Debt Collector - How to enter the job
Kaikohi NamaAlternative titles
Debt collectors help businesses and individuals collect overdue payments for goods or services.
Debt collectors usually earn
$38-$45K per year
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015
Debt collectors earn between $38,000 and $45,000 a year, depending on their experience and what business they work for.
What you will do
Debt collectors may do some or all of the following:
- discuss with client businesses what money is owed to them
- contact people by phone or letter to inform them of unpaid accounts
- advise people on how to pay overdue accounts
- arrange for legal action to be taken on unpaid accounts
- organise the repossession of goods to settle unpaid bills
- keep records and prepare statements
- prepare legal documents
- train staff.
Skills and knowledge
Debt collectors need to have:
- knowledge of the relevant sections of the Sale of Goods Act, Hire Purchase Act, Privacy Act and Possession of Chattels Act
- knowledge of District Court rules and procedures.
- usually work regular hours, however, they may do shift work that includes weekends and evenings
- work in call centres, offices and in people's homes
- work in stressful situations, as they often have to deal with verbally abusive debtors
- may travel around the community to collect money or goods.
What's the job really like?
Debra Begg - Debt Collector
Got into debt collection by accident
"I left college and had no idea about what I wanted to do. I had done keyboarding through school so I thought it would be a good starting point looking for a receptionist-type role.
"I took the job here by accident. Obviously I knew that they were debt collection, but I was a bit naive back then. I had never been in debt myself so didn't really know what it was.
Foot in the door lead to other opportunities
"I started with reception stuff but then my boss started involving me in more things. I took on a type of junior PA role. With her encouragement I started thinking that this might be a good career.
"After 10 years it's safe to say I'm familiar with how things work. Now it's just getting used to looking after a team of people. But it's all coming together."
There to help people
"It's funny - we have this persona of being the big bad debt collector, when really we're just there to help people. We help our clients get back money that's rightfully owed to their businesses and, if we can, we help the debtors as well by sorting out payment plans with them."
Although there are no specific entry requirements to become a debt collector, some employers prefer you to have a tertiary qualification such as the National Certificate in Call Centre Operations, Level 3.
Debt collectors gain most skills on the job.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, legal studies, economics and accounting.
Debt collectors need to be:
- polite, tactful and honest
- persuasive, persistent and firm when dealing with people
- able to work well under pressure
- able to keep calm when communicating with people who are angry or upset
- able to relate well to people from a variety of backgrounds
- good with numbers
- good at written communications
- organised and motivated
- good at making decisions
- confident using computers.
Useful experience for debt collectors includes:
- work as a law clerk or clerk of courts
- call centre work
- customer service work
- police work
- credit control work
- work in a financial environment such as a bank or insurance company.
Find out more about training
What are the chances of getting a job?
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of people employed as debt collectors rose by 5% between 2010 and 2012.
However, vacancies do come up regularly due to high staff turnover. From now until 2016, the number of people leaving this occupation is expected to be about 6.3%, compared with an average of 2.9% across all jobs. This is because:
- the job is stressful, and people burn out after a short time
- wages are often low, so people move on to take up better-paid positions.
Debt collection agencies are the main employers
Debt collectors usually work for debt collection agencies, which contract their services out to other businesses.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Net Replacement and Retirement Rates - Historical Estimates and Forecasts' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2011.
Progression and specialisations
Many debt collectors start out by working at call centres, and may then move into management positions. They can also move into other areas of the finance industry, such as working as credit controllers, accounts receivable or payable officers, or working as bank tellers or personal bankers.
Last updated 4 June 2015