Knowledge Management career paths

I posted on this blog 5 years ago on the topic of KM career paths, and suggested the following model for career progression within KM, at least within a larger organisation.

Image from wikimedia commons

  1. Knowledge facilitator or Knowledge engineer. Doing the basic jobs of KM, facilitating meetings, conducting interviews, facilitating a Community of Practice , Knowledge Management lead on one project, and so on. 
  2. Knowledge Manager. Managing and maintaining the KM Framework for a department or business unit, or acting as leader for a major community of practice. Single point of contact for KM for that topic or that part of the organisation. Making sure the KM work gets done. Managing or supporting the Knowledge facilitators and knowledge engineers. Acting as local champion for KM. Monitoring and reporting the degree of use of KM, and the value delivered to the business. 
  3. Knowledge Strategist. Setting the strategic direction for KM within a business unit, business stream or organisational group. Improving and developing the use of KM in support of the business, and the application of KM in the business. Working with the business to optimise KM support to the business. 
  4. Head of Knowledge Management. Setting the strategic direction for KM within the organisation. Designing any new developments of the KM Framework. Driving the corporate KM culture. Working with the executive level to optimise the way in which Knowledge Management supports the organisation.
Since then I have found a few more KM career path examples, as follows:

  • McKinsey: senior researcher >= lead researcher, or senior researcher => specialist, or senior researcher knowledge operations
  • Bain & Co: Individual contributor (associate/analyst) => Specialist (seasoned professional) => Team leader (experienced professional)
  • World Bank (according to KM Edu hub): Knowledge Management Assistant => Knowledge Management Analyst => Knowledge Management Officer => Senior Knowledge Management Office
  • US Air Force Apprentice (3) Level => Journeyman (5) Level => Craftsman (7) Level => Superintendent (9) Level. (These are levels of development rather than different roles
Please let me know if you have other examples

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How much can a knowledge manager earn?

Here is another review of Knowledge Management salaries from various salary-comparison sites

See similar posts from 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012

From Glassdoor we see an average salary of £46k (US$60k) and a range from £30k to £69k (US$39k to 90k)

From IT jobs watch we get a bunch of useful stuff, though it refers only to IT jobs labelled as KM. We can see a salary range of £27k to £91k with a median of £55k (US$35k to 118k and a median of US$71k)

We also see these useful plots showing the median KM salary over time (which does not seem to have changed much in 13 years) and the percentage of KM job postings, which is down from a peak in 2014 but steady over the last 3 years.

From payscale in Canada we get a Knowledge Manager salary range from C$ 47k to C$73k with a median of $55k (US$35 – 55 with a median of US$42)  and a “director of KM” salary of C$142K  (US$107k). These seem quite low figures.

From linkedin we see this histogram of salaries for KM specialists in the USA – a huge range from US$41k to US$ 106k and a median of US$ 65k

From KM Attorneys  we see that the median salary for a KM lawyer in New York is $106k

From lawcrossing,com we see a similar figure of $118, although the jobs advertised seem to be more general lawyer jobs than specific KM jobs.

The conclusion, as ever, is that there is a huge range in salary from about $35,000 at the low end to over $100k at the top end, because there is such a huge range of tasks to be done in KM. Its hard to draw any trends either, given this range. 

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What Google Trends really tells us about KM popularity

Again yesterday I was corresponding with someone who used Google Trends as an argument that KM was dying.

Taken at face value this view is understandable. The google trends plot for KM decreases over time as shown below, showing a steady reduction in relative searches for the term “knowledge management” over the past 8 years.  At first sight this could suggest that the popularity of KM is on the wane, and that fewer and fewer people are searching for the term. However if you dig a little deeper this plot is misleading, and the conclusion that interest in KM is dying is actually a fallacy.

Let me explain why.

Google trends is not an absolute indicator of the popularity of a topic.

That is because Google trends measures “how often a term is searched for relative to the total number of searches, globally”, and the total number of searches, everywhere in the world, has rocketed (screengrab from this site below).

Any decrease in the relative percentage, as in the first graph, has to be normalised against the increase in the total number of searches in the second graph.  If the top graph is a measure of the percentage and the bottom graph is the total, then all we need to do is multiply them together to get a measure of the total number of KM searches, and then we will be able to say something meaningful.

