When you see office clerks on TV or in movies, they’re often overworked, apathetic workers who hassle a main character, setting up laughs or conflict. In reality, office clerks are skilled administrators who keep an office organized and humming along. They have stellar organizational skills, and a versatile collection of administrative know-how that makes them indispensable players in any office. This is also one of the most popular jobs in the U.S., with more than 2.9 million office clerks working across the country.
The Role of an Office Clerk
Basically, office clerks do what needs to be done in an office, administratively. Their duties might include any of the following:
- Answer phones
- File records and manage filing systems
- Review data for accuracy
- Enter data into databases or other systems
- Maintain customer or client accounts
- Sort mail
- Make copies
- Process payments or perform basic bookkeeping
- Ensure office compliance with rules or regulations
The job varies according to industry as well—for example, a medical file clerk’s day-to-day would likely be very different from a file clerk in a law firm or a large corporation. There may be industry-specific administrative duties in addition to these general responsibilities.
A job or career as an office clerk makes you a very adaptable employee, with a skill set you can carry with you to any number of industries. It’s also a very stable career path, because offices will always need skilled, organized people to handle daily administration.
Office clerks can usually get started with a high school degree or an associate’s degree. There is no specific training or certification program for office clerks. Clerks are typically hired based on experience and/or skills rather than specific educational milestones.
Office clerks should have strong skills in the following areas:
- Organization. Keeping everything straight and moving forward is a major part of the job description.
- Communication. Office clerks are often a liaison between different parts of an office, making sure that information and processes are running efficiently. This means you should be able to communicate clearly and effectively with a variety of different people.
- Customer service. This is a service position, often dealing with direct requests inside the company or external customer interactions, so it’s important to have a strong, patient customer service game face.
- Attention to detail. Office clerks may be processing sensitive information or just lots of it, so it’s crucial to be able to spot inconsistencies, and ensure that everything is correct and accurate.
- Computer skills. Forty years ago, an office clerk would have been deeply knowledgeable about hard copy filing systems, recordkeeping, and the like. Now, an office clerk has to be up on all the technology used to manage the storage and flow of information in a company. That can be anything from standard paper files to apps to databases. You don’t have to be a hacker-level computer genius, but knowing how to use the most important tech for your particular industry or company is key. Knowing the technology can also make you an even more valuable member of the team as companies look for ways to streamline their staff and operations.
For general office clerks, the median salary is $30,580 per year (or $14.70 per hour), per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The pay can vary depending on the industry (specialized file clerks might earn more, for example), level of experience, and type of company.
The good news about being an office clerk is that this is a pretty evergreen job. How companies manage their information and offices may change and adapt with the times, but there will always be the need for qualified people to perform these tasks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that growth will be steady, if slightly slower than average: 3% growth by 2024. But again, the skills you use as an office clerk are excellent baseline skills that you can take to a variety of different fields, even if office clerking isn’t necessarily your long-range plan.
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