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Organizations of all kindsbusinesses, government agencies, unions, health care facilities, and colleges and universitiesmust keep accurate records. Maintaining and updating records, ranging from payrolls to information on the shipment of goods to bank statements, is the job of record clerks. (Additional information about specific record clerk occupations is provided in separate statements that follow this introductory statement.)
Record clerks perform a wide variety of recordkeeping duties. Billing clerks and billing machine operators 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. Statement clerks prepare monthly statements for bank customers. File clerks store and retrieve various kinds of office information for use by staff members. 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. Personnel clerks maintain employee records.
Record clerks' duties may vary with the size of the firm. In a small business, one bookkeeping clerk may handle all financial records and transactions, as well as payroll and personnel duties. On the other hand, a large firm may employ specialized accounting clerks to work on different aspects of the balance sheet, as well as specialized payroll and personnel clerks. However, it is increasingly common for clerical staff in firms of all sizes to 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.
Many record clerks use financial software to enter and manipulate data. In these cases, computer programs can automatically perform calculations on data that previously had to be calculated manually. Computers also enable clerks to access data within files more quickly than the former method of leafing through stacks of paper. Despite increased automation, however, workers still keep backup paper records for research, auditing, and reference purposes.
Interaction with the public and coworkers is a basic part of the job for many record clerks. Payroll clerks, for example, answer employees' questions concerning benefits; bookmobile drivers help patients in nursing homes and hospitals select books; and order clerks call customers to verify special mailing instructions.
Other record clerks include advertising clerkswho 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 purposesand correspondence clerkswho reply to customers regarding damage claims, delinquent accounts, incorrect billings, complaints of unsatisfactory service, and requests for merchandise exchanges and/or returns.
With the exception of library assistants and bookmobile drivers, record clerks typically are employed in an office environment. Most work alongside their organization's other clerical workers, but some record clerks work in centralized units away from the front office. Clerks who review detailed data may have to sit for extended periods of time. Although they do not do heavy lifting, file clerks and library assistants spend a lot of time on their feet and frequently stoop, bend, and reach. 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.
As the majority of record clerks use computers as part of their daily routine, these workers may experience eye and muscle strain, backaches, headaches, and repetitive motion injuries.
Most record clerks work regular business hours. Library assistants may work evenings and weekends, but those employed in school libraries generally 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, when sales volume is high. Brokerage clerks may also have to work overtime, if there is a high volume of activity in the stock or bond markets.
Record clerks held about 3.9 million jobs in 1996. The following tabulation shows employment in individual clerical occupations.
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks 2,250,000 Billing clerks and billing machine operators 437,000 Order clerks 329,000 File clerks 293,000 Payroll and timekeeping clerks 161,000 Library assistants and bookmobile drivers 125,000 Personnel clerks, except payroll and timekeeping 124,000 Brokerage and statement clerks 102,000 Correspondence clerks 31,000 Advertising clerks 18,000
These workers are employed in virtually every industry. The largest number of record 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.
Most record clerk jobs are entry-level, with most employers requiring applicants to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. A higher level of education is usually favored over a high school diploma, but is not generally required. However, in some cases, more extensive education is mandatory. For example, brokerage firms increasingly 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.
High schools, business schools, and community colleges teach those office skills needed by record clerks. Business education programs typically include courses in typing (keyboarding), word processing, shorthand, business communications, records management, and office systems and procedures. Technical training needed for some specialized order clerk positions can be obtained in technical institutes and in 2- and 4-year colleges.
Some entrants into the record clerk field 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 jobs. Some companies, such as brokerage and accounting firms, have a set plan of advancement that tracks college graduates from entry-level clerk 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, record clerks generally 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.
Record clerks must be careful, orderly, and detail-oriented, in order to avoid making errors and to be able to recognize errors made by others. These workers must also be honest, 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 individuals' financial information, these workers must be bonded. Many bookmobile drivers are now required to have a commercial driver's license.
Records clerks usually advance by taking on more duties in the same occupation for higher pay. Others advance transferring to closely related occupations. For example, some order clerks use their experience to move into sales positions. Others move into another clerical job, such as secretary, or advance to supervisory positions. With appropriate experience and education, some clerks may become accountants, personnel specialists, securities sales representatives, or librarians.
Turnover in this very large occupation places it among those occupations providing the most job openings. Opportunities will be plentiful for full-time, part-time, and seasonal employment, as record clerks transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
Little or no change is expected in employment of record clerks through the year 2006. Despite continued growth in the volume of business transactions, fewer record clerks will be needed, because of rising productivity stemming from the spread of office automation. 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 by other employees also reduces much of the data entry handled by record clerks. Additionally, managers and professionals now do much of their own clerical work, using computers to access, create, and store data directly into their computer systems. The growing use of local area networks is also facilitating electronic data interchangethe sending of data from computer to computerabolishing 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, job growth is projected for some record clerks, including billing clerks, brokerage clerks, and library assistants and bookmobile drivers. (See the separate statements on these and other record clerks that follow this introductory statement.)
Salaries of record 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 earnings of full-time record clerks in 1996 are shown in the following tabulation.
Order clerks $23,700 Payroll and timekeeping clerks 23,100 Personnel clerks 23,100 Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks 20,700 Billing clerks 20,600 Billing machine operators 20,500 Library clerks 19,200 File clerks 17,100
In the Federal Government in 1997, record clerks with a high school diploma or clerical experience typically started at $17,400 a year. Beginning salaries were slightly higher in areas where the prevailing local pay level was higher. In 1997, the average salary for all personnel clerks employed by the Federal Government was $27,600.
Today, most record 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.
State employment service offices can provide information about job openings for record clerks.
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