Clerk, the vocational title, commonly refers to a white collar office worker who conducts general office or (in some instances) sales tasks. The responsibilities of clerical workers commonly include record keeping, filing, staffing service counters and other administrative tasks.[1] In American English, this includes shop staff, but in British English, such people are known as shop assistants and are not considered to be clerks. Also, the pronunciation is different: /klɑː(ɹ)k/ ('clark') in most British English dialects, but /klɝk/ ('clerk') in American English.

History[edit | edit source]

The word clerk, derived from the Latin clericus meaning 'cleric', i.e. clergyman (Latin was the foremost language used at most early medieval courts, writing mainly entrusted to clergy as most laymen couldn't even read), can denote someone who works in an office and whose duties include record-keeping or correspondence.

In a medieval context, the word meant "Scholar" and still related to the word "cleric". Even today, the term Clerk regular designates a type of regular clerics. The cognate terms in some languages, e.g. Klerk in Dutch, became restricted to a specific, fairly low rank in the public administration hierarchy.

United States[edit | edit source]

Clerical workers are perhaps the largest occupational group in the United States. In 2004 there were 3.1 million general office clerks,[2] 1.5 million office administrative supervisors and 4.1 million secretaries.[3] Clerical occupations often do not require a college degree, though some college education or 1 to 2 years in vocational programs are common qualifications. Familiarity with office equipment and certain software programs is also often required. Employers may provide clerical training.[4] The median salary for clerks is $23,000, while the national median income for workers age 25 or older is $33,000.[5] Median salaries ranged from $22,770 for general office clerks to $34,970 for secretaries and $41,030 for administrative supervisors. Clerical workers are considered working class by American sociologists such as William Thompson, Joseph Hickey or James Henslin as they preform highly routinized tasks with relatively little autonomy.[6] Sociologist Dennis Gilbert, argues that the white and blue collar divide has shifted to a divide between professionals, including some semi-professionals, and routinized white collar workers.[7] White collar office supervisors may be considered lower middle class with some secretaries being located in that part of the socio-economic strata where the working and middle classes overlap.

Traditionally clerical positions have been held almost exclusively by women. Even today, the vast majority of clerical workers in the US continue to be female. As with other pre-dominantly female positions, clerical occupations were and, to some extent, continue to be assigned relatively low prestige on a sexist basis.[8] The term pink collar worker is often used to describe predominantly female white collar positions.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Meriam Webster, definition of clerical worker. URL accessed on 2007-06-07.
  2. US Department of Labor, General office clerks. URL accessed on 2007-06-07.
  3. US Department of Labor, Secretaries and administrative assistants. URL accessed on 2006-06-07.
  4. US Department of Labor, training of secretaries. URL accessed on 2007-06-07.
  5. U.S. Census Bureau, personal income distribution, age 25+, 2006. URL accessed on 2007-06-07.
  6. Thompson, William; Joseph Hickey (2005). Society in Focus, Boston, MA: Pearson. 0-205-41365-X.
  7. Gilbert, Dennis (1998). The American Class Structure, New York: Wadsworth Publishing. 0-534-50520-1.
  8. Williams, Brian; Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom (2005). Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, Boston, MA: Pearson. 0-205-36674-0.
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