A data encoder or data entry worker has the important, detail-oriented job of taking information and putting it into computer memory, usually but not always by typing on a keyboard. The duties and responsibilities are relatively straightforward for data entry, although depending on the work environment, there may be the potential for burnout if quotas are too high or boredom if the work is too repetitive.
Types of data encoder or data entry jobs include medical transcriptionists, who listen to recorded notes made by doctors and turn them into polished medical reports, to signal intelligence (SIGINT) analysts in the military who translate spy documents from enemy code and input them in English into a database. However, most office data entry jobs are much more mundane.
If you're a fast, accurate typist with an ear or an eye for detail and you prefer to work in an office setting with predictable parameters, a job as a data encoder or data entry worker could be right for you.
A data encoder or data entry clerk enters information such as account numbers, names, addresses and the like, into a database or other computer program, almost always by typing it in. The information source may be an audio recording, a live telephone conversation, a video recording as in video captioning, or paper records such as a drivers' license applications. It could even be esoteric, such as archival microfiche scanned by an OCR program and then corrected by the data encoder.
The information must be entered accurately or it is worthless to the employer, so data entry clerks need an excellent eye for details, catching typos as they occur and correcting them on the fly without slowing down. In many cases, they're also responsible for confirming that the original data is correct by double-checking postal codes to see that they correspond with a given address and correcting the data when they do not. A data encoder job description sample on Monster.com mentions that the data encoder must, "Process customer and account source documents by reviewing data for deficiencies; resolving discrepancies by using standard procedures or returning incomplete documents to the team leader for resolution." It's not as simple as just typing, is it?
Speed, too, is important in the job, and most dedicated data encoding positions have quotas you are expected to meet. They can be challenging if, for example, the audio recording is poor quality or someone's handwriting on a form is illegible. After the data is entered, the data encoder gives the entire document a good proof-reading to ensure that it is error-free, so good editorial skills and quick reading are also important.
There are no specific educational requirements for most data entry positions. If your typing speed is up to scratch, data entry can be a good way to get a foot in the door of administration and build a career through lateral moves. Data entry duties frequently put workers in positions to know a lot about their organizations and the opportunities in them.
For specialized types of data encoder jobs, qualifications differ significantly. In complex fields such as medical records, you may be expected to have an associate degree or technical certificate in the medical field because you need to know medical terminology well enough to recognize and spell the terms at speed. To work in SIGINT for the government, you may not even need citizenship if you have language skills that are in high demand, but high school graduation is a must and cryptography credentials add to your resume.
It's also possible to begin in a low-level data encoding job and then take adult continuing education courses when you identify the field where you want to specialize. Your local community college can advise you of options, and there are training schools online as well.
Data entry positions are available in many types of businesses. Health care is a major employer of data encoders. Many business offices, particularly in the bookkeeping and payroll departments, have data entry positions. The government, schools, and employment services are also major employers.
Years of Experience and Salary
Because data encoding or data entry is not usually a unionized job, there is an indirect relationship, if any, between years of experience and pay rate. For government workers or other unionized workers, the situation is different, with various levels of pay laid out in the union contract.
There were 180,100 data entry workers in the U.S. in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They earned a median hourly wage of $14.87, starting around $10 and topping out at $22. That translates to an annual median wage of $30,930. The government is the best-paying employer with an hourly mean of $18.57 and annual mean of $38,630. The mean is the point at which half of data encoders earn more, and half earn less. Other top employers (in terms of the number employed) are school systems, employment services, accounting, bookkeeping and payroll services, and dedicated data processing companies.
For high-paid work, you have to look to the water transportation (shipping) industry, which only employs 60 dedicated data encoders but pays them $31.41 per hour or over $65,000 per year. The aerospace industry employs 210 in the field and pays them $48,000 per year. Dental offices, securities and finance, and the natural gas industry are also low-volume, high-pay employers, but those jobs are extremely competitive.
Job Growth Trend
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is not optimistic about growth in the data entry field. It projects a shrinkage of data entry jobs of about 1 percent per year or 31,800 jobs over the period between now and 2026. This reflects the ever-increasing capabilities of computers, scanning devices, OCR and speech-to-text technology. Humans, it seems, are becoming obsolete in this field, and software will soon perform most data encoder duties and responsibilities.
While a data encoding/data entry job may work as an entry to higher-level administrative jobs, it should not be looked at as a career with much potential in and of itself.