Bank Tellers

Significant Points

  • The projected decline in employment of tellers reflects cost cutting by banks and the growing use of banking technology to perform routine banking services.
  • Many job openings will arise from replacement needs in this large occupation because turnover is high, little formal education is required, and the position offers relatively low pay.
  • Applicants trained to provide a variety of financial services, along with those seeking part-time work, should have the best job prospects.

Nature of the Work [About this section]  Index

The bank teller is the person most people associate with a bank. Tellers make up 28 percent of bank employees, and conduct most of a bank’s routine transactions. Among their responsibilities are cashing checks, accepting deposits and loan payments, and processing withdrawals. They may also sell savings bonds, accept payment for customers’ utility bills and charge cards, process necessary paperwork for certificates of deposit, and sell travelers’ checks. Some tellers specialize in handling foreign currencies or commercial or business accounts.

Being a teller requires a great deal of attention to detail. Before cashing a check, a teller must verify the date, bank name, identification of the person to receive payment, and legality of the document. They must also make sure that written and numerical amounts agree and that the account has sufficient funds to cover the check. The teller then must carefully count cash to avoid errors. Sometimes a customer withdraws money in the form of a cashier’s check, which the teller prepares and verifies. When accepting a deposit, tellers must check the accuracy of the deposit slip before processing the transaction.

Prior to starting their shift, tellers receive and count an amount of working cash for their drawer. A supervisor, usually the head teller, verifies this amount. Tellers use this cash for payments during the day and are responsible for its safe and accurate handling. Before leaving, tellers count cash on hand, list the currency-received tickets on a balance sheet, make sure the accounts balance, and sort checks and deposit slips. Over the course of a workday, tellers may also process numerous mail transactions. Some tellers replenish cash drawers and corroborate deposits and payments to automated teller machines (ATMs).

In most banks, head tellers are responsible for the teller line. In addition to the typical duties of a teller, a head teller’s responsibilities include preparing work schedules, accessing the vault, ensuring the correct cash balance in the vault, and overseeing shipments of cash to and from the Federal Reserve.

Technology continues to play a large role in the job duties of all tellers. In most banks, for example, tellers use computer terminals to record deposits and withdrawals. These terminals often give tellers quick access to detailed information on customer accounts. Tellers can use this information to tailor services to fit a customer’s needs or to recommend an appropriate bank product or service.

Because banks offer more and increasingly complex financial services, tellers in many banks are being trained to perform some functions of customer service representatives, in addition to their other duties. These tellers are required to learn about the various financial products and services the bank offers, so they can briefly explain them to customers and refer interested customers to appropriate specialized sales personnel. (Customer service representatives are discussed in the Handbook statement on interviewing and new accounts clerks.)

Working Conditions [About this section]  Index

Tellers generally work weekdays, although some evening and weekend work may be required. The job offers ample opportunity to work part time with flexible hours; in some banks, 90 percent of tellers work part time. Banks often hire part-time, or "peak-time," tellers for busy banking periods, such as lunch hours and Saturday mornings. An increasing number of tellers work outside a traditional bank setting, as more branches are established in shopping malls and grocery stores. These tellers usually work more evening and weekend hours and have more varied responsibilities than other tellers.

Continual communication with customers, repetitive tasks, long periods of standing within a small area, and a high level of attention to security characterize the job. Tellers wishing to provide more personalized service in a less hectic environment often choose to work for a small bank. Full-time employment and a full range of benefits are also more common in smallbanks, leading to lower turnover rates.

Employment [About this section]  Index

Bank tellers held about 560,000 jobs in 1998; about 1 out of 3 worked part time. The overwhelming majority worked in commercial banks, savings institutions, or credit unions. The remaining were employed in a variety of other financial service companies.

Training, Other Qualifications, & Advancement [About this section]  Index

When hiring tellers, banks seek applicants who have excellent communication skills, enjoy working with the public, and possess a strong math aptitude. Tellers must feel comfortable handling large amounts of cash and working with computers and video terminals. In general, banks prefer applicants with some sales and cash handling experience. In some metropolitan areas, employers seek multilingual tellers.

Although tellers work independently, their recordkeeping is closely supervised. Accuracy and attention to detail are vital. Tellers should be courteous, attentive, and patient in dealing with the public, because customers often judge a bank by the way they are treated at the teller window. Maturity, tact, and the ability to quickly explain bank procedures and services are important in helping customers complete transactions or make financial decisions.

Many new tellers transfer from other occupations, and virtually all tellers have at least a high school education. Usually, new tellers in large banks receive at least one week of formal classroom training. Classes are followed by several weeks of on-the-job training, in which tellers observe experienced workers before doing the work themselves. Smaller banks rely primarily upon on-the-job training. In addition to instruction in basic duties, many banks now include extensive training in the bank’s products and services, communication and sales skills, and instruction on equipment, such as ATMs and on-line video terminals.

