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What are Clerical Skills?

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Typing, Filing, Phones—All in a Day's Work

Clerical skills include those basic skills necessary to keep a business running smoothly, such as filing and answering the phone. Entry-level positions are available, both full- and part-time, for workers with general skills. Some clerical workers have specialized knowledge that qualifies them for positions in certain sectors, such as government or finance. With opportunities in almost every industry, you’re likely to find a clerical job that suits you and your family.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Employers seeking clerical workers look for a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. They look for workers with both “soft” and “hard” skills. Soft skills are “people” skills, including the ability to communicate clearly, solve problems, be organized and manage time efficiently. Hard skills are job-specific, and for a general clerical position, they typically include the following:

  • Answering the phone
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Filing
  • Minor bookkeeping
  • Photocopying
  • Record keeping
  • Typing and word processing (expected speed is about 60 words per minute)

Job Training

Clerical skills are often taught in high school and vocational-technical schools. For entry-level positions, some employers will provide on-the-job training. Many free online tutorials are available that can help you learn some of the basic skills. In addition to online tutorials, you can find books at your local library or bookstore that can assist you with the most commonly used office software applications, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.

Clerk Versus Administrative Assistant

Although the terms “office clerk,” “secretary” and “administrative assistant” are often used interchangeably, the job descriptions differ. In a small office, one person may handle all the duties, but in larger organizations, the workload is shared. Office clerks usually do the typing and filing, and they also may answer phones. Secretaries make appointments, handle correspondence, take messages and often serve as the office receptionist. Administrative assistants oversee clerks and secretaries and have greater responsibility in the running of an office. Rather than just making appointments, for example, an administrative assistant might manage the schedule for an entire team or department. Administrative assistants are often involved in long-range projects as well as a company’s day-to-day operations.

Getting Clerical Work Experience

Since many clerical jobs are entry-level, you may not need prior paid work experience if you can demonstrate your knowledge of basic office skills. If you are a recent high school graduate and you took some business courses, ask a teacher who knows you well to write a letter of recommendation. You can often gain some clerical experience through volunteer work. Check for opportunities at your place of worship, a local hospital or a community center. Some vocational-technical schools and community colleges offer work-study programs, which may help you get the experience you want.

Salary Ranges

The median annual salary for an office clerk is $30,763, which is about $15.38 per hour. The median salary means that half the people employed in the position make more, while half make less. Geographic location, employer and job requirements can impact salary. In general, some ranges you can expect, based on experience, include:

  • Less than one year of experience: $28,870 to $30,548
  • 1 to 2 years of experience: $29,688 to $31,408
  • 3 to 4 years of experience: $30,763 to $32,805
  • 6+ years of experience: $31,408 to $33,558

Starting salaries generally do not increase for job seekers with more than six years of experience. To get higher pay, clerks specialize beyond general office skills or acquire more knowledge, so they qualify for jobs as secretaries, administrative assistants or as workers in other office positions.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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