Credit Collector

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Credit Collector

Education and Training: High school

Salary: Median—$27,456 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Credit collectors, also known as bill and account collectors, try to convince debtors—people who owe money—to pay their overdue bills. They work from bad debt files given to them by creditors who have not been able to get the debtors to pay through normal billing procedures. Credit collectors may first try to contact debtors by telephone to talk to them about their reasons for nonpayment. They may have to trace debtors who have moved by checking for forwarding addresses with the post office, searching telephone directories, and interviewing former neighbors. If customers have stopped payment because they are dissatisfied with the merchandise or services they purchased, credit collectors usually refer them to the original seller or a customer service department. If the debtors' complaints are not valid, collectors then try to convince the debtors verbally that their bill is fair and should be paid. Collectors visit debtors in person when telephone conversations are unsuccessful.

If nonpayment is due to financial difficulties, credit collectors may work out a new payment schedule with debtors. At times they suggest to creditors that the case should be handled by an attorney. Credit collectors may also perform other tasks such as supervising repossession of merchandise that was not paid for. Although most credit collectors work for collection agencies, some are employed by retail stores, real estate firms, credit unions, insurance companies, banks, and loan companies.

Education and Training Requirements

Credit collectors are trained on the job by working under the supervision of experienced workers. Most employers require applicants to be high school graduates. A person can prepare for the field while in high school by taking courses in psychology, business mathematics, speech, and foreign languages. On-the-job training consists of learning collection procedures, budgeting, and telephone and in-person interviewing techniques.

Getting the Job

Direct application to firms that employ credit collectors is one way to get a job. Jobs in the field are also advertised in the classified sections of newspapers and on Internet job sites. State and private employment agencies may offer job leads.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement in the field is limited. Outstanding workers may be promoted to the position of collection manager or credit collection supervisor. Some workers become bank loan officers. Opportunities for advancement to a managerial position increase when workers take courses in credit and finance at professional associations and colleges.

In 2004 bill and account collectors held 456,000 jobs, and roughly one fifth of these collectors worked for collection agencies, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Companies on the whole have become more aggressive about collecting overdue debts. A greater number of companies are also lending money to customers and issuing credit cards. As such, debt levels and delinquent payments should continue to rise. Finally, the high turnover rate in the debt collection industry will result in job openings each year.

Working Conditions

Credit collectors generally work thirty-five to forty hours per week. Since debtors are usually unavailable during the day, the workweek may include night and weekend hours. Seasonal overtime work often occurs. Credit collectors work out of offices that are usually pleasant and well lighted, but they may spend most of their working hours in the field searching for forwarding addresses and visiting debtors. Since debtors are generally less than willing to talk to credit collectors, successful workers must be persuasive talkers who remain calm through difficult situations. They must be able to deal with people who are under stress. Employers look for workers with clear, pleasant speaking voices, because credit collectors often spend many hours talking on the telephone. Some companies provide field workers with a car or repay them for the use of their own vehicle.

Where to Go for More Information

ACA International (formerly American Collectors Association)
PO Box 390106
Minneapolis, MN 55439
(952) 926-6547

Consumer Data Industry Association
1090 Vermont Ave. NW, Ste. 200
Washington, DC 20005-4905
(202) 371-0910

Earnings and Benefits

In 2004 credit collectors earned a median salary of $27,456 per year. Credit collectors with the highest 10 percent of salaries in their profession earned over $41,808 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Income varies greatly because many workers receive, in addition to a base salary, commissions or bonds based on the amount of debts they collect. Benefits generally include paid vacations and health insurance.