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Occupation Profile for Bill and Account Collectors

Locate and notify customers of delinquent accounts by mail, telephone, or personal visit to solicit payment. Duties include receiving payment and posting amount to customer's account; preparing statements to credit department if customer fails to respond; initiating repossession proceedings or service disconnection; keeping records of collection and status of accounts.


Significant Points

  • Almost 1 in 4 collectors works for a collection agency; others work in banks, retail stores, government, physicians’ offices, hospitals, and other institutions that lend money and extend credit.
  • Most jobs in this occupation require only a high school diploma, though many employers prefer workers with some postsecondary training.
  • Much faster than average employment growth is expected as companies focus more efforts on collecting unpaid debts.


$29,050.00 Median Annual Wage 17,000 Average Job Openings Per Year
4.9 Average Unemployment Percentage 38.4 Percentage That Completed High School
434,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 48.2 Percentage That Had Some College
534,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 13.3 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Account Resolution Analyst
Accounting Technician
Bad Credit Collector
Billing Clerk
Billing Manager
Billing Representative
Car Repossessor
Claims Collector
Collection Agent
Collection Clerk
Collection Supervisor
Collections Agent
Collections Clerk
Collections Manager
Collections Representative
Credit Clerk
Credit Collections Manager
Credit Coordinator
Credit Specialist
Debt Collector
Delinquency Counselor
Installment Agent
Installment Loan Collector
Insurance Billing Clerk
Insurance Collector
Medical Collector
Patient Access Specialist
Patient Account Representative
Patient Financial Service Representative
Payment Collector
Recovery Collector
Rent Collector
Self Pay Representative

  • These occupations usually involve using communication and organizational skills to coordinate, supervise, manage, or train others to accomplish goals. Examples include funeral directors, electricians, forest and conservation technicians, legal secretaries, interviewers, and insurance sales agents.
  • Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree. Some may require a bachelor's degree.
  • Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for these occupations. For example, an electrician must have completed three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job.
  • Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers.

Most employers require collectors to have at a least a high school diploma and prefer some customer service experience. Employers usually provide on-the-job training to new employees.

Education and training. Most bill and account collectors are required to have at least a high school diploma. However, employers prefer workers who have completed some college or who have experience in other occupations that involve contact with the public.

Once hired, workers usually receive on-the-job training. Under the guidance of a supervisor or some other senior worker, new employees learn company procedures. Some formal classroom training also may be necessary, such as training in specific computer software. Additional training topics usually include telephone techniques and negotiation skills. Workers are also instructed in the laws governing the collection of debt as mandated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which applies to all third party and some in-house collectors.

Other qualifications. Workers should have good communication and people skills because they need to speak to customers daily, some of whom may be in stressful financial situations. In addition, collectors should be computer literate, and experience with advanced telecommunications equipment is also useful.

Advancement. Collectors most often advance by taking on more complex cases. Some might become team leaders or supervisors. Workers who acquire additional skills, experience, and training improve their advancement opportunities.

Nature of Work

Bill and account collectors, often called simply collectors, keep track of accounts that are overdue and attempt to collect payment on them. Some are employed by third-party collection agencies, while others—known as in-house collectors—work directly for the original creditors, such as department stores, hospitals, or banks.

The duties of bill and account collectors are similar across the many different organizations in which they work. First, collectors are called upon to locate and notify customers of delinquent accounts, usually over the telephone, but sometimes by letter. When customers move without leaving a forwarding address, collectors may check with the post office, telephone companies, credit bureaus, or former neighbors to obtain the new address. The attempt to find the new address is called skip tracing. New computer systems assist in tracing by automatically tracking when customers change their address or contact information on any of their open accounts.

Once collectors find the debtor, they inform him or her of the overdue account and solicit payment. If necessary, they review the terms of the sale, service, or credit contract with the customer. Collectors also may attempt to learn the cause of the delay in payment. Where feasible, they offer the customer advice on how to pay off the debts, such as taking out a bill consolidation loan. However, the collector’s prime objective is always to ensure that the customer pays the debt in question.

