California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Bill and Account Collectors in California

May also be called: Payment Collectors; Collection Clerks; and Installment Agents.

What Would I Do?

Bill and Account Collectors locate and contact debtors to recover money owed on past due accounts. Some Bill and Account Collectors 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.

Collectors contact the debtor by mail or telephone. Initially, a reminder letter is sent. If there is no response, Bill and Account Collectors continue to mail letters and make phone calls requesting payment. After successfully making contact, Collectors remind the debtor that their account is past due. They may review the terms of the credit card, service, or loan contract agreement and remind the debtor that interest grows on unpaid balances. Sometimes, if the debtor agrees to immediately pay the debt, the interest will be waived. Collectors may have the ability to approve an extension of time, if one is requested. They also assist the customer with establishing repayment schedules that accommodate their financial circumstances. If the customer agrees to make a payment, the Collector follows up to confirm that payment is received. They also process in-coming payments and post amounts to customer accounts.

If the debtor's location is unknown, the Collector will initiate skip tracing activities to find the debtor. Skip tracing involves looking through telephone directories for the debtor's name, contacting post offices, credit bureaus, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Collectors also interview people who may know the debtor in order to find them. Computer systems track when customers change their address or have activity on any of their open accounts.

If the debtor fails to respond to repayment requests, Bill and Account Collectors may initiate repossession actions or take action to stop the customer's service. The more difficult collection cases may be referred to an attorney for legal action.

Some of the tools used in this occupation include computers, headsets, personal digital assistants or organizers, and scanners.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Receive payments and post amounts paid to customer accounts.Clerical
Locate and monitor overdue accounts, using computers and a variety of automated systems.Monitoring
Locate and notify customers of delinquent accounts by mail, telephone, or personal visits to solicit payment.Information Ordering
Advise customers of necessary actions and strategies for debt repayment.Customer and Personal Service
Persuade customers to pay amounts due on credit accounts, damage claims, or nonpayable checks, or to return merchandise.Persuasion
Arrange for debt repayment or establish repayment schedules, based on customers' financial situations.Economics and Accounting
Negotiate credit extensions when necessary.Negotiation
Trace delinquent customers to new addresses by inquiring at post offices, telephone companies, credit bureaus, or through the questioning of neighbors.Deductive Reasoning
Notify credit departments, order merchandise repossession or service disconnection, and turn over account records to attorneys when customers fail to respond to collection attempts.Problem Sensitivity
Record information about financial status of customers and status of collection efforts.Complex Problem Solving
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

In-house Bill and Account Collectors usually work in an office or call center environment. Offices are generally well lit and provide a comfortable work atmosphere. Workers spend most of their time on the phone tracking down and contacting people with debts. Therefore, the work can be stressful because some customers can become argumentative when questioned about unpaid bills. Collectors may also feel compelled to meet production targets for the amount of debt they are expected to recover.

Most Bill and Account Collectors work 40 hours a week. However, they are regularly required to work evenings and weekends, when it is usually easier to reach people. As a result, it is common for workers to work part time or flexible work schedules.

There has been little or no unionization of Bill and Account Collectors.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of a Bill and Account Collector may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve following set procedures and routines. Bill and Account Collector occupations satisfy those with conventional interests. Conventional occupations involve working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually, there is a clear line of authority to follow. Those entering this field must have good communication skills. They need to be persistent, patient, and have good negotiation skills because they frequently deal with upset clients.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

In addition to the base wages, some companies offer bonus payments on the total dollar amount of debt recovered.

Wages

The median wage in 2015 for Bill and Account Collectors in California was $38,512 annually, or $18.51 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2015Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$32,017$38,512$48,508
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2015 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Most Bill and Account Collectors may expect to receive benefits that include health insurance, vacation, and holidays.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 496 employers in California, almost all provide medical insurance and vacation, and most provide dental insurance and sick leave benefits to Bill and Account Collectors who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance89%7%
Vacation80%7%
Dental Insurance73%6%
Sick Leave60%7%
Life Insurance54%5%
Vision Insurance51%3%
Retirement Plan49%5%
Disability Insurance22%2%
Paid Time Off Bank17%2%
No benefits4%16%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 446 employers surveyed who responded in California, who provides medical benefits, most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Bill and Account Collectors.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
All31%18%
Half or more49%55%
Less than Half21%24%
None0%3%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

Collectors play a vital role as cash flow is becoming increasingly important to companies, which are now placing greater emphasis on collecting unpaid debts sooner. Therefore, the workload for Collectors is expected to continue to increase as they seek to collect not only old debts, but ones that are more recent. Also, as more companies get involved in lending money and issuing their own 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 that employ Collectors. With insurance reimbursements not keeping up with cost increases, the health care industry is seeking to recover more money from patients.

