Bill collectors get a bad rap. When you think “bill collector,” you think of that pesky person who calls during dinner and yells all sorts of scary threats about what will happen if you don’t pay your bills. In fact, the lady who had my home phone number before me has so many collectors calling (and I’ve had this number for 8 years!) that I’ve stopped answering my home phone.
The thing is, that bad rap isn’t really deserved. Most bill collectors today are more than willing to work with debtors to work out a payment plan rather than just saying “Pay up, or else!”. And with personal debt increasing at an alarming rate, it’s a career with many opportunities.
What does a bill collector do?
A bill collector may either work in the collections department of a creditor or at an agency hired by the creditor to collect unpaid bills.
- Contacts people who are behind on their bills and attempts to collect payment
- Tries to find out why the bill hasn’t been paid
- Attempts to resolve non-financial reasons for non-payment (like dissatisfaction with the product or service)
- Attempts to work out a payment plan for people undergoing financial difficulties
- Locates people who are no longer at the address on file with the creditor
- Communicates progress to the client and, when necessary, recommends further action (like repossession or turning the matter over to an attorney)
What are the job prospects?
A report released in the U.S. in 2013 showed consumer debt at $3.03 trillion – or more than $9,600 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. And that doesn’t even include mortgage debt.
More debt means more opportunities for bill collectors. A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 15 percent between now and 2022. That works out to about 58,000 new jobs in the U.S. alone (and that doesn’t include people hired to replace workers in existing jobs who leave the field).
What are the educational/training requirements?
In the U.S.:
- A high school diploma.
- A thorough understanding of local and federal laws, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
- Some employers require a college degree (or at least some courses in finance or accounting).
- Some employers require bill collectors to be certified by the American Collectors Association. Certification requires 12 months’ experience (including at least six months with your current employer), completing two seminars, and passing a written test.
There are no minimum requirements in the UK, but the certification from the Institute of Credit Management or the Credit Services Association will make you much more competitive. Areas of training include:
- Credit management
- Business law
- Debt collection
- Tracing techniques
- Commercial debt
When it comes to bill collection, people skills are at least as important as job-specific training. You’ll be working with people who may be under a lot of financial stress and asking them to make payments with money they might not have. That requires a special type of person. A good bill collector needs to be:
- Able to explain complicated financial situations and payment alternatives
- A good listener
- A good negotiator
If that sounds like something you’d enjoy and be successful at, your first step is to find an entry-level job with a company that is willing to train you. Online job boards are a great place to start. You can also research local debt-collection companies and contact them directly to ask if they’re hiring. That could be the first step in your career as a bill collector.
Photo credit: Debt Collector