As a typist (or word processor operator), your main responsibility is to produce letters, reports and other important documents.
So, what will I actually be doing?
Naturally you'll need to be good at typing - fast and accurate - but when applying for jobs you'll probably see three terms used: copy typing, audio typing and shorthand typing. These refer to the different ways of producing typed documents. Each needs different skills. Some jobs will require all three, others might need just one.
- Copy typing involves working from hand written, printed or typed documents.
- Audio typing requires speedy typing as you listen to a dictated tape.
- Shorthand typing is the most specialised of the three. You will take notes at conversation pace which can then be typed up properly later.
The work load of a typist is not as heavy as it was twenty years ago before computers came along and provided nice simple templates for everyone to use. The role therefore includes more than just typing and you should expect to carry out other administrative duties too. These might include:
- Maintaining spreadsheets and databases
- Answering the phone
- Photocopying, faxing and franking
- Managing the post
- Maintain filing
Typists are also often the nominated first aider in the building.
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The nitty gritty
You'll work a pretty average 35 hour week. This means 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, but as with most jobs, you might have to put in a few extra hours at busy times or when there are important deadlines to be met.
The more flexible you are the better your chance of finding a job. All types of companies, across all sectors, employ typists but the role is much broader than the title suggests. It fits that if you are good at administrative and clerical tasks too then there will be more opportunities to progress.
As you build your experience you might find yourself promoted to secretary, PA or even administrative or office manager.
Why not try moving into a specialist area where your skills fit well, like administration or human resources?
If you want to escape the daily grind, once you have lots of proven experience there is a market for self-employed typists.
If you want to do this the best idea is to market your services to a specialist group, for example typing CVs or academic studies.
Money, money, money
You should expect to start on a salary of £11,000 to £16,000. As your skills and experience grow so will your bank balance. Experienced typists can earn up to £20,000 per year.
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The good points...
If you're looking for a flexible job then becoming a typist certainly fits the bill as there are plenty of part-time, job-sharing and temp roles available.
...and the bad
Most of your day will be spent sitting in front of a computer.
Is there study involved?
There are no minimum entry requirements but it's an advantage if you have GCSEs, especially grades A-D in Maths and English.
As already mentioned good keyboard skills are a must. Some employers will go as far as to request you have admin and secretarial qualifications. If you want to formalise your skills to get the best job going, it's worth looking at the courses available. Most colleges run typing courses, full and part time.
The most recognised courses include:
- Foundation, intermediate and GNVQ or vocational A Levels/GSVQs levels I,II or III in business administration
- NVQs/SVQs levels 1 to 3
- Pitman, OCR (RSA) or London Chamber of Commerce and Industry exams
You can also get your typing skills up to scratch through work experience, perhaps from temp work or, if you are a young jobseeker, as an apprentice. You can find out more about apprenticeships at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
Your employers will train you in company procedures and in-house computer systems as part of your general induction.
As your career progresses your employer may also give you the opportunity to go on word processing and other relevant administrative/secretarial courses like the following:
- Education Development International LCCI certificates in Audio Transcription and Text Production
- OCR Basic, Intermediate and Advanced certificates, including Audio Transcription, Text Production, Speed Keying and Word Processing
- City & Guilds certificates, including Audio Transcription, Keyboarding, Text Production Skills and Typewriting
- NVQ levels 1 and 2 in Business and Administration
If you are thinking long term and want to use your role as a typist as a stepping stone to a more supervisory role then it might be worth thinking about taking an NVQ in Business and Administration. Unless there is a clear career path for you at your company then you might have to take this under your own steam.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
It goes without saying that as a typist you'll need to have good keyboard skills and a decent command of the English language (spelling, grammar and punctuation) to produce high quality documents.
You'll be all the better at your job if you are also:
- Efficient and pay attention to detail
- Can use computer software packages, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint
- Are a good communicator
- Produce neat and well presented work
- Are discreet - much of the information you will be dealing with will be confidential