Data Entry and Information Processing Workers
- Employers generally hire high school graduates who meet company
requirements for keyboarding speed; for many people, a job as
a data entry and information processing worker is their first
job after graduating from high school.
- Although overall employment is projected to decline, the need
to replace workers who leave this large occupation each year
should produce many job openings.
- Job prospects should be best for those with expertise in appropriate
computer software applications.
Organizations need to process a rapidly growing amount of information.
Data entry and information processing workers help ensure the
smooth and efficient handling of information. By keying in text,
entering data into a computer, operating a variety of office machines,
and performing other clerical duties, these workers help organizations
keep up with the rapid changes that are characteristic of today’s
“Information Age.” In addition to the job titles discussed below—such
as word processors, typists, and data entry keyers—data entry
and information processing workers are known by various other
titles, including electronic data processors, keypunch technicians,
Word processors usually set up and prepare reports, letters,
mailing labels, and other text material. As entry-level workers,
word processors may begin by keying headings on form letters,
addressing envelopes, or preparing standard forms on computers.
As they gain experience, they often are assigned tasks requiring
a higher degree of accuracy and independent judgment. Senior word
processors may work with highly technical material, plan and key
complicated statistical tables, combine and rearrange materials
from different sources, or prepare master copies.
Most keyboarding is now done on computers that normally are connected
to a monitor, keyboard, and printer and may have “add-on” capabilities,
such as optical character recognition readers. Word processors
use this equipment to record, edit, store, and revise letters,
memos, reports, statistical tables, forms, and other printed materials.
Although it is becoming less common, some word processing workers
are employed on centralized word processing teams that handle
transcription and keying for several departments.
In addition to fulfilling the duties mentioned above, word processors
often perform other office tasks, such as answering telephones,
filing, and operating copiers or other office machines. Job titles
of these workers frequently vary to reflect these duties. For
example, administrative clerks combine word processing with filing,
sorting mail, answering telephones, and other general office work.
Note readers transcribe stenotyped notes of court proceedings
into standard formats.
Data entry keyers usually input lists of items, numbers,
or other data into computers or complete forms that appear on
a computer screen. They also may manipulate existing data, edit
current information, or proofread new entries into a database
for accuracy. Some examples of data sources include customers’
personal information, medical records, and membership lists. Usually,
this information is used internally by a company and may be reformatted
before other departments or customers utilize it.
Keyers use various types of equipment to enter data. Many use
a machine that converts the information they type to magnetic
impulses on tapes or disks for entry into a computer system. Others
prepare materials for printing or publication by using data entry
composing machines. Some keyers operate online terminals or personal
computers. Increasingly, data entry keyers are working with nonkeyboard
forms of data entry, such as scanners and electronically transmitted
files. When using the new character recognition systems, data
entry keyers often enter only those data which cannot be recognized
by machines. In some offices, keyers also operate computer peripheral
equipment such as printers and tape readers, act as tape librarians,
and perform other clerical duties.
Data entry and information processing workers usually work a
standard 40-hour week in clean offices. They sit for long periods
and sometimes must contend with high noise levels caused by various
office machines. These workers are susceptible to repetitive strain
injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back injuries,
and eyestrain. To help prevent these conditions, many offices
have adopted regularly scheduled exercise breaks, ergonomically
designed keyboards, and workstations that allow workers to stand
or sit as they wish.
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Employers generally hire high school graduates who meet their
requirements for keyboarding speed. Increasingly, employers also
are expecting applicants to have training or experience in word
processing or data entry tasks. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar
skills are important, as is familiarity with standard office equipment
Students acquire skills in keyboarding and in the use of word
processing, spreadsheet, and database management computer software
packages through high schools, community colleges, business schools,
temporary help agencies, or self-teaching aids such as books,
tapes, and Internet tutorials.
