Many secretarial, clerical and other office positions require candidates to have certain typing qualifications in addition to other job-related skills. These qualifications generally include the ability to type a minimum number of words per minute while maintaining a low error rate. Typists also must have experience with popular word-processing software packages. Typists for specialized professions, such as medicine and law, also may need experience with the terminology related to these fields and the ability to transcribe audio recordings.
One of the most basic typing qualifications listed on clerical job postings is the ability to type a certain number of words per minute (WPM). Many professional typists are required to produce at least 40 WPM, and positions related to stenography or dictation may require much higher speeds. Touch typists are typically able to operate at a much higher rate than people who use the two-finger or hunt-and-peck methods. Typing classes and practice can help a typist learn the proper techniques and increase his or her speed considerably.
As part of their WPM rate, clerical staff also are required to have a low error rate as part of their typing qualifications. Typing errors include spelling, grammar and formatting mistakes that can damage the reputation of a company if left uncorrected. Typists who constantly have to correct spelling errors tend to have a lower WPM and usually have to spend more time proofreading documents to make sure they are free of errors. While word-processing programs have made catching certain kinds of spelling errors easier, many typists become over-reliant on these programs to catch their mistakes and end up making different kinds of errors.
In the past, typists were required to work with manual typewriters and often worked alongside other clerical workers in large pools. Computers have largely replaced older typing systems, and modern typists are now required to have experience with one or more word-processing software packages. This experience is now one of the most important typing qualifications for new hires, because they may spend most of their working hours utilizing office productivity software. Some typists also may need to have experience with spreadsheet or presentation software as part of an administrative assistant's role.
Certain kinds of professions may require additional typing qualifications for their clerical staff. Medical and legal offices use specialized terminology with which a typist must be familiar to perform his or her work. The precise language called for in legal and medical documents also requires close attention to detail, because typos can have a significant impact on the interpretation of a document.