General office clerks are generalized office workers whose tasks and responsibilities change due to the needs of their employers. They may file, type, photocopy, send faxes, prepare mailings, proofread copies, answer telephones, or work at a computer terminal. Clerks in different types of offices may perform similar duties, such as sorting checks, keeping payroll records, taking inventory, and accessing information. However, some of their work is dependent on the type of office in which they work. In different offices, they may organize medications, make transparencies, or fill fax orders. Their duties also vary by their level of experience. Relatively inexperienced clerks may be relegated to simpler tasks, such as making photocopies, stuffing envelopes, or recording inquiries. But more experienced clerks may be responsible for maintaining financial records, setting up spreadsheets, verifying statistical reports, handling customer complaints, making travel arrangements, or assisting in the preparation of invoices.
General office clerks are required to work with many different professionals and other employees, and therefore should have a cooperative disposition and be able to work well within a team. Employers usually look for candidates who have a variety of skills and can work for many different departments within the firm. General office clerks need to have well-developed written and verbal communication skills. They should also be adaptable and have an eye for detail.
In 2002, general office clerks earned a median annual salary of $22,280. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $14,260, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $34,890. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of general office clerks:
- Local government $25,020
- Elementary and secondary schools 23,310
- General medical and surgical hospitals 23,250
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools 22,540
- Employment services 20,630
Training and Education
Most employers of general office clerks require candidates to have a high school diploma and basic office skills, including typing and basic computer operation. More and more, employers are valuing candidates who are familiar with word processing software and applications. Candidates can prepare for general office clerk positions by attending business education programs through high schools, community and junior colleges, and postsecondary vocational schools. The best programs usually include courses in office practices, word processing, and other computer applications. Advancement to supervisory positions is possible for general office clerks who demonstrate leadership potential and who have strong communication and analytical skills. They may also advance to receptionist, secretary, or administrative assistant.
In 2002, general office clerks held about 3 million jobs. 50% worked in local government; health care and social assistance; administrative and support services; finance and insurance; and professional, scientific, and technical services.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of general office clerks is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Computers and office automation will increase productivity and require fewer workers to complete the same tasks. However, a consolidation of clerical staffs and a diversification of job responsibilities will increase demand for these workers. While job opportunity will vary depending on the strength of the economy, opportunity will be especially good for workers who have knowledge of basic computer applications, familiarity with office machinery, and good written and verbal communication skills.