Although scanners, cameras and drawing tablets can put information into a computer, the primary way for entering digital data is through a keyboard. The alphanumeric keyboard is part of every desktop and laptop. You use it to enter text. Larger keyboards also have a numeric keypad for entering numbers. The skill of using a numeric keypad is called ten-key data entry, which is useful for many professions.
The numeric keypad arranges the digits from one through nine on a three-by-three grid. Aligned below it are three additional keys for entering 0, 00, and a decimal point. Depending on the type of keypad, the keys around it typically contain common arithmetic functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and common computer functions such as insertion, deletion and entry, as well as cursor movement keys. Numeric keypads may be attached to alphanumeric keyboards, appear by themselves on equipment such as adding machines, or stand alone on separate keypads that attach to computers as a peripheral.
Skillful ten-key data entry demands the use of touch to press the keys while looking at the information. You can enter financial information into a business spreadsheet, medical codes for hospital databases, or inventory and prices into retail catalogs. You can also perform common arithmetic operations, such as addition or subtraction, as needed. A person’s skill in ten-key data entry is measured in kph or keystrokes per hour. Doing 4,500 to 5,999 kph is considered proficient, 8,000 to 9,999 is professional, and 12,000 or more kph is a master level. These numbers are according to the Typing Institute of America.
Individual courses in ten-key data entry are available in business schools and community colleges for individuals who need the skill for an existing job. Those wanting to explore the skill as a profession can take several courses leading to a certificate or diploma. For example, Maricopa Community College in Arizona offers an 11-credit program that includes ten-key by touch, computer keyboarding, basic office skills and business English. However you choose to learn the skill, the only way to build proficiency is through constant practice.
Data entry clerks are not the only workers who use ten-key data entry. Accountants require the skill for using adding machines and entering financial data into client records. Medical records technicians classify medical diagnoses and treatments with numeric codes entered through numeric keypads. While word processors and secretaries rely primarily on alphanumeric keyboards to perform their jobs, they may need to use numeric keypads often if they work in any industry involving finance, such as a bank or stock broker.