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Significant Points
  • Most jobs require only a high school diploma; tellers should enjoy public contact, must feel comfortable handling large amounts of money, and should be discreet and trustworthy.
  • About 3 out of 10 tellers work part time.
  • Most job openings will arise from replacement needs because turnover is high.
  • Although the job outlook for tellers has improved recently, employment is projected to grow more slowly than average.
Nature of the Work

The teller is the person most people associate with a bank. Tellers make up approximately one-fourth of bank employees and conduct most of a bank’s routine transactions. Among the responsibilities of tellers are cashing checks, accepting deposits and loan payments, and processing withdrawals. They also may sell savings bonds, accept payment for customers’ utility bills and charge cards, process necessary paperwork for certificates of deposit, and sell travelers’ checks. Some tellers specialize in handling foreign currencies or commercial or business accounts.

Being a teller requires a great deal of attention to detail. Before cashing a check, a teller must verify the date, the name of the bank, the identity of the person who is to receive payment, and the legality of the document. A teller also must make sure that the written and numerical amounts agree and that the account has sufficient funds to cover the check. The teller then must carefully count cash to avoid errors. Sometimes a customer withdraws money in the form of a cashier’s check, which the teller prepares and verifies. When accepting a deposit, tellers must check the accuracy of the deposit slip before processing the transaction.

Prior to starting their shifts, tellers receive and count an amount of working cash for their drawers. A supervisor—usually the head teller—verifies this amount. Tellers use this cash for payments during the day and are responsible for its safe and accurate handling. Before leaving, tellers count their cash on hand, list the currency-received tickets on a balance sheet, make sure that the accounts balance, and sort checks and deposit slips. Over the course of a workday, tellers also may process numerous mail transactions. Some tellers replenish their cash drawers and corroborate deposits and payments to automated teller machines (ATMs).

In most banks, head tellers are responsible for the teller line. They set work schedules, ensure that the proper procedures are adhered to, and act as a mentor to less experienced tellers. In addition, head tellers may perform the typical duties of a teller, as needed, and may deal with the more difficult customer problems. They may access the vault, ensure that the correct cash balance is in the vault, and oversee large cash transactions. Technology continues to play a large role in the job duties of all tellers. In most banks, for example, tellers use computer terminals to record deposits and withdrawals. These terminals often give tellers quick access to detailed information on customer accounts. Tellers can use this information to tailor the bank’s services to fit a customer’s needs or to recommend an appropriate bank product or service.

As banks begin to offer more and increasingly complex financial services, tellers are being trained to identify sales opportunities. This task requires them to learn about the various financial products and services the bank offers so that they can briefly explain them to customers and refer interested customers to appropriate specialized sales personnel. In addition, tellers in many banks are being cross-trained to perform some of the functions of customer service representatives.

Working Conditions

Tellers work in an office environment. They may experience eye and muscle strain, backaches, headaches, and repetitive motion injuries as a result of using computers on a daily basis. Tellers may have to sit for extended periods while reviewing detailed data.

Many tellers work regular business hours and a standard 40-hour week. A substantial number work just part time. Full-time and part-time tellers may work some evenings and weekends.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Most tellers are required to have at least a high school diploma. Some have some college training or even a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, or liberal arts. Although a degree is rarely required, graduates may accept teller positions to get into a particular company or to enter the banking field with the hope of eventually being promoted to professional or managerial positions.

Experience working in an office environment or in customer service, and particularly cash-handling experience, can be important for tellers. Regardless of experience, employers prefer workers who have good communication skills and who are computer-literate; knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet software also is valuable.

Once hired, tellers usually receive on-the-job training. Under the guidance of a supervisor or other senior worker, new employees learn company procedures. Some formal classroom training also may be necessary, such as training in specific computer software.

Tellers should enjoy contact with the public. They must have a strong aptitude for numbers and feel comfortable handling large amounts of money. They should be discreet and trustworthy, because they frequently come in contact with confidential material. Tellers also must be careful, orderly, and detail-oriented in order to avoid making errors and to recognize errors made by others.

Tellers can prepare for better jobs by taking courses offered throughout the country by banking and financial institutes, colleges and universities, and private training institutions.

Tellers usually advance by taking on more duties in the same occupation or by being promoted to head teller or to another supervisory job. Many banks and other employers fill supervisory and managerial positions by promoting individuals from within their organizations, so outstanding tellers who acquire additional skills, experience, and training improve their advancement opportunities.


Tellers held about 558,000 jobs in 2004. The overwhelming majority worked in commercial banks, savings institutions, or credit unions. The remainder worked in a variety of other finance and other industries. About 3 out of 10 worked part time.

Job Outlook

Employment prospects for tellers have improved recently. Employment is projected to grow, but more slowly than average for all occupations through 2014. Banks are looking at their branch offices as places to attract customers for the increasing number and variety of financial products the banks sell. As recently as a few years ago, banks were closing branch offices and discouraging the use of tellers in an effort to cut costs, but in a turnaround, banks are now opening branch offices in more locations. They also are keeping them open longer during the day and on weekends, a practice that is expected to increase opportunities for tellers, particularly those who work part time. Most job openings will arise from replacement needs because turnover is high—a characteristic typical of large occupations that normally require little formal education and offer relatively low pay. Tellers who have excellent customer service skills, are knowledgeable about a variety of financial services, and can sell those services will be in greater demand in the future.

Despite the improved outlook, automation and technology will continue to reduce the need for tellers who perform only routine transactions. For example, ATMs and the increased use of direct deposit of paychecks and benefit checks have reduced the need for bank customers to interact with tellers for routine transactions. In addition, electronic banking is spreading rapidly throughout the banking industry. This type of banking, conducted over the telephone or the Internet, also will reduce the number of tellers over the long run.

Employment of tellers also is being affected by the increasing use of 24-hour telephone centers by many large banks. These centers allow a customer to interact with a bank representative at a distant location, either by telephone or by video terminal. Such centers usually are staffed by customer service representatives, who can handle a wider variety of transactions than tellers can, including applications for loans and credit cards.

Earnings [About this section] Back to Top Back to Top

Salaries of tellers may vary with their experience and with the region of the country, size of city, and type and size of establishment. Median annual earnings of tellers were $21,120 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,320 and $23,900 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $15,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28,100 a year.

As in other occupations, part-time tellers may not enjoy the same benefits—such as vacations, health and life insurance, and pensions—as full-time workers.

Related Occupations

Tellers enter data into a computer, handle cash, and keep track of financial transactions. Other clerks who perform similar duties include bill and account collectors; billing and posting clerks and machine operators; bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; gaming cage workers; brokerage clerks; and credit authorizers, checkers, and clerks.

Sources of Additional Information

Information on employment opportunities for tellers is available from banks and other employers and local offices of the State employment service and from:

  • Bank Administration Institute, 1 North Franklin St., Chicago, IL 60606.
    • Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition

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