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How to Become a Data Entry Operator: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a data entry operator. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in data entry.

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Do I Want to Be a Data Entry Operator?

These operators take written information from forms, applications or company files and enter the information into computer system databases or applications for business use. Some positions deal mostly with typing, such as word processing or computerized customer files. People in these jobs handle letters, documents and mailing lists. Other positions may feature heavy emphasis on numerical data entry, such as accounting, banking and mortgage or loan information. Data entry operators may work in many fields, including marketing, accounting, human resources or healthcare, and many work hours are spent seated at a computer in any case.

Job Requirements

Generally, data entry operators need only have a high school diploma or equivalent. Excellent keyboarding skills are beneficial and might be learned in a variety of contexts. Related work experience could give applicants an edge when applying for jobs.

The following table describes the general requirements to become a data entry operator:

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent*
Experience 1-5 years of related clerical or data entry experience*
Key skills Reading comprehension, verbal and written communication critical-thinking and active listening skills**
Computer Skills Basic knowledge of Microsoft Office*
Technical Skills Fast, accurate keyboard and 10-key by touch skills*; knowledge of clerical and administrative techniques, business principles and customer service principles**
Additional Requirements Near vision acuity, finger dexterity**

Sources: *Careerbuilder.com job listings (November 2012), **O*Net Online

Step 1: Gain Data Entry Skills

Employers typically train data entry operators, but good typing and numeric key entry skills are a common prerequisite. Knowledge of database software, spreadsheets and word processing is helpful. Good spelling, grammar and punctuation skills are also necessary, as well as strong reading comprehension. Data entry operators must be familiar with basic office equipment like computers, scanners, copiers and calculators. Training for these skills is available at the high school level and there are online tutorials as well. Employment agencies, temporary agencies, public libraries and community colleges also offer courses in keyboarding skills and data entry.

Success Tips

  • Obtain a data entry certificate. Many community colleges offer 1-2 semester certificate programs in basic office skills or clerical data entry that prepare applicants for entry-level data entry positions. This certificate can make a high school graduate more competitive in this career field.
  • Practice data entry skills. Data entry operators must be fast and accurate. Candidates should practice their new data entry skills to increase their speed and reduce errors. Some employers require applicants to pass a keyboard speed and accuracy test before hiring.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Related entry-level positions, such as a word processor or typist, can help future operators gain the experience required by most employers. In these positions, workers can learn how to check for spelling and punctuation, organize page reports and sort data.

Step 3: Gain Employment

High schools and colleges, as well as online job boards, usually have local job listings. Careful attention should be paid to the requirements of each job listing. Some jobs require typing skills of a certain amount of words per minute, and some positions require aptitude with specific software.

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