For many people, a job as a data entry and information processing
worker is their first job after graduating from high school or
after a period of full-time family responsibilities. This work
frequently serves as a steppingstone to higher paying jobs with
increased responsibilities. Large companies and government agencies
usually have training programs to help administrative employees
upgrade their skills and advance to higher level positions. It
is common for data entry and information processing workers to
transfer to other administrative jobs, such as secretary, administrative
assistant, or statistical clerk, or to be promoted to a supervisory
job in a word processing or data entry center.
Data entry and information processing workers held about 525,000
jobs in 2004 and were employed in every sector of the economy;
330,000 were data entry keyers and 194,000 were word processors.
Some workers telecommute, working from their homes on personal
computers linked by telephone lines to those in the main office.
This arrangement enables them to key in material at home while
still being able to produce printed copy in their offices.
About 1 out of 5 data entry and information processing workers
held jobs in firms providing administrative and support services,
including temporary help and word processing agencies, and another
1 in 5 worked for State or local government.
Overall employment of data entry and information processing workers
is projected to decline through 2014. Nevertheless, the need to
replace those who transfer to other occupations or leave this
large occupation for other reasons will produce numerous job openings
each year. Job prospects will be most favorable for those with
the best technical skills—in particular, expertise in appropriate
computer software applications. Data entry and information processing
workers must be willing to upgrade their skills continuously in
order to remain marketable.
Although data entry and information processing workers are affected
by productivity gains stemming from organizational restructuring
and the implementation of new technologies, projected growth differs
among these workers. Employment of word processors and typists
is expected to decline because of the proliferation of personal
computers, which allows other workers to perform duties formerly
assigned to word processors and typists. Most professionals and
managers, for example, now use desktop personal computers to do
their own word processing. However, because technologies affecting
data entry keyers tend to be costlier to implement, employment
of these workers will decline less than word processors and typists.
Employment growth of data entry keyers will be dampened by productivity
gains as various data-capturing technologies, such as barcode
scanners, voice recognition technologies, and sophisticated character
recognition readers, become more prevalent. These technologies
can be applied to a variety of business transactions, such as
inventory tracking, invoicing, and placing orders. Moreover, as
telecommunications technology improves, many organizations will
increasingly take advantage of computer networks that allow data
to be transmitted electronically. These networks will permit more
data to be entered automatically into computers, reducing the
demand for data entry keyers.
In addition to being affected by technology, employment of data
entry and information processing workers will be adversely affected
by businesses that are increasingly contracting out their work.
Many organizations have reduced or even eliminated permanent in-house
staff—for example, in favor of temporary employment and staffing
services firms. Some large data entry and information processing
firms increasingly employ workers in nations with relatively lower
wages. As international trade barriers continue to fall and telecommunications
technology improves, this transfer of jobs will mean reduced demand
for data entry keyers in the United States.
Median annual earnings of word processors and typists in May
2004 were $28,030. The middle 50 percent earned between $22,850
and $34,900. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,960, while
the highest 10 percent earned more than $43,190. The salaries
of these workers vary by industry and by region. In May 2004,
median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest
numbers of word processors and typists were as follows:
|Elementary and secondary schools
Median annual earnings of data entry keyers in May 2004 were
$23,250. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,630 and $28,150.
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,480, and the highest
10 percent earned more than $34,410. The following are median
annual earnings for May 2004 in the industries employing the largest
numbers of data entry keyers:
|Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping,
and payroll services
|Depository credit intermediation
|Data processing, hosting, and related services
Data entry and information processing workers must transcribe
information quickly. Other workers who deliver information in
a timely manner are dispatchers and communications equipment operators.
Data entry and information processing workers also must be comfortable
working with office technology, and in this regard they are similar
to court reporters, medical records and health information technicians,
secretaries and administrative assistants, and computer operators.
Sources of Additional Information
For information about job opportunities for data entry and information
processing workers, contact the nearest office of the State employment
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook
Handbook, 2006-07 Edition