Indexer

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Indexers build up lists of searchable terms for things like books, magazines, reports, websites and photographic collections.

Salary Range: Variable

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How to become an indexer

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly
  • specialist training with a professional body
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University

If you want to work in a specialist area, like science or law, you’ll need in-depth subject knowledge, which you could get from doing a relevant degree.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

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Apprenticeship

You may be able to start by doing a library, information and archive services advanced apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

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Direct application

You can apply directly for jobs. Many indexers have a higher education qualification like a degree, although this is not essential.

Often, indexers start this work as a second career, using the experience and in-depth knowledge they’ve built up from their main area of work.

Other routes

You can do a training course with the Society of Indexers by distance learning. This is a combination of online tutorials, assignments and assessments.

The course takes around 45 to 50 hours of study and is recognised by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. It includes:

  • indexing terminology
  • cross-referencing
  • indexing books, periodicals and websites
  • computerised search systems

When you’ve successfully completed the course you’ll be awarded accredited indexer status, which is recognised by employers as a first stage towards becoming a professional indexer.

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Career tips

The Society of Indexers runs short workshops, which give an overview of indexing together with practical exercises. These are useful for anyone who may be thinking of taking up indexing as a career.

They also offer workshops on working as a freelance indexer and establishing an indexing business.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming an indexer from the Society of Indexers.

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What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • the ability to work well with others
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • customer service skills
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • administration skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • studying documents to get an overall idea of what they cover
  • identifying important words and phrases in the text, recording where they occur and putting them in alphabetical order
  • identifying the main topics and breaking them down into sections
  • cross-referencing related topics
  • organising the index so that information is easy to find
  • indexing photographs, diagrams and other illustrations
  • using specialist computer software for sorting, formatting and printing

Working environment

You could work from home or in an office.

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Career path and progression

You could combine indexing with related areas such as proofreading and copywriting.