Bill and Account Collector  What They Do

Just the Facts

Bill and Account Collectors Career Video

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dotPeople stop paying their debts for various reasons, such as a job loss, living beyond their means or even a dispute with the creditor. In any case, it's safe to say, most of them aren't in great moods when a collection clerk calls. Some people behind on their debts have been known to scream or swear at collectors and dodge their creditors.

Does this sound like a satisfying way to make a living? A lot of people think so.

Steve Rapaport of New York is one. He's been in the industry since college. He started out as a collector and is now running his own agency. "You have to be able to separate what you do from reality. If you're going to get upset, then this is not for you."

It isn't a collection clerk's job to terrorize a debtor. In fact, Rapaport doesn't like the negative stereotype of his profession. He sees what collectors do as mediation. He finds it satisfying when he gets a good result for both parties -- money back for a client and a reasonable payment plan for the debtor.

dotAs a collection clerk, your job would be to help your employer or client collect money owed to them. You may work for a specific business, such as a bank or hospital. Or you might work for the government, or for a collection agency that specializes in one or more areas. You could eventually start your own agency.

Your job duties might include sending letters, making phone calls and meeting with clients and debtors. You could also be calculating payment plans, locating debtors and tracking payments.

There's a creative side to the business. Your collection techniques must be persuasive. Michelle Dunn started out in accounts receivable. She now runs her own collection agency in New Hampshire.

"You have to be creative in order to get a debtor to respond to you. You also have to be careful that you follow the FDCPA [Fair Debt Collection Practices Act]. I like that challenge and try to create letters that will make the debtor curious and want to call me."

The FDCPA was enacted in 1977 to protect consumers from overzealous debt collectors. It outlines the rules for collectors, such as when and how to contact debtors. But it doesn't cover all collectors, such as employees of the creditor.

dotYou will need a wide range of skills to be successful as a collection clerk. Communication, organization and the ability to be cool under pressure are some of them.

"One of the most important skills a collector must have is to listen," says Dunn. "You also need to be very organized and have outstanding follow-up skills. Knowing how to deal with people and be firm is helpful."

Kecia Kesler of Kansas runs a family collection business. "Collectors should have good interpersonal skills. Psychology helps. An even temper and ability to think quickly, consistency, and salesmanship are required."

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Make sure people pay up

  • You'll need an even temper and good salesmanship skills
  • Communication skills are very important
  • A degree isn't necessary, but it helps