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File Clerk Career Guide

What is a file clerk?

A file clerk is an administrative professional who specializes in organizing, categorizing, and maintaining large volumes of physical and digital documents. They ensure that internal files and client-specific records are accessible, updated, and archived correctly. This position is valuable as it allows the smooth running of business operations. In fact, without these professionals, companies may struggle to find essential information when needed, affecting workplace efficiency and client satisfaction.

In larger companies or departments that deal with vast amounts of information, their role may be dedicated solely to paperwork management. An efficient filing system under the watch of a diligent clerk can dramatically reduce the time spent on finding documents and fortify the business’s information management system. The position translates to an organization’s ability to retrieve vital records promptly, improving day-to-day operations and reducing the risk of lost or misplaced documents.

Duties and responsibilities

A file clerk may have a variety of responsibilities, mainly revolving around record management. They are typically responsible for organizing documents and files systematically to facilitate easy retrieval when needed. This can involve labeling, storing, and cataloging files in both physical and digital formats. If the company uses a software system to manage records, it’s usually in their hands to make sure digital files are correctly logged and stored in the system.

Apart from creating a well-organized filing system, they also maintain it. These professionals ensure that all documents, whether invoices, contracts, or client information, are kept up to date. Any obsolete records are archived or discarded per the company’s retention policy. The clerk may also assist in retrieving files or specific information for other staff members, thereby acting as a key point of contact for document-related queries.

Work environment

The work environment for a file clerk is typically an office setting. However, it might vary based on the industry they work in. For instance, legal or healthcare industries may require them to spend time in a file room or record storage space. Since the role involves maintaining both physical and digital files, they are likely to spend substantial time in front of a computer.

While the position involves a lot of independent work, it’s not without interaction. These professionals often interact with other employees in the organization to assist in file retrievals or address queries regarding document storage. Therefore, a comfortable, communicative, and collaborative office environment is equally important apart from structured, quiet spaces for documentation duties.

Typical work hours

File clerks generally work standard business hours, i.e., nine to five, from Monday to Friday. Occasional overtime might be required during periods of heavy workloads or end-of-the-year audits. However, this largely depends on the organization’s requirements, the industry, and even the time of the year.

For instance, in industries like healthcare, where operations run around the clock, these clerks may need to work in shifts to provide continuous coverage. Nevertheless, flexibility can be expected, particularly in scenarios where much of the document filing has been digitized and accessed remotely. The emergence of remote work has also opened possibilities for more flexible hours in this role.

How to become a file clerk

Becoming a file clerk primarily involves developing company-specific knowledge and gaining relevant experience. Here are the steps you must take to achieve your goal:

Step 1: Complete high school education

At the very minimum, one should have completed a high school education. A high school diploma or equivalent is the basic educational requirement. During high school, you can start learning the basics of office management and information handling, which are necessary for this role. Some high schools offer basic clerical courses, which can be beneficial.

Step 2: Gain skills in computer literacy and typing

You must be comfortable with various computer systems and software such as word processing programs and databases. Knowing how to type quickly and accurately is also beneficial, as file clerks often input or update data. Computer literacy and typing courses, whether online or at a community college, can provide these skills.

Step 3: Pursue training in office practices

Understanding basic office operations and practices is essential. Clerks regularly use copiers, scanners, fax machines, and other office equipment. Courses in office administration offered by community colleges or adult education programs might be worth investigating. Training programs can help you gain an understanding of office operations and the use of office equipment.

Step 4: Develop organizational skills

File clerks need strong organizational skills because they often manage and maintain large volumes of files and records. These skills can be developed through direct experience, like managing a system at home or through the guidance of a mentor in a workplace setting.

Step 5: Gain relevant work experience

Often, on-the-job experience is the best teacher. Entry-level positions in an office environment can help you gain practical skills, learn office etiquette, and understand the role. You might consider internships, part-time jobs, or volunteer positions with significant administrative duties.

Step 6: Apply for jobs

With your education, skills, and experience in place, it’s time to apply for file clerk positions. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your relevant skills and experiences. Attend job fairs, use job websites, and network with professional connections to find open positions.

Step 7: Pass your interview

Once you have landed an interview, it’s essential to prepare well. Show an appreciation for organization, detail emphasis, and knowledge of office equipment and procedures. Demonstrate communication skills, and don’t forget to highlight your computer literacy and typing speed.

Step 8: Continue learning and developing

Even after securing a position, never stop learning and improving. The office environment, office equipment, and file management systems continually evolve. Be open to learning new software, systems, and procedures. Attend workshops or seminars, take courses as you can, and always stay updated with technological advancements in the office environment.

