Computer Science Careers

Data Entry Clerks Career

Data Entry ClerksData entry clerks transfer information from paper documents to a computer system. They use either a typewriter-like (alphanumeric) keyboard or a 10-key (numerals only) pad to enter data into the system. In this way, the data is converted into a form the computer can easily read and process. There are about 525,000 data entry and information processing workers in the United States.

Data Entry Clerks Job Description

Data entry clerks are responsible for entering data into computer systems so that the information can be processed at various times to produce important business documents such as sales reports, billing invoices, mailing lists, and many others. Specific job responsibilities vary according to the type of computer system being used and the nature of the employer. For example, a data entry clerk may enter financial information for use at a bank, merchandising information for use at a store, or scientific information for use at a research laboratory.

From a source document such as a financial statement, data entry clerks type in information in either alphabetic, numeric, or symbolic code. The information is entered using a keyboard, either the regular typewriter-like computer keyboard or a more customized keypad developed for a certain industry or business. The entry machine converts the coded information into either electronic impulses or a series of holes in a tape that the computer can read and process electronically. Newer, more sophisticated computers have eliminated the need for magnetic tapes, however, and rely exclusively on computer files. Some data entry work does not involve inputting actual information but rather entering special instructions that tell the computer what functions to perform and when.

In small companies, data entry clerks may combine data entry responsibilities with general office work. Because of staff limitations, clerks may have to know and be able to operate several types of computer systems. Larger companies tend to assign data entry clerks to one type of entry machinery. For example, data entry clerks in a check or credit processing center might be assigned solely to changing client addresses in the company database or entering payment amounts from individual checks.

Some data entry clerks are responsible for setting up their entry machines according to the type of input data. Clerks who handle vast amounts of financial data, for example, set their machines to automatically record a series of numbers as dollar amounts or transaction dates without having to input dollar signs or hyphens. The special setups reduce the number of strokes data entry clerks have to perform in order to finish one transaction, thereby increasing productivity. Some data entry clerks may be responsible for loading the appropriate tape or other material into their machines and selecting the correct coding system (that is, the alphabetic, numeric, or symbolic representations).

Accuracy is an essential element of all data entry work. If a customer pays $100 toward a credit card bill but the clerk records a payment of only $10, the company will experience problems down the line. Therefore, most companies have an extensive series of accuracy checks and error tests designed to detect as many errors as possible. Some tests are computerized, checking entries against information that is expected for the given type of work or is scanned in directly from source documents. Data entry clerks must always verify their own work as well. They consistently check their computer screens for obvious errors and systematically refer back to the source documents to ensure that they entered the information correctly. Sometimes verifier operators are employed specifically to perform accuracy tests of previously processed information. Such tests may be random or complete, depending on the nature and scope of the work. When verifier operators find mistakes, they correct them and later prepare accuracy reports for each data entry clerk.

Data typists and keypunch operators formerly prepared data for computer input by punching data into special coding cards or paper tapes. The cards were punched on machines that resembled typewriters. When tapes were used, the work was done on machines such as bookkeeping or adding machines that had special attachments to perforate paper tape. The use of cards and tape is decreasing substantially as electronic databases become more flexible, fast, and efficient. Consequently, most data typists and keypunch operators working today are basically doing data entry work at terminals similar to those of other data entry clerks.

Computer Science CareersData-coder operators examine the information in the source material to determine what codes and symbols should be used to enter it into the computer. They may write the operating instructions for the data entry staff and assist the system programmer in testing and revising computer programs designed to process data entry work. Datacoder operators might also assist programmers in preparing detailed flowcharts of how the information is being stored and used in the computer system and in designing coded computer instructions to fulfill business needs.

Terminal operators also use coding systems to input information from the source document into a series of alphabetic or numeric signals that can be read by the computer. After checking their work for accuracy, they send the data to the computer system via telephone lines or other remote-transmission methods if they do not input directly into the computer network.

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