Education and Training: High school
Salary: Median—$21,029 per year
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
File clerks are the guardians of a company's important documents. They are responsible for creating and maintaining an efficient and accessible filing system. Clerks gather material from the company's departments, sort it, and arrange it. While some offices still use a paper file and folder system, many have installed computerized filing and retrieval systems that employ electronic storage media, such as hard drives, floppy drives, and CD-ROMs. Still other companies maintain microfilm or index card files such as those found in libraries. When a company worker needs information from the paper files or computer media, a clerk locates the appropriate materials and delivers them to the desk of the company worker.
File clerks must arrange incoming records numerically, alphabetically, or by subject matter. Some file clerks are responsible for more than one set of files. They then must store the information in either a paper filing system, on microfilm, or on an electronic storage media device. Many use scanners to convert forms, receipts, and reports into electronic format.
Company records must be kept up to date. File clerks regularly clean out files, throwing away old material and making certain that all material has been filed correctly. File clerks must keep track of all the materials in the files and ensure that nothing is lost. Although file clerks are employed by many different companies, more than nine tenths of all file clerks work in service-providing industries, including government. Roughly one fourth of all file clerks worked in the health-care industry in 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Education and Training Requirements
Most companies prefer to hire file clerks who have finished high school. Courses in business, computers, typing, and English are helpful. File clerks should have a talent for organization and enjoy detail work.
Training is usually given on the job. In small offices training may entail nothing more than a quick explanation of the filing system. Clerks who operate mechanized or microfilm files or specialized computer databases may require training.
Getting the Job
A student's school placement office should be able to help him or her find a position as a file clerk. Jobs may be listed with state and private employment agencies. Internet job sites and newspaper classified ads often list openings for file clerks. If candidates are interested in a government job, they should apply to take the necessary civil service test. A person can also apply directly to companies that employ large crews of file clerks. If there is a firm a person would like to work for, he or she should con tact its personnel office for an interview. Even if there are no job openings at that time, applicants may be considered for future openings.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
In most cases file clerks must learn another skill, such as typing, if they want to advance. Experienced file clerks may eventually supervise the work of others.
The 2006–07 Occupational Outlook Handbook reported that about 255,000 people worked as file clerks in 2004. Employment of file clerks was expected to decline through the year 2014 due to an increase in office automation. Powerful, centralized computer storage devices and networks allow any individual in an organization to easily access files, thus eliminating the need for file clerks. However, demand for file clerks is expected to be strong in the health sector. Openings will also become available as file clerks leave their jobs and replacements are needed.
File clerks generally work from thirty-five to forty hours per week in pleasant offices. They spend much of their time on their feet. They may do much bending, stretching, and reaching in the course of a working day. Filing may become repetitious.
Where to Go for More Information
Office and Professional Employees International Union
265 W. 14th St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on the size and location of the office. Full-time file clerks earned a median annual salary in 2004 of $21,029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clerks with experience can earn more. The benefits that clerks receive depend on the industry in which they work. In general, benefits include paid holidays, vacations, and health insurance. Some of these workers belong to labor unions that are active in the industry in which they work.