How much do file clerks make?

File clerk salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Compensation is particularly influenced by the volume and complexity of the filing systems managed and the sector where they are employed, such as legal or medical.

Highest paying industries

  • Legal Services – $35,240
  • Federal Executive Branch – $35,220
  • Scientific Research and Development Services – $35,450
  • Securities and Commodity Contracts – $35,250
  • Data Processing and Hosting – $35,050

Highest paying states

  • District of Columbia – $37,920
  • Connecticut – $36,750
  • Alaska – $36,400
  • Massachusetts – $35,870
  • Washington – $35,580

Browse file clerk salary data by market

Types of file clerks

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for file clerks. This section provides an overview of different roles, responsibilities, and working environments that can shape their professional journey.

Office file clerk

This is the most fundamental role in file management. Here, the clerk is responsible for organizing and maintaining all documents, data, records, and files. Tasks often include sorting, labeling, filing, and retrieving documents as required. With proficiency and experience, one may take on more involved responsibilities, such as refining filing systems and training new clerks.

Legal file clerk

In law firms or legal departments, legal file clerks handle document-heavy legal cases. Their day-to-day tasks involve organizing, storing, and retrieving legal documents such as contracts, correspondences, and case files. They also need to be familiar with legal terms and procedures. They play an essential role in ensuring that attorneys and legal staff have access to necessary documents in a timely manner.

Medical records clerk

A highly specialized role, medical records clerks are found in healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics, and health departments. Their role is primarily concerned with maintaining and retrieving medical records, which may include patient information, medical reports, and billing information. Confidentiality and data security are of paramount importance in this role, given the sensitive nature of the records handled.

Electronic data clerk

As the digital age advances, many organizations are moving from paper files to digital formats. Electronic data clerks manage these digital records. They use specific software to store, organize, and retrieve electronic files. A basic understanding of various technology platforms and strong data management skills are prerequisites for this role.

Automotive clerk

Automotive clerks work specifically within the automotive industry, managing and organizing numerous types of documents such as vehicle titles, sales documents, and customer records. They make sure that the dealership’s record system is kept orderly and updated, facilitating smooth business operations.

Top skills for file clerks

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a file clerk.

Organizational skills

In any role dealing with multiple documents and records, having strong organizational skills is vital. File clerks must manage, store, and retrieve information in an efficient and timely manner. They must know how to arrange and categorize files to ensure quick access when required.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail is another key competency for this profession. Mistakes or oversights can lead to misplaced documents, causing delays or errors in an organization’s workflow. So, these professionals must be able to handle information with a high degree of accuracy.

Computer proficiency

Today’s digital age dictates the need for competency in using computer systems and software. Clerks often need to use database management systems, making computer proficiency an important asset. This includes being knowledgeable in word processing applications and data sorting tools like Excel.

Communication skills

Effective communication is a necessity. Frequently interacting with various staff members, they must be able to understand and respond to requests accurately and promptly. Both verbal and written communication proficiency is of significant value in this role.

Multitasking abilities

Professionals in this role often juggle multiple requests and duties simultaneously. The ability to multitask efficiently without compromising the quality or accuracy of work is a noteworthy trait. This also includes effectively prioritizing tasks to handle the workload in a productive manner.

File clerk career path options

Becoming a file clerk is often an entry-level position, and the skills and experience you gain in this role can lead to many exciting opportunities. You can progress your career in administration, document control, or data management fields, among others.

Many clerks choose to advance into administrative assistant roles. The experiences you gain from organizing, managing, and handling confidential files can prove beneficial while dealing with administrative tasks. A role as an administrative assistant can then lead to further progression, such as office manager or executive assistant.

Alternatively, those who excel in document handling may find progression into a document controller role natural. A document controller manages and oversees the organization’s documents while ensuring that they comply with company policies and ISO standards.

Given the increasing importance of data in today’s technology-driven world, they can also specialize as a data entry clerk. This position involves inputting a high volume of data from multiple sources into a database, requiring an eye for detail and strong computer skills. This could ultimately lead you to become a data analyst or data manager.

The use of data management software is shifting how file clerks operate. Today’s clerical professionals are more technologically savvy than ever, and staying current with these changes is essential. While traditional paper-based filing systems are still in use, digital systems are increasingly becoming the norm. This transition brings efficiency and accessibility, thus enabling clerks to do their jobs more effectively.

