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How to Become a Collections Specialist

Customers are important to every business, but they don’t always pay for their services on time, which is why collections specialists are needed. Because this is a busy position, you will need to know how to manage your time and be able to prioritize tasks. You should be an excellent communicator, especially because you will have to deal with some difficult customers when trying to collect debts.

You should work well independently, but you may also need to work with others and should be able to do so well. A successful collections specialist will have excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, strong organizational skills, and be able to thrive in a fast-paced environment.

Sample job description

Collections specialists are responsible for the financial collection department of a company. They manage the correct invoicing of clients, the timely receiving of payment, and ensure that collections are done according to company policies and regulations. For this job, you should have strong analytical and report writing skills.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • 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
  • Answer customer questions regarding problems with their accounts
  • Develop collections methods that consistently lead to achieving or exceeding company financial goals
  • Work closely with team members to create ways to bring in revenue and find success as a group
  • Solve problems quickly and create resolutions that bring in revenue on a regular basis

Education and experience

  • This position requires a high school diploma or GED; a bachelor’s degree is preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Proficient with database software and Microsoft Office Suite
  • Ability to overcome obstacles and get results
  • Strong communication and negotiation skills
  • Previous customer service experience preferred

Typical work environment

Collections specialists spend most of their time working out of a call center, speaking with clients over the phone while sitting at a computer. These specialists typically work for third-party agencies but may also work directly for the company pursing collections. They will have to deal with clients who do not have the funds and are unable to settle their outstanding bills, which will likely lead to some difficult conversations.

Typical hours

Collections specialists typically work in an office setting in front of a computer. They may have to travel to attend meetings. They usually work a normal, 40-hour week during business hours but might occasionally have to work evenings and weekends.

Available certifications

Certifications are a great way to boost your marketability and ensure employers that you have gained the knowledge necessary to achieve success as a collections specialist. While these are voluntary, here are just a few of the options available:

  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • Certified Healthcare Collector (CHC). If you are working with healthcare bills, this certification would be a huge help. You will learn about patient privacy, how to determine a patient’s financial responsibility, and what collecting from insurance providers looks like. To take the exam, you must work for a collection agency. Once you pass with a score of 80% or higher, renewal of this certification will need to be completed every two years.

Career path

The career path for a collections specialist entails first earning a high school diploma or GED, with a bachelor’s degree preferred.

There are opportunities for advancement through earning special professional designations from The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 27-3042

2020 Employment
Projected Employment in 2030
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shiftincrease

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

With healthy growth projected in the collections industry, whether it is in finance, accounting, or beyond, the right candidates can thrive.