Skip to main content

Collection Clerks Find Opportunities as Consumer Debt Grows

People with credit cards and big appetites for spending often end up owing a lot of money. Now the credit industry is hungry to get that money back, so they're calling on collection clerks to collect debts. People who do not pay their bills for goods and services are collection clerks' bread and butter.

North Americans owe credit companies hundreds of billions of dollars. Collectors help return that money to the economy.

Kimberly Soard operates a law office in Texas. Her clients include people facing consumer bankruptcy, so she deals with collection clerks regularly.

"As long as we live in a world of easy credit, there will be a huge demand for collectors and agencies, whether billing agencies or collection agencies," she says.

Trends: Outsourcing and Offshoring

Private companies and government agencies are looking to collect money on everything from parking tickets to credit card bills and overdue taxes. To regain this money, more companies are hiring collection companies so they don't have to do it themselves. This practice is called outsourcing.

Outsourcing to collection agencies is less expensive and more effective, says Matt McGrath. He is director of special projects for a collection agency.

People in the collection industry say that this trend will not affect employment prospects here.

"Agencies are mostly local in nature and their clients expect their accounts to be handled locally," says Debra Ciskey. She works with a company that provides debt solutions.

"Agencies may offshore back office functions like programming or skip tracing [finding someone who has a debt and has moved or changed jobs], but not many are outsourcing their pure pay collection work overseas."

Taking Advantage of the Opportunities

There are many different positions in the collection industry, but the majority of employees are, naturally, the collectors. Collectors are usually not required to have education after high school, and most agencies provide on-the-job training.

Most in the field say this can be challenging work, especially when someone owing money is hard to find.

"It is like playing the children's game of hide and seek," says McGrath. "You can make it into a thrilling fun game. You use all the tools that you have at your disposal, and politely ask the positive questions, starting with the words: 'Where is...?' 'What is...?' followed by 'Who might know..?'"

If you can find your niche in the industry, whether in IT, sales or collections, you can cash in.

"IT professionals are in high demand as the systems collection agencies use become more complex. Sales people with skill and experience will always find jobs in the collection industry, as will anyone with a strong work ethic who is willing to learn and apply the skills it takes to be a great collector," says Ciskey.

"If you are a good collector, you can make a lot of money. Of course, this is the minority, but some collectors can make up to $150,000 per year," says Soard.

Ciskey does not offer a dollar amount, but she does agree with Soard that pay is higher than average, considering the level of education required. She adds that flexibility with scheduling and opportunities for part-time work are advantages.

"The only disadvantage I can think of is that collectors have to learn to deal with hostility every day from the customers they speak with," says Ciskey.

"Those who learn how to manage these folks and turn hostile phone calls into successful ones are the most successful."

The Scoop on High Turnover

"It can be a very risky job, much more so than any other industry I know," says Soard. "Competition is high and all that matters is what you did today. There is no reason to see any forthcoming change in this regard."

Ciskey says collections isn't a risky career for workers with the right skills.

"The high level of turnover results, in my opinion, from the fact that there are few tools that assist debt collection agencies in hiring people who really have the right fit for the job.

"It takes a strong individual to put up with consumers who sometimes express their frustration with being reminded about their bills in mostly unpleasant ways. So, sometimes collecting bills can be stressful."

The Down-Low on the Industry's Bad Rap

Debt isn't a nice subject. That makes it easy to pick on the collection industry, and many people do. Many stories in the media point out the complaints that have been made against collectors who are too persistent or unethical.

"Unfortunately, the sins of a few continue to paint the entire industry with a wide and ugly brush," says Ciskey.

"Actually, most collectors are women, and they use compassion and empathy as tools in their toolboxes. The industry has been working for many years to try to change this image, but as long as the media continues to harp on the very few bad apples, we will always be fighting the image.

"Many collectors seek certification through our international association, which means that they seek to be seen as professionals, and most of them behave as professionals, with or without certification."

Advice for Future Collections Clerks

"Debt collectors must understand that debtors are fundamentally honest, sincere and wanting to pay what they owe just as much as anyone," says McGrath.

"It is the debt collector's responsibility to explain and show the debtor how the account can be paid today. A collector must have a solution to every problem or excuse so the debtor can see how the account can be paid, if not in full today, then by regular payments."

Although you do not need to go to college to be a collection clerk, those in the field stress the need for continual training to be successful.

"If you are looking for a good agency, find one that has a strict incoming and follow-up training sessions in the law and expects you to abide by them," advises Soard.

"Then the company must also have good managers who stand behind this policy and also expect you to follow the laws when collecting. A company who teaches you what is legal and what is not, but in practice fails to follow the laws are sure trigger signs that there are management issues and you are in an unsafe environment."

McGrath agrees that training is crucial.

"It requires constant vigilance of changing regulations, as well as steady monitoring of personnel who are dealing with contentious matters," says McGrath.

Despite any downsides, McGrath says that being in the collection business is exciting and challenging.

"You want to win and you must play within strict rules of conduct that are more than fair to opponents," says McGrath. "Remember it is only for the best people; others should not apply."


ACA International
The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals is a resource for success in the credit and collection industry

Going After Overdue Accounts
Offers tips on hiring the right collection agency -- use these tips when looking for an employer in the industry

How to Set Up a Debt Payment Plan
Plan your way out of mountains of overdue bills

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


Powered by XAP

OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.