Significant Points
  • Most jobs require only a high school diploma.
  • Numerous job opportunities should arise due to high turnover in this occupation.
  • Little or no change is expected in overall employment, reflecting the spread of computers and other office automation as well as organizational restructuring.
Nature of the Work [About this section] Index

Without the assistance of workers in records processing occupations, many organizations would be lost. These workers maintain, update, and process a variety of records, ranging from payrolls to information on the shipment of goods or bank statements. They ensure that other workers get paid on time, customers’ questions are answered, and records are kept of all transactions. (Additional information about specific records processing occupations appears in separate statements that follow this introductory statement.)

Depending on their specific titles, these workers perform a wide variety of recordkeeping duties. Billing clerks and billing machine operators, for example, prepare bills and invoices. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks maintain financial data in computer and paper files. Brokerage clerks prepare and maintain the records generated when stocks, bonds, and other types of investments are traded. File clerks store and retrieve various kinds of office information for use by staff members. Human resources clerks maintain employee records. Library assistants and bookmobile drivers assist library patrons. Order clerks process incoming orders for goods and services. Payroll and timekeeping clerks compute wages for payroll records and review employee timecards. Statement clerks prepare monthly statements for bank customers. Other records processing clerks include advertising clerks—who receive orders for classified advertising for newspapers or magazines, prepare copy according to customer specifications, and verify conformance of published ads to specifications for billing purposes; and correspondence clerks—who reply to customers regarding damage claims, delinquent accounts, incorrect billings, complaints of unsatisfactory service, and requests for merchandise exchanges or returns.

The duties of records processing clerks vary with the size of the firm. In a small business, a bookkeeping clerk may handle all financial records and transactions, as well as payroll and personnel duties. A large firm, on the other hand, may employ specialized accounting, payroll, and human resources clerks. In general, however, clerical staffs in firms of all sizes increasingly perform a broader variety of tasks than in the past. This is especially true for clerical occupations involving accounting work. As the growing use of computers enables bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks to become more productive, these workers may assume billing, payroll, and timekeeping duties.

Another change in these occupations is the growing use of financial software to enter and manipulate data. Computer programs automatically perform calculations on data that were previously calculated manually. Computers also enable clerks to access data within files more quickly than the former method of reviewing stacks of paper. Nevertheless, most workers still keep backup paper records for research, auditing, and reference purposes.

Despite the growing use of automation, interaction with the public and coworkers remains a basic part of the job for many records processing clerks. Payroll clerks, for example, answer questions concerning employee benefits; bookmobile drivers help patients in nursing homes and hospitals select books; and order clerks call customers to verify special mailing instructions.

Working Conditions [About this section]  Index

With the exception of library assistants and bookmobile drivers, records processing clerks typically are employed in an office environment. Most work alongside other clerical workers, but some records processing clerks work in centralized units away from the front office.

Because the majority of records processing clerks use computers on a daily basis, these workers may experience eye and muscle strain, backaches, headaches, and repetitive motion injuries. Also, clerks who review detailed data may have to sit for extended periods of time. Although the work does not require heavy lifting, file clerks and library assistants spend a lot of time on their feet and frequently stoop, bend, and reach. Finally, bookmobile drivers must maneuver large vehicles in all kinds of traffic and weather conditions, and may also be responsible for the maintenance of the bookmobile.

Most records processing clerks work regular business hours. Library assistants may work evenings and weekends, but those employed in school libraries usually work only during the school year. Accounting clerks may work longer hours to meet deadlines at the end of the fiscal year, during tax time, or when monthly and yearly accounting audits are performed. Billing, bookkeeping, and accounting clerks in hotels, restaurants, and stores may work overtime during peak holiday and vacation seasons. Similarly, order clerks in retail establishments typically work overtime during these seasons. Brokerage clerks may also have to work overtime if there is a high volume of activity in the stock or bond markets.

Employment [About this section]  Index

Records processing clerks held over 3.7 million jobs in 1998. The following tabulation shows employment in individual clerical occupations:

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks  2,078,000
Billing clerks and billing machine operators  449,000
Order clerks  362,000
File clerks  272,000
Payroll and timekeeping clerks  172,000
Library assistants and bookmobile drivers  127,000
Human resources clerks  142,000
Brokerage and statement clerks  92,000
Correspondence clerks  25,000
Advertising clerks  14,000

These workers are employed in virtually every industry. The largest number of records processing clerks work for firms providing health, business, and other types of services. Many also work in trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; manufacturing; and government.

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

Employers typically require applicants to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Although many employers prefer to hire record clerks with a higher level of education, it is only required in a few records processing occupations. For example, brokerage firms usually seek college graduates for brokerage clerk jobs, and order clerks in high-technology firms often need to understand scientific and mechanical processes, which may require some college education. Regardless of the type of work, most employers prefer workers who are computer-literate. Knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet software is especially valuable, as are experience working in an office and good interpersonal skills.

