Clerks and analysts occupy positions in most American industries. The general office clerk is a ubiquitous position and is generally considered entry-level, but some other types of clerks’ jobs, especially those that pay more, can require significantly more experience. Analysts, by contrast, generally require significantly more training. In a very general sense, analysts organize, evaluate and interpret the data that clerks have entered into systems. They translate the raw data into actionable information that managers and executives use in their planning. If you don't have a college degree, clerks’ jobs are excellent entry-level positions; if you have a bachelor's or more, you should explore the various analyst positions.
General Office Clerks
There are numerous different clerk job titles, but the overwhelming majority in the U.S. are general office clerks. Most offices assign clerks to perform such tasks as answering telephones, data entry and filing. Many offices will also assign clerks to other routine duties such as handling photocopying and desktop publishing, monitoring and replenishing office supplies, and acting as liaison with certain vendors. An office clerk’s role may vary from one organization to another, depending on several factors, including its size and culture. U.S. Department of Labor statistics indicate that in 2010, about a fourth of all general office clerks worked part-time. These can be ideal positions for women rejoining the workforce when their children start school, especially if part-time hours are necessary at the start.
There are many more specialized job titles for clerks, including counter and rental clerks, brokerage clerks, bookkeeping, accounting, and financial clerks, order clerks, postal service clerks and so on. Some clerks’ jobs require a significant amount of training and experience, but they generally involve performing standardized tasks in response to different inputs or events. Most clerks have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, except for counter and rental clerks, about half of whom do not. These jobs can also be useful steppingstones for women returning to the workforce. They can help you get used to working life, and frequently present excellent networking opportunities. Law clerks, technically a kind of clerk, are in a category all their own. These are usually lawyers who have recently finished law school and are training by performing research and other legal jobs for a judge or a law firm.
There are many specific job titles for analysts, including credit analyst, operations research analyst and management analyst. Also included in this job title are such diverse jobs as chemists, statisticians, and personal financial advisors. Regardless of their specialty, analysts review, interpret and evaluate data. The conclusions they draw and recommendations they make can have a significant impact on their employers’ operations and profits, and thus most analysts’ jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. In 2010, for example, about 70 percent of operations research analysts had a master’s degree or a doctorate. Analysts are paid significantly more than clerks, and good analysts have opportunities for advancement to leadership positions in most businesses.
If you’re looking for a job as an analyst, you’ll probably encounter postings for “clerk analysts” at enterprises that have combined aspects of both jobs. These jobs generally pay better than clerks’ jobs because they add an additional layer of responsibility, including analytical tasks like double-checking entered data for accuracy, and reconciling entered data with other data sources such as bank statements, inventory reports or shipping manifests. However, clerk analyst jobs are not hybrids of clerk and analyst positions; instead, they are clerks’ jobs to which some routine analytical responsibilities, and a small amount of additional compensation, have been added. A review of job postings for clerk analysts makes it clear that many of these openings are clerks’ jobs whose titles have been modified, perhaps to enhance the job’s prestige.
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