Import-Export Clerk: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an import-export clerk. Explore the requirements as well as details about training, job duties, and skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Import-export clerks work in settings that manage shipments to and from foreign countries. International trade experience and fluency in foreign languages are often preferred by employers. These positions are expected to decline in the coming decade.

Essential Information

Import-export clerks manage data for international shipments and provide support for many steps of the transportation process. They work with customs agents, warehouse staff, shipping companies, and clients. Clerks help with shipping, receiving, and record keeping for international transactions. Most of their working day is spent in an office atmosphere as they verify that all documentation adheres to import-export policies and laws. Entry-level positions are available to those with a high school diploma, although applicants with international trade experience are generally favored by employers.

Required Education High school diploma; associate's or bachelor's degree for higher level positions
Favorable Skills Speak 2 or more languages
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -2% ( for material recording clerks, including shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks)
Median Salary (2015)* $30,450 (for shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

An import-export clerk has a wide range of duties that deal with each step of the shipping process. They track shipments and communicate with clients about the package's progress. They coordinate shipping with customs agents for clearance on overseas deliveries. Clerks also deal with quotes from prospective shippers and handle claims with insurance companies if any shipment problems happen to occur.

An import-export clerk's main task is to provide efficient delivery logistics through data management. They fill out import-export documentation, compile carrier and route assignments, compute international fees for each shipment, and keep track of shipment payments and quotas. Much of this work is done using automated systems that can identify shipments, collect data, and register packages with government agencies.

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Job Requirements

Aspiring import-export clerks with a high school diploma may obtain entry-level positions, but many employers prefer applicants who have an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in a business-related field. Applicants who can speak two or more languages are also favored. International trade certificate programs provide additional job preparation with courses that focus on import-export regulations and international trade. Experience in an international trade industry is a major requirement for higher level positions in imports and exports.

An import-export clerk must have customer service and negotiation skills to deal with the demands of overseas and local clients. They must be familiar with the legal requirements regarding importing and exporting shipments, as well as their company's internal procedures. Clerks should also be confident with figures, since they'll have to convert weights, volumes, and currencies for international shipments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, employers favor clerks with computer experience, since many companies are using increasingly automated systems (www.bls.gov).

Career Outlook and Salary

The BLS reported in May 2015 that the median annual salary earned by all shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks was $30,450. The Bureau also indicated that the employment of material recording clerks, including import-export clerks, is likely to decrease by 2% during the 2014-2024 decade.

Import-export clerks usually require only a high school diploma or GED. Advancement to higher level positions generally requires completing an associate's or bachelor's degree. The median annual salary in this field is about $30,000.

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