A collections representative typically works in a company's billing department and deals with overdue invoices, refunds, write-offs and referrals to collection agencies. He or she may work with customers, collections agencies and lawyers to resolve account delinquencies, create payment plans and determine further action for severely delinquent accounts. Collections representatives may perform these tasks by phone, via the Internet or in person. To become a collections representative, you will need a high school diploma, general computer skills — including knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet programs — and two or more years of experience in a related role.
Most collections representative jobs only require a high school diploma. A supervisory role, such as senior collections representative or collections supervisor, may require a bachelor's degree in a major related to banking and finance. Experience using spreadsheet and word processing software is usually required to become a collections representative, and you can find classes in these topics online, in colleges and technical schools, and in some community centers. Training in other enterprise programs may be required if the company uses a specific system for managing accounts. The company may either provide training in the software or require you to know how to use it before getting the job.
One needs to have excellent decision-making skills to become a collections representative. Many employers require you to make important decisions, such as negotiating with customers and deciding when an unpaid account needs to be placed in collections. Negotiating with customers over the phone or in person requires excellent oral communication skills and the ability to make decisions under pressure. Collections representatives also should have solid organizational skills, be able to solve complex problems, be persuasive and feel comfortable using a computer for everyday tasks. If you plan to work by phone, then it also helps to be a good listener in an often fast-paced environment.
Many employers require two or more years of experience for those who want to become a collections representative. They may allow this experience to be from any role in the collections or billing department of a company, or they may want direct experience as a collections representative. A college degree also can help, because some employers waive a year or more of experience for having a related degree. Entry-level jobs that may help you gain the experience needed to become a collections representative include billing clerk, collections clerk and billing representative roles.