Rather than performing a single specialized task, general office clerks have responsibilities that often change daily with the needs of the specific job and the employer. Some clerks spend their days filing or keyboarding. Others enter data at a computer terminal. They also operate photocopiers, fax machines, and other office equipment; prepare mailings; proofread documents; and answer telephones and deliver messages.
The specific duties assigned to clerks vary significantly, depending on the type of office in which they work. An office clerk in a doctor's office, for example, would not perform the same tasks that a clerk in a large financial institution or in the office of an auto parts wholesaler would. Although all clerks may sort checks, keep payroll records, take inventory, and access information, they also perform duties unique to their employer. For example, a clerk in a doctor’s office may organize medications, a corporate office clerk may help prepare materials for presentations, and a clerk employed by a wholesaler may fill merchandise orders.
Clerks' duties also vary by level of experience. Inexperienced employees may make photocopies, stuff envelopes, or record inquiries. Experienced clerks are usually given additional responsibilities. For example, they may maintain financial or other records, set up spreadsheets, verify statistical reports for accuracy and completeness, handle and adjust customer complaints, work with vendors, make travel arrangements, take inventory of equipment and supplies, answer questions on departmental services and functions, or help prepare invoices or budgetary requests. Senior office clerks may also be expected to monitor and direct the work of lower-level clerks.
General office clerks held about 2.9 million jobs in 2020. The largest employers of general office clerks were as follows:
- Healthcare and social assistance - 12%
- Educational services; state, local, and private - 11%
- Government - 9%
- Professional, scientific, and technical services - 8%
- Administrative and support services - 8%
General office clerks usually work in office settings.
Most general office clerks work full time.
Education & Training Required
Employers usually require a high school diploma or equivalent, and some require basic computer skills, including familiarity with word processing software, as well as other general office skills. Although most general office clerk jobs are entry-level positions, employers may prefer or require previous office or business experience.
Training for this occupation is available through business education programs offered in high schools, community and junior colleges, and postsecondary vocational schools. Courses in office practices, word processing, and other computer applications are particularly helpful.
Other Skills Required
Because general office clerks usually work with other office staff, they should be cooperative and able to work as part of a team. Employers prefer individuals who can perform a variety of tasks and satisfy the needs of the many departments within a company. In addition, applicants should have good writing and other communication skills, be detail oriented, and be adaptable.
How to Advance
General office clerks who exhibit strong communication, interpersonal, and analytical skills may be promoted to supervisory positions. Others may move into different, more senior administrative jobs, such as receptionist, secretary, or administrative assistant. After gaining some work experience or specialized skills, many workers transfer to jobs with higher pay or greater advancement potential. Advancement to professional occupations within an organization normally requires additional formal education, such as a college degree.
Employment of general office clerks is projected to decline 2 percent from 2020 to 2030.
Despite declining employment, about 324,600 openings for general office clerks are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
The increasing use of technology that automates document preparation and other clerical tasks will result in fewer general office clerks needed to perform this work. For example, many organizations maintain electronic documents or use automated phone systems, reducing the need for some general office clerks. In addition, electronic filing systems and file sharing software allow other office workers to do the tasks previously done by general office clerks, further decreasing employment of office clerks. However, there will still be some sustained demand for these workers to handle administrative tasks, particularly in healthcare and social assistance industries.
The median hourly wage for general office clerks was $17.81 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11.30, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.31.
In May 2021, the median hourly wages for general office clerks in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
- Government - $18.23
- Professional, scientific, and technical services - $17.91
- Healthcare and social assistance - $17.74
- Educational services; state, local, and private - $17.44
- Administrative and support services - $17.24
Most general office clerks work full time.