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Office Clerks, General

Significant Points
  • Employment growth and high replacement needs in this large occupation will result in numerous job openings.
  • Prospects should be best for those with knowledge of basic computer applications and office machinery as well as good communication skills.
  • Part-time and temporary positions are common.
Nature of the Work

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. Whereas some clerks spend their days filing or keyboarding, others enter data at a computer terminal. They also can be called on to operate photocopiers, fax machines, and other office equipment; prepare mailings; proofread documents; and answer telephones and deliver messages.

The specific duties assigned to a clerk vary significantly, depending on the type of office in which he or she works. An office clerk in a doctor’s office, for example, would not perform the same tasks that a clerk in a large financial institution or in the office of an auto parts wholesaler would perform. Although both may sort checks, keep payroll records, take inventory, and access information, clerks also perform duties unique to their employer, such as organizing medications, making transparencies for a presentation, or filling orders received by fax machine.

Clerks’ duties also vary by level of experience. Whereas inexperienced employees make photocopies, stuff envelopes, or record inquiries, experienced clerks usually are given additional responsibilities. For example, they may maintain financial or other records, set up spreadsheets, verify statistical reports for accuracy and completeness, handle and adjust customer complaints, work with vendors, make travel arrangements, take inventory of equipment and supplies, answer questions on departmental services and functions, or help prepare invoices or budgetary requests. Senior office clerks may be expected to monitor and direct the work of lower level clerks.

Working Conditions

For the most part, general office clerks work in comfortable office settings. Those on full-time schedules usually work a standard 40-hour week; however, some work shifts or overtime during busy periods. About 16 percent of clerks work part time. Many clerks also work in temporary positions.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Although most office clerk jobs are entry-level administrative support positions, employers may prefer or require previous office or business experience. Employers usually require a high school diploma or equivalent, and some require basic computer skills, including familiarity with word processing software, as well as other general office skills.

Training for this occupation is available through business education programs offered in high schools, community and junior colleges, and postsecondary vocational schools. Courses in office practices, word processing, and other computer applications are particularly helpful.

Because general office clerks usually work with other office staff, they should be cooperative and able to work as part of a team. Employers prefer individuals who are able to perform a variety of tasks and satisfy the needs of the many departments within a company. In addition, applicants should have good communication skills, be detail oriented, and adaptable.

General office clerks who exhibit strong communication, interpersonal, and analytical skills may be promoted to supervisory positions. Others may move into different, more senior administrative jobs, such as receptionist, secretary, or administrative assistant. After gaining some work experience or specialized skills, many workers transfer to jobs with higher pay or greater advancement potential. Advancement to professional occupations within an organization normally requires additional formal education, such as a college degree.


General office clerks held about 3.1 million jobs in 2004. Most are employed in relatively small businesses. Although they work in every sector of the economy, about 46 percent worked in local government; health care and social assistance; administrative and support services; finance and insurance; or professional, scientific, and technical services industries.

Job Outlook

Employment growth and high replacement needs in this large occupation will result in numerous job openings for general office clerks. In addition to those for full-time jobs, many job openings are expected for part-time and temporary general office clerks. Prospects should be best for those who have knowledge of basic computer applications and office machinery—such as fax machines, telephone systems, and scanners—and good writing and communication skills. As general administrative support duties continue to be consolidated, employers will increasingly seek well-rounded individuals with highly developed communication skills and the ability to perform multiple tasks.

Employment of general office clerks is expected to grow more slowly than average for all occupations through the year 2014. The employment outlook for these workers will be affected by the increasing use of technology, expanding office automation, and the consolidation of administrative support tasks. Automation has led to productivity gains, allowing a wide variety of duties to be performed by fewer office workers. However, automation also has led to a consolidation of administrative support staffs and a diversification of job responsibilities. This consolidation increases the demand for general office clerks because they perform a variety of administrative support tasks. It will become increasingly common within small businesses to find a single general office clerk in charge of all administrative support work.

Job opportunities may vary from year to year because the strength of the economy affects demand for general office clerks. Companies tend to employ more workers when the economy is strong. Industries least likely to be affected by economic fluctuations tend to be the most stable places for employment.


Median annual earnings of general office clerks were $22,770 in May 2004; the middle 50 percent earned between $18,090 and $28,950 annually. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $14,530, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $35,810. Median annual salaries in the industries employing the largest numbers of general office clerks in May 2004 were:

Local government $25,880
State government 24,970
Elementary and secondary schools 23,500
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 23,160
Employment services 20,910

Related Occupations

The duties of general office clerks can include a combination of bookkeeping, keyboarding, office machine operation, and filing. Other office and administrative support workers who perform similar duties include bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; communications equipment operators; customer service representatives; data entry and information processing workers; order clerks; receptionists and information clerks; secretaries and administrative assistants; stock clerks and order fillers; and tellers. Nonclerical entry-level workers include cashiers; counter and rental clerks; and food and beverage serving and related workers.

Sources of Additional Information

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

For information related to administrative occupations, including educational programs and certified designations, contact:

  • International Association of Administrative Professionals, 10502 NW. Ambassador Dr., P.O. Box 20404, Kansas City, MO 64195-0404. Internet: http://www.iaap-hq.org/
  • Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition

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