As opposed to other occupations, the demand for Collectors remains high during economic downturns, resulting from customers’ difficulty in paying their bills in a timely manner. As a result, job opportunities should be favorable. However, employment growth for in-house collectors may be somewhat restricted due to an increased use of third-party debt collectors.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Bill and Account Collectors is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Bill and Account Collectors are expected to increase by 17.9 percent, or 7,000 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Bill and Account Collectors
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
39,10046,1007,00017.911,000
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 700 new job openings per year is expected for Bill and Account Collectors, plus an additional 1,100 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 1,800 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Bill and Account Collectors
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
7001,1001,800
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Many employers prefer to hire applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers like to see the completion of some college courses such as accounting, computers, and mathematics. Community colleges and adult education also offer courses in bookkeeping, word processing, and computers that are helpful in getting a job as a Bill Collector.

Upon hire, employees usually receive on-the-job training to learn company policies and procedures under the guidance of a senior worker. 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. This Act outlaws the harassment of debtors.

Experience

The amount and type of work experience required varies from company to company. However, employers prefer to hire workers with prior experience in positions involving public contact.

Early Career Planning

High school preparation courses in accounting, bookkeeping, computer technology, language arts, and mathematics are recommended.

Work Study Programs

Helpful training programs such as accounting, computer accounting, computer operations, computer science, general office occupations, and information processing are available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Licensing and Certification

Repossession agency managers must obtain a license through the Department of Consumer Affairs. Applicants must be over 18 years of age with two years of experience as a repossession agency employee. In addition, they must pass a written examination and a fingerprint background check. The license is valid for two years.

Repossession agency employees working under the license of a qualified manager, must register with the Department of Consumer Affairs. Applicants must be over 18 years of age and pass a fingerprint background check. Registration is valid for two years. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Certification is not required by law. However, a number of organizations offer certifications that will enhance employment and advancement opportunities. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Bill and Account Collectors are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Business Support Services 17.6%
Nondepository Credit Intermediation 10.3%
Office Administrative Services 6.4%
Management of Companies and Enterprises 6.2%
Offices of Physicians 5.8%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 496 employers in California which employ 3,112 Bill and Account Collectors. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and some employ part-time Bill and Account Collectors.

About Work Experience:  Of the 496 employers surveyed in California, most require new hires to have prior work experience as Bill and Account Collectors. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 5%
25 to 60 months 15%
13 to 24 months 39%
1 to 12 months 42%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 496 employers surveyed in California, many indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while many indicate it is easy to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Bill and Account Collectors.

About Hiring:  Of the 496 employers surveyed in California, almost all expect the number of Bill and Account Collectors they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 5%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 84%
Expect Employment to Decline 10%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 496 employers surveyed in California, 32 percent hired Bill and Account Collectors during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 89 percent filled existing vacancies, 20 percent filled newly created positions, and 9 percent filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Many schools operate placement centers for their students. Jobs may also be found through registration with temporary employment agencies and through classified advertisements in newspapers, trade publications, and Internet job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Bill and Account Collectors.

  • Billing Service
  • Bill Paying Service
  • Bookkeeping Service
  • Collection Agencies
  • Collection Bureau
  • Credit Repair Service
  • Credit Reporting Agencies

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Collectors who have a good record for collecting debts can earn promotions. Workers usually advance by taking on more duties in the same occupation for higher pay or by transferring to a closely related occupation. Many companies fill supervisory positions by promoting individuals from within the organization, and workers who acquire additional skills, experience, and training improve their advancement opportunities. Also, Collectors may choose to enter self employment with other experienced Collectors.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Bill and Account Collectors with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing ClerksGuide
Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and InvestigatorsGuide
Credit Authorizers, Checkers, and ClerksProfile
Customer Service RepresentativesGuide
Eligibility Interviewers, Government ProgramsProfile
Loan Interviewers and ClerksProfile
Office Clerks, GeneralGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification43-3011
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Bill and Account Collectors43-3011.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)CES
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Banking and Financial Support Services 520803
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Banking and Finance050400