The help of advanced technology doesn’t only simplify the role but also enriches it. Automation has proven useful in reducing routine tasks, allowing clerical employees to focus on more complex aspects of their job. The adoption of tools such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and automated data entry systems can lower the risk of errors and improve overall productivity. With the surge in remote work, the ability to handle digital files securely and efficiently becomes an essential skill. Those adept at managing digital documents and databases in addition to traditional systems are likely to have higher career prospects.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for file clerks is projected to decline by 4 percent through 2032. Despite the lack of growth, maintaining and retrieving key documents will still be needed, ensuring the ongoing demand for clerical professionals in the workplace.

File clerk career tips

Understand the industry

Knowledge about the industry you’re working in will undoubtedly aid in your adaptability and progression. Understanding the sector’s prevalent practices and trends can help you add value to conversations and provide relevant insights. For instance, if you’re working in a law firm, understanding legal terminology and common practices can be helpful.

Keep your workspace organized

Developing your own system of organization will assist in retrieving files more efficiently and ensuring no data is misplaced. Embrace labels, dividers, and color codes to keep your workspace tidy and navigable. This will not only make your job easier but also benefit your colleagues who may need to access the files.

Stay updated on file management tools

File management has considerably digitalized over the years. Staying updated with tools and software relating to file management can enhance your proficiency and chances of promotion. This might include tools for digital filing systems, archive management, or even data retrieval software.

Improve typing and data entry skills

Fast and accurate typing will not only increase your efficiency but also has the potential to lower stress levels when faced with large amounts of data. Consider participating in typing classes or online courses to enhance your typing speed and accuracy.

Build a professional network

Build a network of fellow professionals to expand your knowledge and stay updated with industry trends. Joining professional associations or attending relevant events can facilitate this. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM)
  • Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA International)

Continuous learning

Continuing your education in the field can give you an edge over your competitors and open doors for advancement. Consider the following:

  • Obtaining a Records and Information Management Certificate
  • Taking a course about the latest digital file management tools
  • Participating in industry-related webinars or workshops

Where the file clerk jobs are

Top employers

  • Robert Half Office Team
  • Kelly Services
  • Ricoh
  • US Department of Defense
  • Cintas

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • New York

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • CareerBuilder


What educational background is needed to become a file clerk?

File clerks typically need a high school diploma or equivalent for entry-level positions. Basic computer and office skills, which can often be gained on the job, are also usually expected. Certain industries, such as legal or medical, might require specialized knowledge or training.

What skills are required to become a file clerk?

Attention to detail, organizational skills, basic computer knowledge, and communication skills are vital for a file clerk. These professionals often deal with sensitive information, so integrity and discretion are crucial. Some familiarity with specific filing systems or software may also be advantageous.

How physical is a file clerk’s job?

A file clerk’s job can be somewhat physical, as it often involves lifting and moving files and boxes, standing for extended periods, and reaching for high shelves. However, the demand can vary greatly depending on the specific workplace and storage system in use.

How does a file clerk handle sensitive information?

A file clerk is often entrusted with sensitive information. They’re expected to maintain strict confidentiality and follow all company policies and industry regulations related to information security. Adherence to privacy laws and guidelines, like those related to medical or legal records, is also critical when filing or retrieving such documents.

What are the typical daily duties of a file clerk?

A typical day for a file clerk might include organizing incoming documents, categorizing them appropriately, and storing them in their correct locations. This could involve physical filing cabinets or digital databases. They may also be responsible for maintaining the order of current files, retrieving files as requested, and possibly discarding old files according to company policy and regulations.

What types of companies typically employ file clerks?

File clerks are a necessity in many types of organizations. This includes law offices, medical facilities, schools, government agencies, and various private companies. Any organization that needs to maintain an organized record of physical or digital documents will likely employ them.

What is the typical career growth for a file clerk?

While starting as a file clerk offers valuable experience, it’s often seen as a stepping stone to more advanced administrative positions. With experience and sometimes additional education, they can advance to roles such as office manager, administrative assistant, or executive assistant. In settings like law offices, they could progress to a paralegal role.

How is digital technology changing the role of a file clerk?

As more companies are moving toward digital storage, the role of a file clerk increasingly involves managing digital files. They need to understand and use different file management software and systems, including cloud-based storage options. This means the demand for computer literacy and IT skills is growing in this profession.

What kind of training is necessary for a file clerk?

Most file clerks receive on-the-job training to familiarize them with the specific filing and record-keeping systems used in the company. This training may last a few days to a few weeks. Certain industries, like medical or legal, may provide additional training to accommodate for specialized filing systems or regulations.

Do file clerks have a standard work schedule?

File clerks typically work a standard 40-hour week during regular business hours. However, depending on the organization and its specific needs, some may work part-time or have varying schedules. In offices that operate around the clock, such as hospitals, they might need to work evenings, weekends, or overnight shifts.