility of any documentation specialist.
Of course, in and of itself, that entails a lot, including, but not limited to:
- Drafting various documents for the company i.e. its employees, partners, customers, and/or any other related party
- Editing and scanning documents to ensure they are complete, free of grammatical mistakes, and consistent
- Ensuring the integrity of hard copies and maintaining electronic files
- Ensuring document control (or working with a document control specialist, if available) to restrict distribution of and access to certain documents
Additionally, a document specialist is also responsible for updating certain documents from time to time to ensure their validity.
Training Employees on Document Usage
A document specialist should know how to create, maintain, store, and manage documents.
But what about everyone else?
A specialist can make the documentation strategy, but its success depends on the rest of the company.
To that end, another key responsibility of any document specialist is to educate and train other employees on good documentation practices.
For this purpose, they have to:
- Create and manage a comprehensive training program that educates new and existing employees on how to create, fill out, store, and retrieve company documents
- Communicate regulatory requirements with all the employees and clarify who can access which documents (and how)
The document specialist is, more or less, responsible for how the entire company uses the storage system.
Looking After Administrative Tasks
In addition to the above, a documentation specialist is also responsible for carrying out certain administrative tasks.
These additional responsibilities completely depend on the company one works for.
However, without getting into specifics, some common day-to-day tasks include:
- Scanning documents
- Stamping paperwork
- Conducting research and entering data
- Emailing/Faxing files
TIP: If your employer lists something vague in the job description (for instance, something along the lines of, “assist the administration team with day-to-day tasks or anything else that might arise”) ask for some clarification.
What are the Requirements to Become a Documentation Specialist?
The roadmap to becoming a documentation specialist is relatively simple.
Below, we’ve sketched out all the steps one should take (including all the academic and technical requirements to pursue this career path):
It’s possible to become a documentation specialist with just a high school degree or GED.
However, having an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree in information technology or any other related field is a huge plus.
In addition, having some certifications to validate your skills will give you a massive edge over your peers.
Like most administrative roles, document specialists require a balance of technical and soft skills.
As far as the hard skills go, you should be proficient in:
- Microsoft Office Suite (especially Word, Excel, and Access)
- Transcription work
- File digitization
- Any other
- The use of office equipment (printers, scanners, photocopiers, and fax machines)
In addition to the above, a document specialist should also have a knack for the following:
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Time management
- Organizational skills
- Analytical skills
- Attention to detail
Furthermore, if you’re applying at a company that largely performs its documentation through physical paperwork, you also need ample physical strength to pick up potentially large stacks of paper.
This completely depends on the company you’re applying for.
Some employers accept fresh candidates, while others demand some level of relevant experience or familiarity with the role at hand.
For instance, if you’re applying for a documentation specialist job in the healthcare sector, you may be required to have some relevant clinical experience (such as managing medical records) and experience using a health information management system.
How Much Do Document Specialists Earn?
Document specialist salaries in the United States, like everything else, tend to vary from location to location.
This variation is a result of the cost of living, the difference in demands, and the sectors.
However, looking at the national average will give you a good idea of what to expect or demand from your recruiter.
According to Indeed, a documentation specialist in the US earns around $41,452 per year. Furthermore, Atlanta, GA, New York, NY, and Houston, TX were reported to be the highest paying cities. All of that is based on 3,000+ salary reports received on the platform.
The figures on Zippia are pretty much the same. According to the platform, the average document specialist salary in the US is $42,000 per year, with New Jersey being the highest paying state.
In addition, Zippia also lists Jacobs Engineering Group as the highest paying employer for this role, handing out a whopping $96K annual package to documentation specialists.
Wrapping it Up
Being a document specialist may seem like a relatively simple job at first (managing paperwork and basically just following a defined set of rules), but it’s quite the opposite.
Documentation specialists actually have a lot on their shoulders, and they rarely spend a day where they have a small to-do list. If they’re not busy working on existing documents, they’re working on updating the filing system or training a new employee on document usage.
All in all, if you enjoy paperwork, have good communication and management skills, and want to carve out a career in administration, this is a promising path to take.
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