A data entry operator types information into a computer program using a keyboard and/or a computerized 10-key pad. These workers may enter names, addresses, statistical information, business information, account numbers, or other data. They are hired by companies and organizations that need to have large quantities of data processed quickly, and on a regular basis.
The most important skills in a data entry operator's arsenal are speed and accuracy. Employers want to hire the operator that can enter the most amount of information in the least amount of time. Quick entry means fewer labor hours per project, which saves the company money over time.
While speed is important, an employer must also be confident that the operator is entering the information accurately. Incorrect information is usually useless and can be dangerous. For example, an operator at a hospital might enter that John Smith is allergic to a common antibiotic. If, in fact, it is John Smithe that has the allergy, a clinician who looks up John Smithe's chart will not find the warning and may inject the patient with a drug that could kill him.
Other job competencies that are important to data entry operators are basic computer skills and 10-key skills. Operators most often enter information into basic database forms, so advanced computer skills are rarely required. The ability to start a program, open a window, use a mouse, and submit a form are vital, however. Use of a 10-key pad is critical to those entering a lot of numbers because 10-key entry is much faster than entry using the number keys on a standard keyboard. Since operators are often exposed to highly-sensitive information — such as Social Security numbers, account numbers, and sales data — discretion and honesty are also valuable traits.
A data entry operator can work in a wide array of fields and settings. Hospitals employ them to enter patient information, vendor data, and compliance reports. Direct marketing firms hire them to enter prospective customer information. Many businesses hire such workers in their accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales, marketing, logistics, or operations departments.
Some companies allow their operators to work from home. This means that a data entry operator may be able to work for a company in another city, or even in another country. Many off-site operators are also allowed to work a flexible schedule, which makes it easy to work around doctor's appointments, children's activities, and other personal commitments. A data entry operator can often also take advantage of part-time, freelance, and temporary employment opportunities.