Records processing clerks often learn the skills they need in high schools, business schools, and community colleges. Business education programs offered by these institutions typically include courses in typing, word processing, shorthand, business communications, records management, and office systems and procedures. Specialized order clerks in technical positions obtain their training from technical institutes and 2- and 4-year colleges.

Some entrants into records processing occupations are college graduates with degrees in business, finance, or liberal arts. Although a degree is rarely required, many graduates accept entry-level clerical positions to get into a particular company or to enter the finance or accounting field with the hope of being promoted to professional or managerial positions. Some companies, such as brokerage and accounting firms, have a set plan of advancement that tracks college graduates from entry-level clerical jobs into managerial positions. Workers with college degrees are likely to start at higher salaries and advance more easily than those without degrees.

Once hired, records processing clerks usually receive on-the-job training. Under the guidance of a supervisor or other senior worker, new employees learn company procedures. Some formal classroom training may also be necessary, such as training in specific computer software.

Records processing clerks must be careful, orderly, and detail-oriented in order to avoid making errors and recognize errors made by others. These workers should also be discreet and trustworthy, because they frequently come in contact with confidential material. Additionally, payroll clerks, billing clerks, and bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks should have a strong aptitude for numbers. Because statement clerks have access to confidential financial information, these workers must be bonded. Many bookmobile drivers are now required to have a commercial driver’s license.

Records processing clerks usually advance by taking on more duties in the same occupation for higher pay or transferring to a closely related occupation. For example, some order clerks use their experience to move into sales positions. Most companies fill office and administrative support supervisory and managerial positions by promoting individuals from within their organization, so information clerks who acquire additional skills, experience, and training improve their advancement opportunities. With appropriate experience and education, some clerks may become accountants; personnel specialists; securities, commodities, and financial services sales representatives; or librarians.

Job Outlook [About this section]  Index

Little or no change is expected in employment of records processing clerks through 2008. Despite continued growth in the volume of business transactions, rising productivity stemming from the spread of office automation, as well as organizational restructuring, will adversely affect demand for records processing clerks. Turnover in this very large occupation, however, places it among those occupations providing the most job openings. As a result, opportunities should be plentiful for full-time, part-time, and seasonal employment, as records processing clerks transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Many record clerk jobs have already become heavily automated. Productivity has increased significantly, as workers use personal computers instead of more time-consuming equipment such as typewriters, adding machines, and calculators. The growing use of bar code readers, point-of-sale terminals, and optical scanners also reduces much of the data entry handled by records processing clerks. Additionally, managers and professionals now do much of their own clerical work, using computers to access, create, and store data directly in their computer systems. The growing use of local area networks is also facilitating electronic data interchange—the sending of data from computer to computer—abolishing the need for clerks to reenter the data. To further eliminate duplicate functions, many large companies are consolidating their clerical operations in a central office where accounting, billing, personnel, and payroll functions are performed for all offices—main and satellite—within the organization.

Despite the spread of automation and organizational restructuring, average or faster-than-average job growth is projected for some records processing clerks, including billing clerks, brokerage clerks, and library assistants and bookmobile drivers.

Earnings [About this section]  Index

Salaries of records processing clerks vary considerably. The region of the country, size of city, and type and size of establishment all influence salary levels. The level of industry or technical expertise required and the complexity and uniqueness of a clerk’s responsibilities may also affect earnings. Median annual earnings of full-time records processing clerks in 1998 are shown in the following tabulation:

Brokerage clerks  $27,920
Payroll and timekeeping clerks  24,560
Human resources clerks  24,360
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks  23,190
Billing clerks  22,670
Correspondence clerks  22,270
Order clerks  21,550
Billing machine operators  20,560
Advertising clerks  20,550
Statement clerks  18,640
Library assistants and bookmobile drivers  16,980
File clerks  16,830

In the Federal Government, records processing clerks with a high school diploma or clerical experience typically started at $18,400 a year in 1999. Beginning salaries were slightly higher in areas where the prevailing local pay level was higher. The average salary for all human resources clerks employed by the Federal Government was $29,500 in 1999.

Related Occupations [About this section]  Index

Today, most records processing clerks enter data into a computer system and perform basic analysis of the data. Other clerical workers who enter and manipulate data include bank tellers, statistical clerks, receiving clerks, medical record clerks, hotel and motel clerks, credit clerks, and reservation and transportation ticket agents.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section]  Index

State employment service offices can provide information about job openings for records processing occupations.

Selected industries employing brokerage clerks and statement clerks that appear in the 2000-01 Career Guide to Industries:

An industry employing order clerks that appears in the 2000-01 Career Guide to Industries: Wholesale trade

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