If you are interested in pursuing a career in data entry, you should discuss the field with individuals who are already employed as clerks. A visit to an office that uses data processing systems may provide a good opportunity to learn more about the rewards and drawbacks of this position. Secretarial work or similar office work may also help you understand what data entry work involves. At home or at school, you can practice typing by using a computer or typewriter or by entering data for various club or group activities.
Data entry clerks enter data into computer systems so that the information can be processed at various times to produce sales reports, billing invoices, mailing lists, and other documents. Specific job responsibilities vary according to the computer system and 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. 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 to finish one transaction, thereby increasing productivity.
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 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-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. Data-coder 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.