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Data Processing

Learn how to start a career in data processing.

Many data processors can get a job right out of high school, but for those wanting more training or education, there are data processing programs. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Many data processors can get a job right out of high school, but for those wanting more training or education, there are data processing programs.

Data processing involves the handling and management of large amounts of information. This information varies based on the work field, but medical facilities, insurance agencies and school systems all have data processing needs that require the employment of a qualified data processor. Data processing, also referred to as data entry or information processing, is an entry-level job that many people use to start a career with a particular company or in a particular field.

Data Processing Job Duties

The general duties of data processors are similar, but, for example, a medical data processor will deal with different information than an insurance agency data processor. The general duties of a data processor include:

  • Report preparation
  • Form preparation
  • Mailings preparation
  • Maintaining statistical tables
  • Inputting information onto forms and tables in a computer program
  • Editing and updating existing information
  • Minor clerical duties like answering phones, making copies and sending faxes


Data processors work with either word processing programs or keying programs. Those that work with word processing programs focus on using programs such as Excel and Word to input data and draw up forms. Data entry keyers usually use special machines that transcribe materials into computer code or other forms of data-transfer language and place the material into lists or charts.

Medical data processors work with patient charts, insurance forms, doctor's notes and prescriptions. Data processing for an insurance firm may include typing in application forms for life, auto or home insurance; transferring data amongst different branches of a company; and updating information.

Data Processing from Home

One field of data processing is the at-home typist. With the consistent growth of online employment opportunities, there are data processing jobs available for people who wish to work from home. Some of these data processors work with companies to process and send e-mails; others create lists to input into databases for companies that work with mailing programs. While not all online data processing jobs are legit, there are freelance sites like oDesk that act as a middleman to help data processors find reliable work at home.

Data Processing Education

Many data processors can get a job right out of high school, but for those wanting more training or education, there are data processing programs. Many community colleges offer certificate or diploma programs for data processing. A sample curriculum from Gulf Coast Community College shows that the typical data processing certificate includes courses in English, business math, algebra, keyboarding, document processing, financial accounting, microcomputers, business fundamentals, Visual Basic and Excel.

While Gulf Coast Community College's diploma requires 32 credit hours, some programs require fewer credit hours. The data processing program at The College of Saint Rose is only 21 credit hours and involves courses in programming, system analysis, database management and data structures.

Prospective data processors who have not attended a training program still need certain skills to get work, including:

  • High typing speed
  • Typing accuracy
  • Computer application proficiency, such as Excel and Word
  • Good spelling and grammar skills
  • Familiarity with office equipment, such as fax machines, multiline phones, copiers and computers


Anyone with administrative assistant experience, secretarial experience, transcribing experience or court reporting experience has a good chance of landing a data entry position with a large company.

Data Processing Job Outlook and Salary

Employment for data processors is projected to decline through 2016. However, data processing companies will look for candidates with technical knowledge and job experience before hiring inexperienced processors. As technology advances, the need for data processors will decline. Companies will assign regular data processing duties to workers responsible for different aspects of the company. Regardless, there will always be some openings in data processing due to the constant turnover of employees who leave the field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for word processors and typists was around $29,000 in 2006. Similarly, most data processors earn between $24,000 and $35,000 per year. The industry utilizing data processors affects the salary range. The industries that employ the most data processors and offer decent salaries include government agencies, schools and employment services.

The average salary for data processing keyers is between $20,000 and $29,000 per year. Just like word processors and typists, the size and strength of the industry affects the salary for keyers. Industries utilizing keyers and offering decent salaries include management services, accounting services, insurance firms and data processing services.

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