If a customer agrees to pay, collectors record this commitment and check later to verify that the payment was made. Collectors may have authority to grant an extension of time if customers ask for one. If a customer fails to pay, collectors prepare a statement indicating the customer’s action for the credit department of the establishment. In more extreme cases, collectors may initiate repossession proceedings, disconnect the customer’s service, or hand the account over to an attorney for legal action. Most collectors handle other administrative functions for the accounts assigned to them, including recording changes of address and purging the records of the deceased.

Collectors use computers and a variety of automated systems to keep track of overdue accounts. In sophisticated predictive dialer systems, a computer dials the telephone automatically, and the collector speaks only when a connection has been made. Such systems eliminate time spent calling busy or nonanswering numbers. Many collectors use regular telephones, but others wear headsets like those used by telephone operators.

Work environment. In-house bill and account collectors typically are employed in an office environment, and those who work for third-party collection agencies may work in a call-center environment. Workers spend most of their time on the phone tracking down and contacting people with debts. The work can be stressful as some customers are confrontational when pressed about their debts. Still, some appreciate assistance in resolving their outstanding debt. Collectors may also feel pressured to meet targets for debt recovered in a certain period.

Bill and account collectors often have to work evenings and weekends, when it is easier to reach people. Many collectors work part time or on flexible work schedules, though the majority work 40 hours per week.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)

Median hourly earnings of bill and account collectors were $13.97 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.49 and $17.14. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.61, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $21.12. Many bill and account collectors earn commissions based on the amount of debt they recover.

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Bill and account collectors
  • Job Outlook

    Employment of bill and account collectors is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. Job prospects are expected to be favorable because growth in the occupation and the many people who leave the occupation are expected to create plentiful openings.

    Employment change. Over the 2006-16 decade, employment of bill and account collectors is expected to grow by 23 percent, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Cash flow is becoming increasingly important to companies, which are now placing greater emphasis on collecting unpaid debts sooner. Thus, the workload for collectors is expected to continue to increase as they seek to collect not only debts that are relatively old, but also ones that are more recent. In addition, as more companies in a wide range of industries get involved in lending money and issuing credit cards, they will need to hire collectors because debt levels will likely continue to rise.

    Hospitals and physicians’ offices are two of the fastest growing industries requiring collectors. With insurance reimbursements not keeping up with cost increases, the health care industry is seeking to recover more money from patients. Government agencies also are making more use of collectors to collect on everything from parking tickets to child-support payments and past-due taxes. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has begun outsourcing the collection of overdue Federal taxes to third-party collection agencies, adding to the need for workers in this occupation.

    Despite the increasing demand for bill collectors, employment growth may be somewhat constrained by the increased use of third-party debt collectors, who are generally more efficient than in-house collectors. Also, some firms are beginning to use offshore collection agencies, whose lower cost structures allow them to collect debts that are too small for domestic collection agencies.

    Job prospects. Job openings will not be created from employment growth alone. A significant number of openings will result from the many people who leave the occupation and must be replaced. As a result, job opportunities should be favorable.

    Contrary to the pattern in most occupations, employment of bill and account collectors tends to rise during recessions, reflecting the difficulty that many people have in meeting their financial obligations. However, collectors usually have more success at getting people to repay their debts when the economy is good.


    Bill and account collectors held about 434,000 jobs in 2006. About 24 percent of collectors work in the business support services industries, which includes collection agencies. Many others work in banks, retail stores, government, physician’s offices, hospitals, and other institutions that lend money and extend credit.

    • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
    • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
    • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
    • Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
    • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
    • Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
    • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
    • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
    • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
    • Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
    • Explosive Strength — The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
    • Core — Locate and notify customers of delinquent accounts by mail, telephone, or personal visits to solicit payment.
    • Core — Confer with customers by telephone or in person to determine reasons for overdue payments and to review the terms of sales, service, or credit contracts.
    • Core — Advise customers of necessary actions and strategies for debt repayment.
    • Core — Persuade customers to pay amounts due on credit accounts, damage claims, or nonpayable checks, or to return merchandise.
    • Core — Perform various administrative functions for assigned accounts, such as recording address changes and purging the records of deceased customers.
    • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
    • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
    • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
    • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
    • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
    Related College Curriculum
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