In large banks, beginners usually start for a few days as limited-transaction tellers, cashing checks and processing simple transactions, before becoming full-service tellers. Often, banks simultaneously train tellers for other clerical duties as well.

Advancement opportunities are good for well-trained, motivated employees. Experienced tellers may advance to head teller, customer service representative, or new accounts clerk. Outstanding tellers who have had some college or specialized training offered by the banking industry may be promoted to a managerial position. Banks encourage this upward mobility by providing access to education and other sources of additional training.

Tellers can prepare for better jobs by taking courses offered or accredited by the American Institute of Banking (an educational affiliate of the American Bankers Association) or the Institute of Financial Education. These organizations have several hundred chapters in cities across the country and numerous study groups in small communities. They also offer correspondence courses and work closely with local colleges and universities in preparing courses of study. Most banks use the facilities of these organizations to conduct cooperative training programs or develop independent training programs. In addition, many banks refund employees’ college tuition fees, upon successful completion of courses. Although most courses are meant for employed tellers, some community colleges offer preemployment training programs. These programs can help prepare applicants for a job in banking and can give them an advantage over other jobseekers.

Tellers who are trained to sell insurance products must receive a State license to sell insurance. This requires passing an examination, usually after taking a prelicensing course. (See the statement on insurance sales agents elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Job Outlook [About this section]  Index

Employment of bank tellers is expected to decline through 2008. Nevertheless, many job openings will arise from replacement needs, because turnover is high—a characteristic typical of large occupations that normally require little formal education and offer relatively low pay. Applicants for part-time jobs should fare better than applicants for full-time positions.

The banking industry will continue to undergo many changes that will impact employment of traditional tellers, who perform only routine transactions. Principal among these are technology, bank mergers, and changing employment needs. For example, ATMs and the increased use of direct deposit of paychecks and benefit checks have reduced the need for bank customers to interact with tellers for routine transactions. In addition, electronic banking is spreading rapidly throughout the banking industry. This type of banking, conducted over the telephone or through computer networks, will also reduce the number of tellers over the long run.

Bank mergers, particularly those involving competing banks, have reduced the number of branches as the newly formed banks cut costs and eliminate duplicate services. This has adversely affected employment of tellers who work primarily in branch offices. Bank mergers are expected to continue as banks seek to further reduce costs and offer more services that only large banks can provide, such as numerous ATM locations, more types of loans, and securities brokerage and insurance services.

Teller employment is also being impacted by the increasing use of 24-hour phone centers by many large banks. These telephone centers allow a customer to interact with a bank representative at a distant location, either by telephone or video terminal. Customer service representatives, who can handle a wider variety of transactions than tellers, including loan applications and credit card issuance, usually staff such centers.

Even though some banks have streamlined their branches, the total number of bank branches is expected to increase to meet the needs of a growing population. Branches are being added in nontraditional locations, such as grocery stores, malls, and mobile trailers designed to reach people who do not have easy access to banks. Often, these branches are open longer hours and offer greater customer convenience. Many of these nontraditional branch offices are small and are staffed by tellers who are trained as customer service representatives. As a result, tellers who can provide a variety of financial services will be in greater demand in the future.

Earnings [About this section]  Index

Median annual earnings of full-time bank tellers were $17,200 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $14,660 and $20,180. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12,970, while the top 10 percent earned more than $23,000. Some banks offer incentives that reward tellers for inducing customers to use other financial products and services offered by the bank. In general, greater responsibilities result in a higher salary. Experience, length of service, and, especially, the location and size of the bank also are important. Full-time tellers generally receive a full range of benefits, from life and health insurance to pension benefits, whereas part-time tellers often do not.

Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest number of bank tellers in 1997 were:

Savings institutions  $16,800
Commercial banks  16,600
Credit unions  16,500


Related Occupations [About this section]  Index

Tellers combine customer service and knowledge of bank procedures with quickness and accuracy to process money, checks, and other financial items for customers. Other workers with similar duties include new accounts clerks, cashiers, toll collectors, post office clerks, auction clerks, and ticket sellers.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section]  Index

Disclaimer: Links to other Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

General information about tellers and other banking occupations, training opportunities, and the banking industry is available from:

  • American Bankers Association, 1120 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036. Internet: http://www.aba.com

State bankers’ associations can furnish specific information about job opportunities in their State. Individual banks can provide detailed information about job openings and the activities, responsibilities, and preferred qualifications of tellers.

An industry employing bank tellers that appears in the 2000-01 Career Guide to Industries: Banking

O*NET Codes: 53102 About the O*NET codes

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