That is exactly what I have done in the plot below. The numbers are inexact, as I have just read points visually from the first plot (see table at the base of the post for figures) but the conclusion is obvious.

Google trends is a meaningless indicator unless normalised against the total number of searches. If you do this, then far from KM being in a decline …

… the total number of Google searches for Knowledge Management has actually increased steadily from 2004 to 2012.  

Raw data for the 3rd graph
year total searches (billion) Googletrends measure of KM share measure of total number of searches for KM
2004 86 100 8600
2005 141 70 9870
2006 230 50 11500
2007 372 40 14880
2008 584 30 17520
2009 792 25 19800
2010 998 21 20958
2011 1109 20 22180
2012 1216 19 23104

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The state of the UK KNowledge Management job market

Courtesy of IT Jobswatch, UK, here is a summary of the state of UK IT-related KM job market

Basically, the job market is much the same or slightly better than last year, and a bit worse than it was 2 years ago. Median UK salaries seem pretty constant.  These figures were copied in December

Knowledge Management

6 months to
12 Dec 2017
Same period 2016 Same period 2015
Rank 796 865 755
Rank change year-on-year +69 -110 +54
Permanent jobs citing Knowledge Management 398 371 590
As % of all permanent IT jobs advertised in the UK 0.22% 0.20% 0.28%
As % of the Processes & Methodologiescategory 0.25% 0.22% 0.31%
Number of salaries quoted 228 253 459
UK median annual salary £49,500 £45,000 £50,000
Median salary % change year-on-year +10.00% -10.00% -16.67%
10th Percentile £26,000 £26,400 £26,650
90th Percentile £87,375 £82,500 £81,250
UK excluding London median annual salary £35,500 £37,500 £47,500
% change year-on-year -5.33% -21.05% -13.64%

When you delve into the details a bit, it seems as if they are counting every job where “knowledge management” is mentioned in the job description. Therefore these are not all KM jobs, but have some relation to KM (for example analysts, part of whose role is to input content into a Knowledge management system).

The same figures are shown below for Knowledge Manager jobs, sampled last week.

Knowledge Manager

6 months to
3 Jan 2018
Same period 2017 Same period 2016
Rank 1163 1183 1269
Rank change year-on-year +20 +86 +37
Permanent jobs requiring a Knowledge Manager 11 6 17
As % of all permanent IT jobs advertised in the UK 0.006% 0.003% 0.008%
As % of the Job Titles category 0.007% 0.003% 0.008%
Number of salaries quoted 4 2 10
UK median annual salary £65,000 £36,781 £55,500
Median salary % change year-on-year +76.72% -33.73% +70.77%
10th Percentile £39,450 £33,128 £37,125
90th Percentile £68,500 £39,459 £71,250
UK excluding London median annual salary £47,000 £37,500
Again there is little significant change over the past 2 years, although the sample size is small. These “Knowledge Manger” jobs are all proper KM jobs.

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8 KM jobs in word-cloud format

Knowledge Management is such a fuzzy term that looking for a KM job is a minefield. One way to see what these jobs actually entail is to use a word cloud as a simple text analysis tool, and see which words leap out.

Here are 8 recent jobs posted on LinkedIn – all from the USA – where I have taken the role description section and cut and pasted the text into a word cloud generator. Lets see which words (apart from Knowledge, Management, and KM) stand out.
Job number 1 – above – strip out the “Knowledge” word (which mostly relates to the job title) and you can see that this is really a Content Management role
Job number 2 – above –  is a data management job
Job number 3 – above –  really doesnt have any stand-out give-away words. It probably is a bona fide well-rounded KM role, with aspects of collaboration, aspects of sharing, and aspects of content.
Job number 4 – above –  looks like a job for a project document manager
Job number 5 – above –  again doesn’t have any stand-out giveaways if we ignore “knowledge” and “management”. Its probably a good KM role, focused on self-service articles.
Job number 6 – above –  is a document management role
Job number 7 – above –  the biggest word (other than KM) is SharePoint, so we know what this is about!
Job number 8 – above –  again seems like a well rounded role, with no single issue taking precedence.
The word clouds are a quick way to see the main focus of the jobs, and we can see that a lot of KM jobs are focused on content management, data management, document management and records management. However there are some more varied and more comprehensive KM jobs in there as well.

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