Financial clerks Career Information
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Significant Points· Most jobs require only a high school diploma.
· Numerous job opportunities should arise due to high turnover.
· Slower than average growth is expected in overall employment, reflecting the spread of computers and other office automation as well as organizational restructuring.
Nature of the WorkFinancial clerks keep
track of money. They record all amounts coming into or leaving an organization.
Their records are vital to an organization's need to keep track of all revenues
and expenses. While most financial clerks work in offices maintaining and processing
various accounting records, some deal directly with customers, taking in and
paying out money. When bills are not paid on time, financial clerks must contact
customers to find out why and attempt to resolve the problem. Other
clerks keep track of a store's inventory and order replacement stock when supplies
Depending on their specific titles, these workers perform a wide variety of financial recordkeeping duties. Bill and account collectors notify customers with delinquent accounts in order to solicit payment. Billing and posting clerks and machine operators prepare bills and invoices. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks maintain financial data in computer and paper files. Payroll and timekeeping clerks compute wages for payroll records and review employee timecards. Procurement clerks prepare purchase orders and monitor purchase requests. Tellers receive and pay out money for financial institutions, while gaming cage workers perform many of the same services for casinos.
The duties of financial clerks vary with the size of the firm. In a small business, a bookkeeper may handle all financial records and transactions, as well as payroll and billing duties. A large firm, on the other hand, may employ specialized accounting, payroll, and billing clerks. In general, however, clerical staffs in firms of all sizes increasingly perform a broader variety of tasks than in the past.
Another change in these occupations is the growing use of financial software to enter and manipulate data. Computer programs automatically perform calculations on data that were previously calculated manually. Computers also enable clerks to access data within files more quickly and even generate statements automatically. Nevertheless, most workers still keep backup paper records for research, auditing, and reference purposes, although a paperless office is increasingly the goal for many organizations.
Despite the growing use of automation, interaction with the public and coworkers remains a basic part of the job for many financial clerks. Payroll clerks, for example, answer questions concerning employee benefits; tellers and gaming cage workers help customers with their financial needs, and procurement clerks often have to deal with an organization's suppliers.
Working ConditionsWith the exception of
gaming cage workers, financial clerks typically are employed in an office environment.
Bill collectors who work for third-party collection agencies may spend most
of their days on the phone in a call center environment. However, a growing number of financial clerks, particularly
medical billers, work at home and many work part time.
Because the majority of financial clerks use computers on a daily basis, these workers may experience eye and muscle strain, backaches, headaches, and repetitive motion injuries. Also, clerks who review detailed data may have to sit for extended periods of time.
Most financial clerks work regular business hours. However, since most casinos are open 24 hours a day, gaming cage workers often work in shifts, including nights and weekends. Tellers can work some evenings and Saturday mornings, while bill collectors often have to work evenings and weekends when it is easier to reach people. 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.
EmploymentFinancial clerks held more than 3.7 million jobs in 2009. The following tabulation shows employment in individual clerical occupations:
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks 1,991,000
Billing and posting clerks and machine operators 506,000
Bill and account collectors 400,000
Payroll and timekeeping clerks 201,000
Procurement clerks 76,000
Gaming cage workers 22,000
These workers are employed in virtually every industry, including manufacturing, business and health services, and government. However, it is becoming more common for these clerks to work for companies that specialize in performing specific accounting services, such as bill collection, medical billing, and payroll services as companies seek to cut costs and outsource many administrative functions. Also, more financial clerks are finding jobs with personnel supply agencies, as companies increasingly hire temporary workers for peak periods.
All financial clerk occupations have some part-time workers, but tellers and bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks have the most with more than one-fourth working part time.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.Most financial clerks
are required to have at least a high school diploma. However, having some college
is becoming increasingly important, particularly for those occupations requiring
knowledge of accounting. For occupations such as bookkeepers, accounting clerks,
and procurement clerks, an associate's degree in business or accounting often
is required. Some financial clerks have bachelor's degrees in business, accounting,
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 positions. Some companies have a set plan of advancement that
tracks college graduates from entry-level clerical jobs into managerial positions.
Workers with bachelor's degrees are likely to start at higher salaries and advance
more easily than those without degrees.
Experience in a related job also is recommended for a number of these positions. For example, cash-handling experience is important for gaming cage workers and tellers. Telemarketing experience is useful for bill and account collectors. For other financial clerks, experience working in an office environment or in customer service is always beneficial. Regardless of the type of work, most employers prefer workers with good communication skills who are computer-literate; knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet software is especially valuable.
