Careers in Civil Registration
Under UK law, details of all births, stillbirths, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships must be recorded on official documents. Registrars collect and record this information.
To register a birth, the registrar will question the parents to obtain information, which will be entered on to the birth certificate, usually using a computer. It is sometimes necessary to advise the parents so that they understand the questions fully – so the registrar must be patient and tactful and have a good background in the law relating to birth registration. The registrar will then issue the parents with the documents they need from the computer.
To register a death, the registrar must first check that the documents, which describe why the person died, are in order. Sometimes, they are not and the registrar must then consult with a doctor or coroner before going ahead. The registrar will interview someone close to the person who has died to obtain the information for the death certificate. Then the registrar will issue documents to allow the funeral to go ahead. Again, patience and tact is needed because people giving the information are often upset. The registrar must also understand the detailed legal processes of death registration.
For marriages and civil partnerships, registrars interview couples in order to make sure they are legally able to marry or form a civil partnership. The registrar must inspect documents and complete formal notices of intention, which are then signed by each of the couple in front of the registrar. Registrars also perform and record marriage ceremonies and civil partnership formations both at register offices and other venues.
Registrars are responsible for keeping historical birth, death and marriage registers dating back to 1837 when civil registration began in the UK. On request, certificates are issued from these registers for legal and genealogical purposes. The issue of these certificates forms a large part of the work although this is often done by clerical assistants working within the registration service rather than by registrars themselves. Working as one of these assistants is a good way to find out whether you would enjoy the job of a registrar.
There are many opportunities to expand the basic duties of a registrar. Some, who like celebratory duties, learn how to officiate at naming ceremonies, civil funerals, renewals of vows ceremonies and citizenship celebrations. Others, who may prefer administrative work, may be specially trained to help people fill in nationality application forms for instance.
Every local authority must provide register offices for their citizens to access and these are where registrars are based. The organisation of the service varies greatly between local authorities and the geography of the area. In some rural places, registrars will work in small part-time offices where they will spend most of their time on basic registration duties and work alone. In others, registrars work in large city offices and may become highly specialised in a particular area of work
Hours and environment
There are both full and part-time opportunities but most posts will require flexible working including some weekend and “on call” work.
Registrars work in offices, although in some remote parts of Scotland, they may be based in their own home or local post office.
They may conduct or attend marriages in a wide variety of locations including hotels, castles, football clubs, hospitals and prisons. A driving licence and car are often required.
Skills and personal qualities
A registrar of births, deaths and marriages should:
- be able to deal tactfully and discreetly with members of the public from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures
- be able to obtain the correct information from people in emotional circumstances
- be able to understand and apply complex legal regulations
- be able to write clearly and accurately
- be able to complete detailed forms and accounts
- be good at team work
- be able to work unsupervised
- be able to work under pressure
- be patient and helpful
- be confident working with computer systems
- be able to deal with money and accounts.
It is important to:
- be interested in working with people
- be interested in collecting and preserving information.
There are about 1,750 full and part-time registrars in England and Wales, and about 500 in Scotland. Vacancies arise only occasionally and it may be difficult to get an appointment.
Registrars are appointed by local authorities, but in England and Wales they are responsible to the Registrar General for the 'technical' aspects of their work. In Scotland they are responsible to the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS).
Vacancies may be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, in Connexions centres, in local newspapers, online at www.lgjobs.com, on the websites and printed jobs bulletins of individual local authorities (see www.direct.gov.uk for contact details and web addresses of local authorities) and here on the website of the professional association LRSA.
Entry for young people
There are no standardised minimum entry requirements for registrars in England and Wales, but most employers require a good level of education to at least GCSE level including English and maths (and Welsh in Wales). Candidates are expected to demonstrate experience of dealing with a wide range of people. Computer literacy is essential. In Scotland candidates need three S grades (1-3) including English. Assistant registrars must be aged at least 18 and registrars over 21.
Entry for adults
There is no upper age limit for starting in this work and mature candidates may be welcomed. Some people, including doctors, midwives, ministers of religion, funeral directors and anyone working in the life assurance industry, are not allowed to become registrars.
Training is usually given on the job and includes detailed training in registration law. A variety of methods, including distance learning, may be used. The Local Registration Services Association (LRSA) has a long term aim to develop a professional qualification and provide training for those working in the registration service.
In Scotland some local authorities insist that trainee registrars take the exam of the Association of Registrars in Scotland and obtain a certificate of proficiency. Applicants need two years’ experience in the job before taking the examination. They can study through distance learning or under the supervision of a registrar and attend a short revision course before taking the exam. Although the certificate is not compulsory in all areas, it is a recognised qualification for further advancement in the registration service in Scotland.
In England and Wales registrars may be promoted to higher grades when they will usually undertake some specialist responsibilities or manage other registrars
In Scotland assistant registrars may be promoted to registrar. Chief and senior registrars manage more than one office or council area.
- Administrative Assistant/Administrator
- Civil Service Administration Assistant/Officer
- Court Administrative Officer
- Legal Executive
- Legal Secretary
The Local Registration Services Association (LRSA).
The Association of Registrars of Scotland, Honorary Secretary, c/o Municipal Buildings, College Street, Dumbarton G82 1NR. 01389 738350.
Improvement and Development Agency (IDEA), Layden House, 76-86 Turnmill Street, London EC1M 5LG. 020 7296 6681. Websites:
The General Register Office for Scotland (GROS), New Register House, West Register Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YT. 0131 334 0380. Website: www.gro-scotland.gov.uk
The Society of Registration Officers, c/o The Register Office, Coed Glas, Firs Road, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 5LE (01873 735435).Return to Jobs page