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Learn Data Entry: College Programs for a Career in Data Entry

Get details about data entry and office assistant certificate programs. Learn about prerequisites and common courses, and discover popular career options for graduates.

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Essential Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a position strictly in data entry doesn't require formal postsecondary education. However, earning a data entry or office assistant certificate could improve an applicant's job prospects. These programs often take one year or less to complete, and they address many of the same core topics, such as keyboarding and office software applications. Admission requirements usually include a high school diploma or its GED equivalent, along with basic computing skills. Students who earn an office assistant certificate may have additional career opportunities beyond data entry, including office administration and secretarial work.

Certificate in Data Entry

The data entry certificate program, which some schools may call a diploma program, teaches students how to store and enter data, properly handle files using computer applications and manage a company's data. The term data may refer to insurance claims, invoices, medical information, handwritten notes, or order forms. Students are lectured on how to search, sort, and retrieve electronic files, update data, and use a variety of popular computer software programs. In addition to basic data entry instruction, students may also learn about desktop publishing, document merging, the creation of business reports, database management, and spreadsheet preparation.

Educational Prerequisites

Most schools that offer data entry programs require applicants to be at least 16 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Admissions counselors also look for proficiency in English and mathematics and at least a familiarity with typing.

Program Coursework

The curriculum in the data entry certificate program ranges from basic typing skills to more complex material like database management. Course examples include:

  • Keyboarding
  • Introduction to computers
  • Mathematics
  • Spreadsheets
  • Document formatting

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The data entry certificate program prepares students for entry-level positions at such places as hospitals, banks, governmental agencies, and business offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), as of May 2008, data entry workers earned a median annual income of $28,010. The BLS projected that the employment of data entry keyers would decline by 6.8% between 2010 and 2020.

Continuing Education Information

Some graduates of the data entry certificate program may go on to find work after completion of the program. Other graduates may seek further training in specific office software like Microsoft Office.

Office Assistant Certificate

Office assistants, or administrative assistants, typically support executives and other employees in an office environment by performing a variety of clerical tasks, such as faxing, mailing documents, copying, and drafting letters. Those seeking a career in data entry may find an office assistant certificate useful, since these employees have a host of responsibilities, including data entry work. The office assistant certificate program, which is available through community colleges and vocational schools, prepares students for an entry-level administrative position and tests typing, communication, and computer skills.

The program trains students on how to store, research, and prepare information for staff members and clients. Students learn to use current computer software, create presentations, schedule appointments, and organize information. Graduates of the certificate program may spend some time working as an office assistant, while gaining the experience needed to work as a full-time data entry employee.

Educational Prerequisites

Some institutions require applicants to hold a high school diploma or GED for admission to the office assistant certificate program. Most programs seek applicants with excellent keyboarding skills and good math, grammar, and spelling skills.

Program Coursework

While job duties may vary for each employer, the core curriculum offers the basic skills needed to excel as an office assistant or data entry clerk. Example courses include:

  • Business math
  • Software applications
  • Business communications
  • Keyboarding
  • Telephone etiquette

Popular Career Options

Office assistants may find employment in banks, law firms, hospitals, insurance companies, governmental agencies, and a host of other organizations. While the responsibilities are common for each position, the career titles may be different. Possibilities include the following:

  • Secretary
  • Receptionist
  • Data entry operator
  • Administrative assistant
  • File clerk
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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics