General office clerks perform a variety of administrative tasks, including answering telephones, typing or word processing, making copies of documents, and maintaining records.

Duties

General office clerks typically do the following:

  • Answer telephone calls, take messages, or transfer calls to staff
  • Sort and deliver incoming mail and send outgoing mail
  • Schedule appointments and receive customers or visitors
  • Provide general information to staff, clients, or the public
  • Type, format, or edit routine memos or other reports
  • Copy, file, and maintain paper or electronic documents and records
  • Prepare and process travel vouchers, billing, or other office documents
  • Obtain information, send correspondence, or perform data entry

Rather than performing a single specialized task, general office clerks have responsibilities that often change daily with the needs of the specific job and the employer.

Some clerks spend their time filing documents or answering phones; others enter data into computers. Because organizations often keep files and records on computers, office clerks use computer software applications. They also frequently use photocopiers, fax machines, and other office equipment.

The specific duties assigned to clerks can vary significantly, depending on the type of office in which they work. For example, a general office clerk at a college or university may process application materials or answer questions from prospective students. A clerk at a hospital may file and retrieve medical records.

Clerks’ duties also vary by level of experience. Inexperienced employees may sort mail and take phone messages. Experienced clerks usually have additional responsibilities. For example, they may be required to maintain financial records, set up spreadsheets, or check statistical reports for accuracy.

Some senior office clerks may supervise and direct the work of other clerks.

Work Environment

General office clerks held about 3 million jobs in 2012 and were employed in nearly every industry.

The industries that employed the most general office clerks in 2012 were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 12%
Health care and social assistance 12
Administrative and support and
waste management and remediation services
10
Government 9

General office clerks usually work in comfortable office settings.

Work Schedules

Most general office clerks work full time. About 1 in 4 clerks worked part time in 2012.

Education and Training

General office clerks typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and learn their skills on the job.

Education

General office clerks typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Business education programs offered in community colleges and postsecondary vocational schools can help candidates prepare for an entry-level job. Courses in office practices, word processing, and other common computer applications are particularly helpful.

Training

General office clerks usually learn their skills on the job. On-the-job training typically lasts up to 1 month and may include instructions on office procedures and the use of office equipment.

Advancement

General office clerks may advance to other administrative positions with more responsibility, such as executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants.

Advancement opportunities often depend on work experience, work habits, and computer software skills.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Clerks often provide general information to company staff, customers, or the public. As a result, they should be courteous and prompt with their response.

Detail oriented. Many administrative tasks, such as proofreading documents and arranging schedules, require excellent attention to detail.

Organizational skills. Being organized helps office clerks retrieve files and other important information quickly and efficiently.

Pay

The median hourly wage for general office clerks was $13.21 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.59 per hour, and the top 10 percent earned more than $21.21 per hour.

In May 2012, median hourly wages for general office clerks in the top four industries employing these clerks were as follows:

Government $15.24
Health care and social assistance 13.23
Educational services;
state, local, and private
13.08
Administrative and support and
waste management and remediation services
12.25

Most general office clerks work full time. About 1 in 4 worked part time in 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of general office clerks is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by industry.

For example, healthcare facilities are expected to require more workers to handle various administrative tasks related to billing and insurance processing as more people have access to health insurance and medical services. Conversely, employment of general office clerks in the federal government is projected to decline as other workers are increasingly performing tasks that general office clerks used to do.

Overall, employment growth of office clerks should moderate as technology makes them more productive. For example, many organizations maintain electronic documents or use automated phone systems, reducing the need for general office clerks.

Job Prospects

Job prospects are expected to be good due to employment growth and the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Job opportunities in healthcare facilities should be best, while opportunities in schools and government are expected to be less favorable.

Candidates who have a combination of work experience and computer software skills should have the best job prospects.

For More Information

For more information about administrative occupations, visit

International Association of Administrative Professionals

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.