Data entry is the act of transcribing some form of information into another medium, usually through input into a computer program. Forms of data that people might transcribe include handwritten documents, information off spreadsheets, and sequences of numbers, as well as computer code and even names and addresses. Some careers are exclusively involved in data entry, while certain workers, like programmers, might have to occasionally enter data while performing other tasks. Anyone interested in this career should be cautious, however, as there are many online "opportunities" that are actually scams and not legitimate jobs.
Job Description and Necessary Skills
Good typists, especially those who are also excellent at 10-key typing, are often qualified for data entry positions. 10-key typing uses the 0-9 keys often found on the right side of a computer keyboard, also called the number keypad. Most companies that hire people for this work have requirements for Keystrokes Per Minute (KPM), with a high degree of accuracy. These numbers can vary from one business to another, but are based on individual keys rather than words.
Some companies use audio input, which a person listens to while entering data into a computer or similar system. The typist needs to be able to follow along as the recording goes, so that pauses are kept to a minimum. Accuracy is vital in applications like programming, since the wrong letter, number, or symbol can throw off an entire command function within computer code. For spreadsheets and published or printed documents, typos can result in misinformation or embarrassing errors.
A degree or particular type of education is not usually required for this field. People can gain fast and accurate typing skills through classes or other methods, such as extensive practice. Certain specialized fields may require training in particular software programs or knowledge of subjects like medicine and anatomy. These opportunities usually pay better than general entry positions, but may require certification, education, or previous experience.
With a number of computer systems requiring new information on an almost constant basis, data entry does not necessarily have to take place in an office. Many people work out of their homes entering data, transcribing medical information, or updating websites. Some of these opportunities can be found online, though many companies require that applicants come into a location for testing and training. Once this is complete, the typist might work onsite at that location, or may be eligible to work from his or her home.
Anyone who wishes to enter the data entry field should be careful to avoid “scam” offers, which promise work in exchange for a fee. The majority of legitimate sites do not require a fee be paid, since the entire purpose of such a job is for someone to enter information in exchange for payment. Many of these sites prey on people who want to work from home and often seem too good to be true. Extreme caution should be used by anyone approaching a company selling a book or other service to "help" him or her find data entry jobs, as many such offers are scams.
Future Changes and Automation
In some cases, computers can perform data entry by scanning documents and converting information for different programs. This method and others may ultimately eliminate some jobs. For example, sufficiently accurate voice recognition software might reduce the need for medical transcriptionists. Anyone working in this field should look for ways to gain additional skills, such as knowledge of computer programming languages, to become more attractive as job opportunities become limited.
Data entry requires focus and concentration, which can be mentally exhausting and physically challenging. It is important for people sitting and typing all day to pay attention to maintaining good posture, type in an ergonomically sound position, and take breaks for their eyes and hands. Most experts in workplace ergonomics suggest that people sitting at a computer for extended periods of time should take a break at least once an hour and move away from their computer screens. Hand and body-stretching exercises can help prevent health problems like carpal tunnel syndrome.