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What Are the Different Types of Clerks?

A file clerk might be in charge of maintaining documentation at a company.
Postal clerks may sort mail into individual post office boxes.
Mortgage clerks are responsible for reviewing loan applications.
A retail clerk may be in charge of selling or promoting items within a store.
At most supermarkets, stock and grocery clerks help set up and arrange food displays.
Sales clerks work at checkout lines in places like grocery stores.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 July 2014
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The different types of clerks may be roughly divided into categories such as government and health, banking, retail, information, legal and office. Within these main categories are many different clerical jobs that require varying experience and education levels. Most clerical positions require at least a high school diploma while others such as legal or medical usually need the minimum of a recognized post-secondary certificate in those fields.

Many general office clerk positions don't require certification or previous experience. Positions such as for a filing or data entry clerk typically provide on-the-job training. A data entry clerk usually enters information into a computer database or works with shipping or other documents to record totals in a computer program. Filing clerks organize and store information so it's easily accessible by employees in the company who need it. Legal clerks, who typically have at least some post-secondary education, assist lawyers by organizing exhibits, briefs and records as well as by sometimes writing opinions for law cases.

Information clerk jobs may span many different industries, but are especially common in travel and tourism. Hotel desk clerks typically not only answer guests' inquiries about rooms and rates, but also about attractions and restaurants in the area. Travel agency clerk positions usually involve giving information to customers about transportation, lodging and tickets as well as taking reservations. An information clerk in any industry often deals with the public in-person, over the telephone or through email correspondence.

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Retail or sales clerks may help customers find items in the store as well as run their purchases through the cash register. They may also initiate sales by pointing out special offers or suggesting possible merchandise that may suit each customer's particular needs or desires. Bank clerical workers, who are commonly called bank tellers, help customers access their accounts to withdraw or deposit money as well as to arrange appointments to discuss mortgages or other services.

Government and health clerical positions often include jobs in post offices and hospitals. A postal clerk takes and weighs packages for mailing for customers or presents parcels to those with the required identification for pickup. A nursing unit clerk coordinates staff in a hospital setting. He or she usually has post-secondary certification with a basic working knowledge of anatomy and medical terminology. Nursing unit clerks may also handle the official paperwork for living wills, patient consent forms and other documents that pertain to privacy and ethics issues.

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Discuss this Article

indemnifyme
Post 10

@Monika - You're right, a lot of employers seem to be much more demanding these days. I'm pretty sure it's because so many qualified people are out of work now. Employers can afford to be pickier and ask for more!

As far as a position as a clerk, it can lead to bigger and better things. But sometimes you just get stuck. I have a friend who was hired as a receptionist right out of college with the promise she would soon advance in the company.

My friend is very smart and a great employee, but she's been there now for about three years and hasn't moved up once! I think that company just told her that so she would take the job. She's been looking for a new job, but the market is pretty tough these days!

Monika
Post 9

While the job of clerk is definitely an entry level position, these days employers sometimes ask for a college education! I've seen this type of requirement more and more lately even for jobs that are low paying and not complicated. Everyone wants you to have a college degree!

I read somewhere awhile ago that bachelors degrees are almost becoming the new high school diploma. Almost everyone has them, and they aren't that impressive anymore!

Mykol
Post 8

Many clerk positions are considered entry level positions with the potential to move higher up after you have been there for awhile.

I started out in an entry level job at our county clerks office. I was happy to get this job because it offered great benefits and the chance for advancement.

It also never hurts to learn the basics because as you move to other positions, you will often be required to know what you learned as a clerk. This information and experience will always be helpful for you later on down the road.

sunshined
Post 7

Even though I have never known of a clerk job that has made a lot of money, many of them require you to know a lot of information for your job.

When I worked at a bank, I was an administrative assistant in the investment department. The bank clerks had more daily responsibility and pressure than I did, but they were the lowest paid position in the bank.

They had to make sure their drawer balanced to the penny every day and could only have so many mistakes before they would lose their job.

I always thought that for a position that carried so much responsibility, they would be compensated a little bit more than they were.

One nice thing about it though, is that many bank clerks can eventually move in to other positions in the bank that will offer a higher pay scale.

kylee07drg
Post 6

I worked as a hotel desk clerk after moving to Tybee Island, Georgia. I had to memorize a vast amount of information when I started, because I was new to the area. I had vacationed there a year earlier, and I loved it so much that I decided to make it home.

My boss gave me a descriptive directory of local restaurants, theaters, and stores. He also gave me a map of the area and an informational brochure. He told me I should keep it at the desk with me until I had it all memorized, which I knew would take a long time.

I decided the best way to remember where places were located would be to visit them in person. I made it my mission to go to every attraction on the island to help me commit it to memory. That way, I would have a personal perspective to give on each place.

seag47
Post 5

@cloudel - A bank teller’s job can get even more stressful than that. My sister worked for a bank, and last year, they got robbed while she was working.

The robber held a gun to her head while she filled up a bag with money. After she handed it to him, he made her come with him outside to his getaway car. He used her to keep the police from getting to him.

The cops had set up spikes in the road not far ahead, so the car didn’t get far. They rescued her and arrested him.

She could not go back to that job after that experience. She now works as a file clerk, and she doesn’t have to deal with the public at all.

cloudel
Post 4

The job of a bank teller can go from being very easy to extremely stressful in seconds. My cousin is a teller, and though most of her days are uneventful, sometimes she gets unhappy customers.

The bank she works for recently stopped cashing third party checks. People who had been going there for years and getting them cashed were upset with this new change. They wanted to argue with her about it, but all she could do was tell them it was the new policy, and she had to abide by it. They often said mean things to her, and she felt helpless.

StarJo
Post 3

My friend was a retail clerk in a clothing store for many years. She also served as a salesperson, because she was responsible for helping people pick out clothes.

She would make recommendations to people, and she would even give them advice after they tried on the clothes. She would bring them a different size if they needed one, and she also suggested pieces of jewelry that would look good with the clothes.

She did such a good job as a clerk that she got promoted to assistant manager. The job involved a lot of the same duties, but the pay was better.

Kat919
Post 2

@robbie21 - I think your niece is so smart to look for a good job. If she is interested in college, she can go next year and have a much better idea what to study.

To answer your question, let me say first that there's not much standardization. Different organizations use the same terms differently. I once had a job at a university where my job title was "executive aide" even though I was working as the office manager!

With that in mind. there are some differences. A receptionist job is generally focused on serving the public. It's a "public face" position that almost requires someone who's presentable and personable. S/he will usually do some light administrative work between phone calls, but that's not the focus of the position.

Clerk jobs, on the other hand, especially file clerk jobs, tend to be more behind the scenes. They often involve repetitious tasks like filing and data entry and involve very little initiative. That's not to say they're bad. Some people prefer to have a job that is quiet. In some positions, employees can listen to music and dress more casually.

Your niece should really think about what her personality type is and where she would feel more comfortable. Good luck to her!

robbie21
Post 1

My nice is looking for an office job right out of high school (she does have some work experience). She's trying to understand all the different job titles that are used. Being just starting out, she knows she's not qualified for "office manager" or even "administrative assistant" jobs.

So she's mostly looking at things like "receptionist" and "file clerk." What's the difference between a "clerk" job and a "receptionist" job?

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