A clerk typist is a person who does office work such as preparing letters and other paperwork. He or she types roughly written materials or dictated information into a finished format using a typewriter, word processor or computer. Clerk typists do many of the same duties as administrative assistants or secretaries; their exact work tasks will depend on the individual employer. Some companies have different levels of clerk typist, each with a corresponding, higher pay rate.
For example, a Level I clerk typist position requiring no prior experience or education, but paying near the minimum wage, may call for basic order form, memo and letter preparation. A Level II job that pays higher may require the capability to type a certain minimum number of words per minute (wpm) — typically 60 or higher. A Level I position may allow typing speeds of 40 wpm. A Level III or higher position may require special subject knowledge as well as prior experience or even an associate's degree.
Most basic clerk typist jobs require only high school graduation or equivalent. Fast, accurate typing is the most important qualification. In order to have the accuracy needed in professional offices, clerk typists must have excellent grammar, punctuation and spelling skills. Although many of the memos, letters and other office documents typed today are done using a keyboard and computer, software designed for checking spelling has its limitations. For example, while most programs clearly show misspelled words, they won't highlight those that are spelled correctly, but used incorrectly in a sentence; therefore, the typist must be able to carefully check his or her own work.
Many offices will administer a typing test to applicants who wish to become clerk typists. This practice can make clerk typist jobs, especially the higher paying ones, very competitive. In addition to typing rough paperwork and dictation into polished pieces, clerk typists may do some filing or other office duties.
Unless a position for a clerical typist pays extremely well and/or is identified as a junior writing job, the employee shouldn't have to write letters, articles or reports from scratch. Typists do some editing, but they aren't writers. Sometimes, businesses, especially smaller companies, may try to get a clerk typist to do the work of a writer for substantially less pay.
A clerk typist may work as a writer's assistant by typing the author's rough, written drafts into a completed manuscript. Some clerk typists work from their own homes for writers or as virtual office assistants. A virtual office assistant handles administration tasks remotely using a computer. Before clerk typists regularly work from home for clients, they typically have at least several years experience as full-time office employees.