Pros and Cons of Becoming an Office Clerk
Office clerks perform diverse tasks determined by the needs of the specific business. Read on to learn about some of the perks and pitfalls of being an office clerk.
|Pros of Being an Office Clerk|
|Minimal educational requirements*|
|Variety of potential work settings*|
|Opportunities to work on a part-time or temporary basis (around 25% of office clerks work on a part-time basis)*|
|Wide range of work duties*|
|Cons of Being an Office Clerk|
|Below-average salary ($30,820 was the estimated national average income in May 2014)*|
|Overtime may be required*|
|Some experience may be required, though the work is entry level*|
|As the economy changes, job opportunities for office clerks may decrease*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Salary Information
To maintain the flow of office communication, office clerks typically operate fax machines, scanners, photocopiers, postage machines and computers, among other types of office equipment. As an entry-level employee, you may send and distribute mail, answer the phones, deliver messages, file records, send faxes and make copies. Outside of general office tasks, your duties are determined by the particular needs of your employer. Some possible duties include proofreading reports, editing correspondence, making appointments, performing data entry, taking inventory and keeping payroll records.
As you develop additional skills and familiarity with office procedures, you're likely to take on more complex responsibilities. You may create spreadsheets, maintain financial records, handle customer complaints and arrange business trips, for example. With seniority and experience, you may supervise other office employees and possibly earn a promotion to an advanced administrative assistant or secretarial position.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that the average hourly income for office clerks in May 2014 was $14.82, with an average annual income of $30,820 (www.bls.gov). Office clerks who were in the top ten percent of wage estimates had incomes of $46,000 or more. Top-paying industries for office clerks include the postal service and natural gas distributors. About one-fourth of office clerks work in motor vehicle manufacturing and aluminum processing.
You can apply for most office clerk jobs with a high school diploma or GED, but you typically need to demonstrate that you have some basic office skills. You can benefit from taking classes in common office computer programs like Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Developing your oral and written communication skills will also make you a more attractive job applicant. Your high school may offer keyboarding, computer applications and office skills courses. Community colleges, adult education centers and vocational schools are additional resources for office skills training. A 1-year program might cover topics like communications, human relations, office procedures and computer business applications.
What Employers Are Looking For
Completing some kind of formal training program in office skills and procedures will give you the skills you need to be a strong candidate for an entry-level position. As offices become increasingly automated, job candidates who can demonstrate broad-based skills and adaptability are preferred. Take a look at this sample of job postings from Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com in February 2012 to see what real employers are looking for in office clerks.
- An ice cream company's home office in Texas needs an office clerk who has previous office experience and has a professional, personal and 'can do' attitude.
- A mortgage company in Minnesota requires an office clerk who can work with minimal supervision and possesses intermediate data entry skills of 6,500+ kph.
- A staffing business in Florida needs a general office clerk who can stick to deadlines and process invoices.
- A software company in Texas is looking for an office clerk with a typing speed of at least 50-60 words per minute and already knows how to use fax machines, photocopiers and scanners.
How You Can Stand Out
Though you may need to earn a bachelor's degree to advance to professional positions, office clerk jobs often provide a lot of room to grow if you have initiative and experience. As you begin to help develop PowerPoint presentations, interact with vendors, prepare budget requests or take on leadership roles, you become a greater asset to employers. If you develop specialized skills, you may be promoted to fill a job vacancy in your company. If you can show potential employers that you maximize your time on the job by enhancing your skills, you will stand out from the pack.
Another way to impress employers is to enroll in a certificate or associate's degree program for administrative assistants at a community college to improve your office, computer and communication skills. Some of these programs provide opportunities for on-the-job training through internships. In addition to keyboarding, you may learn advanced formatting and document-processing skills. Business communication skills are typically stressed in these programs that will enable you to write a cover letter and resume that makes an impact.
Organizations like the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offer voluntary certifications that show employers you can perform the tasks required for the job and potentially lead to higher compensation (www.iaap-hq.org). To become certified, you need to pass an exam that tests your understanding of office technology and administration, as well as business communication. IAAP also offers specialization certifications in Microsoft Office computer applications, such as Outlook, Excel, Project and Access.
Other Career Options
If you're not interested in working in an office setting but are seeking a related entry-level position, you may consider becoming a stock clerk. Stock clerks work in storage facilities, warehouses or stores processing merchandise. This can involve stocking shelves, pricing items or shipping packages. This job can be physically demanding due to the weight of the shipments and items you have to move around. The BLS estimated that stock clerks earned an average salary of $23,790 in May 2010.
Bank tellers work in a customer service position and perform many clerical duties similar to office clerks. Bank tellers are expected to respond to customer concerns with courtesy, accuracy and efficiency. The business services a bank teller usually provides include cashing checks, handling withdrawals, processing loan payments and assisting with deposits. The BLS reported that bank tellers in May 2010 earned an average estimated income of $24,980.