This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Debt collectors help businesses and individuals collect overdue payments for goods or services.
Debt collectors usually earn
$40K-$55K per year
Source: Hays, 'Hay's Salary Guide', 2015.
Current job prospects
Debt collectors usually earn between $44,000 and $55,000 a year.
Source: Hays, 'Hay's Salary Guide', 2015.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Debt collectors may do some or all of the following:
- 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 and legal documents.
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 business hours, but 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 angry people
- may travel locally to collect money or goods.
What's the job really like?
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 led 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 personal assistant 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, contact centre employers prefer you to have a tertiary qualification such as the National Certificate in Contact Centre Operations (Level 3).
Debt collectors gain most skills on the job.
- Skills Organisation website - information about the National Certificate in Contact Centre Operations (Level 3)
NCEA Level 2 is recommended for entering the National Certificate in Contact Centre Operations. Useful subjects include English, legal studies, maths 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.
Repossession agents need to be physically fit and able to lift heavy objects.
Find out more about training
What are the chances of getting a job?
Vacancies for debt collectors come up regularly as:
- the job is stressful and poorly paid, so people tend to leave it after a short time
- unstable economic conditions create more debt.
Debt collection agencies main employers
Debt collectors usually work for debt collection agencies, which contract their services out to other businesses.
- Adams, C, 'New Zealand's Banks Have Record Year – But Danger Looms', 24 February 2016, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
- BBC, 'Will a Robot Take Your Job?', 11 September 2015, (www.bbc.com).
- Boot, S, 'Update: NZX's Bennett Sees Strong Debt Pipeline in 2016', 24 February 2016, (www.scoop.co.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2016.
- Price Waterhouse Coopers, 'Banking Banana Skins 2015', 2016, (www.pwc.co.nz).
- Radio New Zealand, 'Heartland Gets Ready for More Bad Debts', 19 August 2015, (www.radionz.co.nz).
- Rotherham, F, 'Dairy Debt is a Major Concern for NZ Economy, NZSA Conference Told', 12 September 2015, (www.nbr.co.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Many debt collectors start out by working at contact centres as collection officers.
They can also move into other finance industry roles, such as account manager, credit controller, accounts receivable or payable officer and personal banker.
Last updated 30 May 2017