Employment is expected to decline because of growth in online
retailing and in business-to-business electronic commerce, and
the use of automated systems that make placing orders easy and
A high school diploma or its equivalent is the most common
Nature of the Work
Order clerks receive and process orders for a variety of
goods or services, such as spare parts for machines, consumer
appliances, gas and electric power connections, film rentals,
and articles of clothing. They sometimes are called order-entry
clerks, sales representatives, order processors, or order
Orders for materials, merchandise, or services can come from
inside or from outside of an organization. In large companies
with many worksites, such as automobile manufacturers, clerks
order parts and equipment from the company’s warehouses. Inside
order clerks receive orders from other workers employed by
the same company or from salespersons in the field.
Many other order clerks, however, receive orders from outside
companies or individuals. Order clerks in wholesale businesses,
for instance, receive orders from retail establishments for
merchandise that the retailer, in turn, sells to the public.
An increasing number of order clerks are working for catalog
companies and online retailers, receiving orders from individual
customers by telephone, fax, regular mail, or e-mail. Order
clerks dealing primarily with the public sometimes are referred
to as outside order clerks.
Computers provide order clerks with ready access to information
such as stock numbers, prices, and inventory. The successful
filling of an order frequently depends on having the right
products in stock and being able to determine which products
are most appropriate for the customer’s needs. Some order
clerks—especially those in industrial settings—must be able
to give price estimates for entire jobs, not just single parts.
Others must be able to take special orders, give expected
arrival dates, prepare contracts, and handle complaints.
Many order clerks receive orders directly by telephone, entering
the required information as the customer places the order.
However, a rapidly increasing number of orders now are received
through computer systems, the Internet, faxes, and e-mail.
In some cases, these orders are sent directly from the customer’s
terminal to the order clerk’s terminal. Orders received by
regular mail are sometimes scanned into a database that is
instantly accessible to clerks.
Clerks review orders for completeness and clarity. They may
fill in missing information or contact the customer for the
information. Clerks also contact customers if the customers
need additional information, such as prices or shipping dates,
or if delays in filling the order are anticipated. For orders
received by regular mail, clerks extract checks or money orders,
sort them, and send them for processing.
After an order has been verified and entered, the customer’s
final cost is calculated. The clerk then routes the order
to the proper department—such as the warehouse—which actually
sends out or delivers the item in question.
In organizations with sophisticated computer systems, inventory
records are adjusted automatically, as sales are made. In
less automated organizations, order clerks may adjust inventory
records. Clerks also may notify other departments when inventories
are low or when filling certain orders would deplete supplies.
Some order clerks must establish priorities in filling orders.
For example, an order clerk in a blood bank may receive a
request from a hospital for a certain type of blood. The clerk
must first find out whether the request is routine or an emergency
and then take appropriate action.
Order clerks usually work a standard 40-hour workweek. Most
order clerks work in areas that are clean, well lit, and relatively
quiet. These workers sit for long periods of time in front
of computer terminals, which may cause eyestrain and headaches.
Order clerks in retail establishments typically work overtime
during peak holiday seasons, when sales volume is high.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Employers prefer applicants with a high school diploma or
its equivalent or a mix of education and related experience.
Most employers prefer workers who are computer literate and
have a working knowledge of word-processing and spreadsheet
Most order clerks are trained on the job under the close
supervision of more experienced employees. Proficiency with
computer software is becoming increasingly important because
most orders are being filed electronically. By taking on more
duties, ambitious order clerks can receive higher pay or become
eligible for advancement opportunities. Some use their experience
as an order clerk to move into sales positions.
Order clerks held about 293,000 jobs in 2004. Over 50 percent
of order clerks were employed in wholesale and retail trade
establishments, and another 16 percent were employed in manufacturing
firms. Other jobs for order clerks were in industries such
as information, warehousing and storage, couriers, and business
Job openings for order clerks likely will be limited, as
improvements in technology and office automation continue
to increase worker productivity. While overall employment
of order clerks is expected to decline through the year 2014,
numerous openings will occur each year to replace order clerks
who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force
completely. Many of these openings will be for seasonal work,
especially in catalog companies or online retailers catering
to holiday gift buyers.
The growth in online retailing and in business-to-business
electronic commerce, and the use of automated systems that
make placing orders easy and convenient, will decrease demand
for order clerks. The spread of electronic data interchange,
which enables computers to communicate directly with each
other, allows orders within establishments to be placed with
little human intervention. In addition, internal systems allowing
a firm’s employees to place orders directly are becoming increasingly
common. Outside orders placed over the Internet often are
entered directly into the computer by the customer; thus,
the order clerk is not involved at all in placing the order.
Some companies also use automated phone menus that are accessible
with a touch-tone phone to receive orders, and others use
answering machines. Developments in voice recognition technology
may further reduce the demand for order clerks.
Furthermore, increased automation will allow current order
clerks to be more productive, with each clerk able to handle
an increasingly higher volume of orders. Sophisticated inventory
control and automatic billing systems permit companies to
track inventory and accounts with much less help from order
clerks than in the past.
Median hourly earnings of order clerks in May 2004 were $12.07.
The middle 50 percent earned between $9.45 and $15.53. The
lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.75, and the highest
10 percent earned more than $19.34. Median hourly earnings
in electronic shopping and mail-order houses was $9.83 while
median earnings in machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant
wholesalers was $14.05 in May 2004. In business support services,
median hourly earning was $9.71 in May 2004.
Order clerks receive and process orders. Other workers who
perform similar duties include stock clerks and order fillers
as well as hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks.
Sources of Additional Information
State employment service offices and agencies can provide
information about job openings for order clerks.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition