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Collections Representative Career Guide

If you want to work as a collections representative, you’ll need to love working with people. Most of the time, you’ll be trying to collect debt payments, answer questions they may have, and advise customers on how best to make their payments. Because of the nature of the job, you’ll need to have excellent communication skills and be a good salesman to be able to collect debt payments.

You should have excellent interpersonal skills to be able to negotiate with those who are in debt. The work environment is always busy, and you’ll need to be sure how to navigate having many important tasks at once. With good time management skills, experience working with debtors, and strong communication skills, you’ll succeed in this role.

Sample job description

Imagine doing a paid job or a service for someone, and that person never comes back to pay you. Collections representatives help to solve that problem. We are looking for someone who can help to ensure that all parties are treated fairly and that terms are being honored and met.  Collections representatives must be able to locate delinquent account owners and follow up with them to create a repayment schedule appropriate for their financial situation. We are looking for someone who is comfortable using the phone, mail, or making appointments in order to locate the persons owing a debt. You must be able to read and write accurate reports and keep the information confidential. We are looking for someone who understands the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and who can act ethically and respectfully to clients.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Record information about the financial status of customers and the status of collection efforts
  • Locate and notify customers of delinquent accounts by mail, telephone, or personal visits to solicit payment
  • Arrange for debt repayment or establish repayment schedules, based on customers’ financial situations
  • Advise customers of necessary actions and strategies for debt repayment
  • Answer customer questions regarding problems with their accounts
  • Notify credit departments, order merchandise repossession or service disconnection, and turn over account records to attorneys when customers fail to respond to collection attempts
  • Sort and file correspondence and perform miscellaneous clerical duties, such as answering correspondence and writing reports
  • Contact insurance companies to check on the status of claims payments and write appeal letters for denial of claims

Education and experience

  • This position requires a high school diploma or GED (an associate degree is preferred).

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Strong negotiation abilities
  • Proficiency with database software and Microsoft Office Suite
  • Proven ability to overcome obstacles and get results
  • Ability to manage time with little supervision

Preferred qualifications

  • 2+ years experience working in an inbound/outbound call center environment
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite – including Word, Excel, Teams and Outlook
  • Required to have a dedicated work area established that is separated from other living areas and provides information privacy

Typical work environment

You will be working full-time out of an office or out of a call center, and you will have occasional in-person appointments. You may be working on weekends, as you may be more likely to have successful contact outside of a traditional workweek. Collections representatives may be required to have difficult conversations and even notify credit departments or repossession departments if a debt will not be fulfilled. You will most likely work for a third-party company, rather than the company that is owed money. 

Typical hours

The work hours for a Collections Representative are typically from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in an office setting. However, longer or different hours can be necessary, depending on the needs and hours of an individual company.

Available certifications

Certifications show employers that you have learned what is necessary to help you succeed as a collections representative.  They ensure that you know how to perform ethically and respectfully.

  • Professional Collections Specialist (PCS).  This course is available through the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA) and certifies that you have learned professional and ethical standards for collection practices. You will also learn negotiation tactics that will help you in your collections work. An exam is required and must be passed with a score of 85% or higher. This certification needs to be renewed every three years. 
  • Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA) Certification. This certification helps to ensure that you understand the regulations and implications of the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act and that you can act appropriately in your day-to-day work as a collections representative.  This knowledge will minimize your risk of noncompliance. Applicants must pass the test with 75% or higher and can retake the test up to three times. 
  • Commercial Collections Specialist. This certification, available through the National Association of Credit Management, is a course designed for those with 0-3 years of experience in the field. It explores the cost of credit and situations in which companies are more likely to be taken advantage of. It covers documentation for lending to promote a good relationship with the customer. This course teaches its students to judge if a company’s credit strategies comply with the law.

Career path

Those who want to become an accounting assistant should study accounting and receive an associate’s degree or bachelor’s. An accounting assistant can work their way up from being an assistant to more complex positions. Some choices of career entry-level position, but can have opportunities for advancement, based on experience and performance. Opportunities for advancement can also be sought through earning professional certifications.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 43-3011

2020 Employment223,100
Projected Employment in 2030202,600
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% decrease
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift20,500 decrease

There is currently an ongoing need for collections departments, including talented and motivated Collections Representatives and other associated support staff.

With steady growth projected in the collections industry, it holds opportunities for growth and advancement for the right candidates. These potential Collections Representatives should be able to balance personal interaction with customers and understanding each customer’s situation with working through obstacles to arrange for debt repayment, thus achieving the company’s financial goals.