Education and Training: High school
Salary: Median—$27,040 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Billing clerks calculate how much money customers owe a business and then prepare customers' bills. To calculate a statement, the billing clerk will compile documents and records, such as purchase orders, sales tickets, and hospital records. They then tally the bill and calculate if any discounts or special rates apply. In a hospital, for instance, a billing clerk would call up the insurance company to inquire about how much of the bill the insurance covers and if any insurance deductions apply. In a large accounting firm, the billing clerk would calculate the number of hours that the accountant spent on a client's finances and multiply that by the rate the accountant charges. After billing clerks come up with a total for a customer, they prepare the bill and enter the amount into the accounting records.
Many billing clerks employ computer programs that prepare the bill automatically once charges have been calculated and input the amount automatically into the company's accounting records. In such systems, billing clerks are required to closely check that the numbers on the computer match up to those on the receipts. Some billing clerks operate billing machines, which print out the bills and then stuff them into envelopes. Increasingly, billing clerks are sending off bills to customers electronically via e-mail, which the customers then pay online or automatically with a credit card or bank transfer. Depending on the office, billing clerks may be required to handle billing questions from customers.
Education and Training Requirements
Most employers require a high school education. Completion of high school business programs provides a good background for entry-level positions. Courses in mathematics, business software, and accounting are essential, especially to prepare candidates for calculating bills. Some employers prefer to hire graduates of two-year business schools or junior college programs that teach office skills. Others prefer beginners with no specialized education but a good general background. On-the-job training is provided and may last from a few days to several weeks.
Getting the Job
School placement offices may be able to help prospective workers find a position as a payroll clerk. Jobs may be listed with state and private employment agencies. Newspaper ads and Internet job sites often list openings in this area. If interested in a government job, apply to take the necessary civil service test. Candidates can also apply directly to the billing departments of large businesses.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Beginning billing clerks usually receive on-the-job training in the billing methods of a business and in any computer billing software used by the business. Billing clerks may receive promotions with increases in pay and eventually rise to a supervisory level. Clerks with a bachelor's degree may even advance to become human resource specialists or buyers in a company.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 523,000 billing clerks were employed in the United States in 2004. Roughly one third of all billing clerks were employed in the health-care industry. Employment of billing clerks was expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Automated billing systems and software are allowing fewer workers to send out more bills faster. In many companies, billing clerks are being phased out. Their duties are being taken over by accounting and bookkeeping clerks. The greatest number of new jobs for billing clerks will be in the health-care industry due to the complexity of health-care billing.
Billing clerks work in large offices with enough business to require a billing clerk. Much of the work is performed while seated at a desk. Clerks usually work at routine tasks that may be repetitive. They usually work thirty-five to forty hours a week. Many belong to labor unions that are active in the industry in which they work.
Where to Go for More Information
Earnings and Benefits
Billing clerks' earnings depend largely on the type and size of the organization in which the clerk is employed. In 2004 full-time billing clerks earned a median annual salary of $27,040 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experienced clerks may earn more. Benefits usually include paid vacations, paid holidays, medical and life insurance coverage, and some type of retirement plan.