Debt collectors, also known as credit controllers or collection agents, are responsible for recovering bad debts or late payments.
Credit controllers usually work in the credit control department of a business, chasing late payments from the company’s suppliers and customers. Debt collectors or collection agents usually work for third party collection agencies, and collect money from businesses (commercial collection) or individuals (consumer collection).
The work can involve:
- contacting people or businesses by phone, e-mail or letter to ask for payment
- negotiating repayment plans
- administrative tasks such as setting up and maintaining customer files and recording payments
- visiting debtors’ homes to collect payments (usually known as field collection)
- tracing missing debtors.
When other ways of collecting the debt have failed, debt collectors follow court orders and strict legal procedures to recover the debt. They may need to work closely with solicitors and bailiffs when dealing with insolvency cases or legal proceedings.
Hours and Environment
As a debt collector you will often work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, although consumer collectors may work shifts covering evenings and weekends to contact people who work during the day. Part-time work is available.
You will usually be based in an office or a call centre. As a field collector you will usually work from home and travel to visit clients at their home or business. A driving licence is needed for field collection work.
Skills and Interests
To be a debt collector, you need:
- good spoken and written communication skills
- assertiveness and tact
- calmness under pressure
- good organisational skills and the ability to work to strict deadlines
- good negotiation skills
- the ability to explain financial matters firmly and clearly
- good mathematical skills
- administration and computer skills.
You do not need set qualifications for debt collection work. You should check with individual employers about the qualifications and experience needed for each job. Some employers may ask for some GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3) or equivalent qualifications, preferably including maths.
You may have an advantage with book-keeping or accounting technician qualifications. See the Accounts Clerk and Accounting Technician profiles for more details.
You will find it useful to have computer skills and experience of office and customer service work.
You will usually be trained on the job. Your training may include in-house courses covering telephone techniques, credit law, litigation and insolvency.
You may also take qualifications from the Credit Services Association (CSA) or the Institute of Credit Management (ICM). Holding CSA or ICM qualifications may help you to progress into more responsible roles. Qualifications include:
- CSA City and Guilds Diploma in Debt Collection
- ICM Level 3 Certificate in Credit Management – an introductory course
- ICM Level 5 Diploma in Credit Management – a more advanced course including legal proceedings and insolvency
- ICM Foundation Degree in Credit Management
- ICM BA (Hons) Degree in Credit Management.
You can study for CSA or ICM courses part-time or by distance learning. See websites for more details.
There are around 20,000 people employed in debt collection all over the UK.
Many debt collectors, particularly field collectors, are self-employed or work freelance.
As an experienced credit controller you could progress into credit management jobs. Alternatively, you could start your own debt collection agency – see the Credit Services Association website for advice about how to set up your own agency.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Starting salaries can be £12,000 to £15,000 a year.
Experienced debt collectors or credit controllers can earn £16,000 to £22,000.
Debt collection agency managers may earn between £20,000 and £25,000 a year.
Bonuses and commission may be available. Some employers may offer a car and fuel allowance.
51 Gresham Street
Tel: 0845 257 3772
The Water Mill
Tel: 01780 722900
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tel: 0191 286 5656