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File Clerks

Significant Points
  • About 3 out of 10 file clerks work part time.
  • A high school diploma or its equivalent is the most common educational requirement.
  • Employment is expected to decline through the year 2014.

    Nature of the Work

    The amount of information generated by organizations continues to grow rapidly. File clerks classify, store, retrieve, and update this information. In many small offices, they often have additional responsibilities, such as entering data, performing word processing, sorting mail, and operating copying or fax machines. File clerks are employed across the Nation by organizations of all types.

    File clerks, also called record, information, or record center clerks, examine incoming material and code it numerically, alphabetically, or by subject matter. They then store paper forms, letters, receipts, or reports or enter necessary information into other storage devices. Some clerks operate mechanized files that rotate to bring the needed records to them; others convert documents to film that is then stored on microforms, such as microfilm or microfiche. A growing number of file clerks use imaging systems that scan paper files or film and store the material on computers.

    In order for records to be useful, they must be up to date and accurate. File clerks ensure that new information is added to files in a timely manner and may discard outdated file materials or transfer them to inactive storage. Clerks also check files at regular intervals to make sure that all items are correctly sequenced and placed. When records cannot be found, file clerks attempt to locate the missing material. As an organizationís needs for information change, file clerks implement changes to the filing system.

    When records are requested, file clerks locate them and give them to the person requesting them. A record may be a sheet of paper stored in a file cabinet or an image on microform. In the former case, the clerk retrieves the document manually and hands or forwards it to the requester. In the latter case, the clerk retrieves the microform and displays it on a microform reader. If necessary, file clerks make copies of records and distribute them. In addition, they keep track of materials removed from the files, to ensure that borrowed files are returned.

    Increasingly, file clerks are using computerized filing and retrieval systems that have a variety of storage devices, such as a mainframe computer, CD-ROM, or floppy disk. To retrieve a document in these systems, the clerk enters the documentís identification code, obtains the location of the document, and gets the document for the patron. Accessing files in a computer database is much quicker than locating and physically retrieving paper files. Still, even when files are stored electronically, backup paper or electronic copies usually are also kept.

    Working Conditions

    File clerks usually work in areas that are clean, well lit, and relatively quiet. The work is not overly strenuous but may involve a lot of standing, walking, reaching, pulling, and bending, depending on the method used to retrieve files. Prolonged exposure to computer screens may lead to eyestrain for the many file clerks who work with computers.

    Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

    Most employers prefer applicants with a high school diploma or its equivalent or a mix of education and related experience. File clerks must be able to work with others since part of the job may consist of helping fellow workers. These workers must be alert, accurate, and able to make quick decisions. Also, willingness to do routine and detailed work is important.

    Most new employees are trained on the job under close supervision of more experienced employees. Proficiency with desktop computer software is becoming increasingly important as more files are now being stored electronically. These workers can advance to more senior clerical office positions such as receptionist or bookkeeping clerk.


    File clerks held about 255,000 jobs in 2004. Although file clerk jobs are found in nearly every sector of the economy, more than 90 percent of these workers are employed in service-providing industries, including government. Healthcare establishments employed around 1 out of every 4 file clerks. About 3 out of every 10 file clerks worked part time in 2004.

    Job Outlook

    Employment of file clerks is expected to decline through the year 2014 largely due to productivity gains stemming from office automation and the consolidation of clerical jobs. Most files are stored digitally and can be retrieved electronically, reducing the demand for file clerks. Nonetheless, there will be some job opportunities for file clerks as a large number of workers will be needed to replace workers who leave the occupation each year. Job turnover among file clerks reflects the lack of formal training requirements, limited advancement potential, and relatively low pay. Demand for file clerks stems from the need for these workers to record and retrieve information in organizations across the economy

    Jobseekers who have typing and other secretarial skills and who are familiar with a wide range of office machines, especially personal computers, should have the best job opportunities. File clerks should find opportunities for temporary or part-time work, especially during peak business periods.


    Median hourly earnings of file clerks in May 2004 were $10.11. The middle 50 percent earned between $8.22 and $12.59. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $6.97, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $15.72. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest number of file clerks in May 2004 are shown below.

    Local government $11.79
    General medical and surgical hospitals 10.38
    Legal services 10.32
    Employment services 10.06
    Offices of physicians 9.07

    Related Occupations

    File clerks classify and retrieve files. Other workers who perform similar duties include receptionists and information clerks and stock clerks and order fillers.

    Sources of Additional Information

    State employment service offices and agencies can provide information about job openings for file clerks.

    • Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition

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