Education and Training: High school
Salary: Median—$22,770 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Office clerks do many jobs that are basic to office work. Clerks make up payrolls and bills. They enter data on a computer, scan documents, sort mail, answer e-mail, and file papers and reports. Clerks work in government offices, insurance companies, and hospitals. They work for department stores, manufacturers, and other businesses. In small offices general office clerks perform a variety of tasks according to a schedule. For instance, clerks might prepare payroll checks every Thursday and stock the supply closet every Friday. Some clerks move from job to job as the need arises. These clerks are called floaters. For instance, a clerk might enter invoices into a database one day and help secretaries type letters the next day.
In large companies the work of office clerks is usually more specialized. One clerk might be in charge of copying letters, manuscripts, or other materials on photocopying machines. Another clerk might spend each day working in the bookkeeping department. Office clerks are often supervised by secretaries or office managers. Many clerks operate office machines such as fax machines, photocopiers, and computers. Some organizations have specialized clerical jobs that are not found elsewhere. For instance, hospitals employ clerks to enter information into a computer as patients are admitted to the hospital.
Education and Training Requirements
Most employers prefer people who have a high school education. High school courses in business software and business math are helpful. Any knowledge a student can gain about computers and business machines is also useful. Some high schools have work–study programs in which students can work in clerical jobs while still in school. Sometimes students can get summer jobs in which they can learn to do various clerical jobs.
Getting the Job
A person's school placement office may be able to help him or her find openings. Interested individuals can apply to companies directly or answer the classified ads in their local newspaper or on Internet job sites. Candidates who want to work for the government should arrange to take the necessary civil service examination. State and private employment agencies list clerical openings.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
A person may start as a general office clerk and advance to a specialized job such as bookkeeping clerk. Some clerks become word processors by increasing their typing speed and accuracy. Some clerks who are proficient at word processing go back to school to take shorthand in order to become secretaries. Clerks sometimes seek further training and become bookkeepers.
Roughly 3.1 million general office clerks were employed in the United States in 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average growth for all occupations was expected to outpace the growth of general office clerk employment through the year 2014. The increased use of computers and other technology will lead to further office automation and result in the elimination of some clerical jobs. Clerks who remain in their jobs will likely be required to take on more duties around an office. Some positions, however, will become available as clerical workers move up to more specialized jobs. Other new jobs will be created throughout the country as new businesses form that require the service of a general office clerk.
Clerks work in many different settings, from offices in big cities to those in suburban or rural office parks. Offices can be hectic and noisy or quiet and well organized. Clerks usually perform routine tasks that may be repetitive. They usually work a standard forty hours per week. Many clerks belong to labor unions that are active in the industry in which they work.
Where to Go for More Information
Earnings and Benefits
Wages vary depending on the level of responsibility and the size and location of the employer. In 2004 general office clerks earned a median salary of $22,770 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some clerks earn more by working overtime. Many clerks receive paid vacations, paid holidays, health insurance, and pension plans.