Gaming cage workers have additional requirements. They must be at least 21 years old and they are required to obtain a license by the State gaming commission or other regulatory body. In addition to a fee, applicants must provide a photograph and proof of age and residence. A background check is conducted to make sure that applicants do not have a criminal history.
Once hired, financial clerks usually receive on-the-job training. Under the guidance of a supervisor or other senior worker, new employees learn company procedures. Some formal classroom training also may be necessary, such as training in specific computer software. Bill and account collectors generally receive training in telephone techniques, negotiation skills, and the laws governing the collection of debt. Financial clerks must be careful, orderly, and detail-oriented in order to avoid making errors and recognize errors made by others. These workers also should be discreet and trustworthy, because they frequently come in contact with confidential material. Additionally, all financial clerks should have a strong aptitude for numbers.
Bookkeepers, particularly those who handle all the recordkeeping for companies, may find it beneficial to become certified. The Certified Bookkeeper designation, awarded by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, assures employers that individuals have the skills and knowledge required to carry out all the bookkeeping and accounting functions up through the adjusted trial balance, including payroll functions. For certification, candidates must have at least 2 years bookkeeping experience, pass three tests, and adhere to a code of ethics. Collection agencies may require their collectors to become certified by the American Collectors Association (ACA). ACA seminars concentrate on current State and Federal compliance laws. Since most States recognize these credentials, ACA-certified collectors have greater career mobility. Tellers can prepare for better jobs by taking courses offered throughout the country by banking and financial institutes, colleges and universities, and private training institutions.
Financial clerks usually advance by taking on more duties in the same occupation for higher pay or by transferring to a closely related occupation. For example, procurement clerks with the appropriate experience often become buyers. Most companies fill office and administrative support supervisory and managerial positions by promoting individuals from within their organization, so financial clerks who acquire additional skills, experience, and training improve their advancement opportunities. With appropriate experience and education, some clerks may become accountants; human resource specialists; or buyers.
Job OutlookOverall employment of financial clerks is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2012. Despite continued growth in the volume of business transactions, rising productivity stemming from the spread of office automation, as well as organizational restructuring, will adversely affect demand for financial clerks. Turnover in this large occupation, however, will provide the most job openings. As a result, opportunities should be plentiful for full-time and part-time employment as financial clerks transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
Many basic data entry accounting and clerical jobs already have become heavily automated. Productivity has increased significantly, as workers increasingly use personal computers instead of manual entry and time-consuming equipment such as typewriters, adding machines, and calculators. The growing use of bar code readers, point-of-sale terminals, automated teller machines, and optical scanners that record transactions reduces much of the data entry handled by financial clerks. In addition, the use of local area networks also is facilitating electronic data interchange—the sending of data from computer to computer—abolishing 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. In addition, as more companies merge or are acquired, accounting departments also are usually merged, reducing the number of financial clerks. More companies also are outsourcing their accounting functions to specialized companies that can do the job more efficiently.
Despite the expected slow growth, some financial clerks will fare better than others. The number of gaming cage workers should grow over time as more Indian tribes become involved in gaming. Also, the number of bill collectors is expected to increase as consumer debt continues to rise. The healthcare services industry is expected to hire more financial clerks, particularly billing clerks, to match the explosive growth of this sector and to process the large amounts of paperwork required to process patient claims.
EarningsSalaries of financial clerks vary considerably. The region of the country, size of city, and type and size of establishment all influence salary levels. Also, the level of expertise required and the complexity and uniqueness of a clerk's responsibilities also may affect earnings. Median hourly earnings of full-time financial clerks in 2009 were as follows:
Procurement clerks $13.33
Payroll and timekeeping clerks 13.07
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks 12.34
Bill and account collectors 12.17
Billing and posting clerks and machine operators 11.81
Gaming cage workers 9.99
In addition to their salary, some bill and account collectors receive commissions or bonuses based on the number of cases they close.
clerks enter data into a computer, handle cash, and keep track of business and
other financial transactions. Higher level financial clerks can generate reports
and perform analysis of the financial data. Other occupations that perform these duties
include brokerage clerks; cashiers; credit authorizers, checkers, and clerks;
loan interviewers and clerks; new accounts clerks; order clerks; and secretaries
and administrative assistants.
Career information on bill and account collectors is available from:
- ACA International, The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, P.O. Box 390106, Minneapolis, MN 55439. Internet: http://www.acainternational.org
For information on the Certified Bookkeeper designation, contact:
- American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, 6001 Montrose Rd., Suite 500, Rockville, MD 20852. Internet: http://www.aipb.org