How to Become a Bank Teller and the Salary to Expect

Bank Teller

Once upon a time the primary way to pay your bills and spend your paycheck was by having a ready supply of cash. Plastic credit cards were few and far between, and at the frontline of supplying people with the needed cash was the bank teller. Friday paydays found long lines of people waiting to cash their paychecks and head home for the weekend. Bank tellers were indispensable to the functioning of a bank and the society.

The growth of plastic, both credit cards and debit cards, reduced the need for bank tellers everywhere. As the 21st century rolled around and the digital economy started to boom, the need for bank tellers declined even more. Banks began closing branches in favor of ATMs, and today the bank teller is one of those jobs with an uncertain future. So why would you want to consider a job as a bank teller in 2019? Actually, there are some very good reasons that have more to do with your future than thinking of a bank teller as a career position. In this article we will look at the pros and the cons of choosing a job as a bank teller, and where you can go from there with a few years of experience under your money belt.

Basic Qualifications

The qualifications of a bank teller are pretty basic. One of the most obvious qualifications is that you do not have any type of criminal record, as not only handling money but being around cash every working day requires trustworthy people. Not every criminal record will necessarily disqualify you, but there are only a few exceptions.

Another obviously quality is that you are good at counting money. This is not the same thing as being able to count money. In an average day, thousands of dollars will pass through your hands, and while being able to count is the most basic of job requirements, being able to combine speed and accuracy is critical during certain times of the week. If you ever got several brand new bills dispensed from an ATM you know how easy it is for those bills to stick together. Many banks deal in brand new bills, so if you lose count it could mean you lose your job.

A third essential skill is a soft skill – the ability to deal with people in stressful situations. It’s not always the customer that is stressed, though that is usually the case. Bank tellers can also be under high amounts of stress that will cause them to provide a poor customer service experience. Being able to be friendly and nice to people who are having problems with their money is a key quality in mastering the art of the bank teller.

These three skills – personal reputation, the ability to count money, and the innate skill of remaining cool in a stressful environment – are what most bank tellers will use on an everyday basis.  There are other skills that they will need to have, including technical skills, as they will constantly interact with banking systems. But a teller is a people position. That much has not changed with the growth of plastic and ATMs. Most banks will require a high school diploma to be considered, but this is common with most jobs today.

Preparing for the Interview

An aspect of being a bank teller is to be ready to dress appropriately and conform to an office environment code of conduct. You will want to check prior to the interview what the specific rules are so you can properly prepare. For example, if you regularly wear nose rings or other body piercings that will be visible to customers you may find yourself being asked to remove them during working hours. If you find this to be the case you definitely don’t want to be wearing them to a bank teller interview.

Professional attire is the general rule for male and female bank tellers. For men that means a shirt and tie, while for women it means a modest dress, or a blouse and a skirt. If you find these requirements more than a little restrictive, there is a reason for them. You will be interacting with people from all walks of life, and as a frontline person between management and the customer you make the first impression. This first impression carries over to how you treat the customer and how well you do your job. Ask yourself how long you would continue banking at a bank where the bank tellers were unkempt, unprofessional, and are likely to make a mistake.

Depending on the bank you are applying to, you may be required to take a math test. Though computers and calculators can do most of the work, it is a human who will ultimately be responsible for the amount of physical cash given out and received at the end of their work day. Most of the interactions with customers will involve handling cash, so being able to do simple math without a calculator is usually a must.

Education and Training

Here is an area where there are many options for you to choose from. Some of these options will benefit you in the long run, while others will help you get accustomed to your new job. To begin with, there are colleges that offer a bank teller certificate training program. This may help you stand out over other applicants who simply meet the basic requirements. However, this credential will have little value beyond the position of a bank teller.

There is also the option of an Associate (2 year) degree in a related field such as finance or business is definitely helpful, and will also move you to the head of the line when it comes down to the final candidates to be selected. There are some websites that suggest a Bachelor’s degree is even better, but as we will see later, it is hard to justify the expense of a 4 year degree with the annual salary of a bank teller.

One advantage of on the job training as a bank teller, if you can find a bank that is willing to provide it from day one of your hiring, is that it is real world experience that will pay immediate dividends. An aspect of an experience bank teller is they will know something about banking law, which is better understood outside of a classroom. Plus, each bank usually has its own unique procedures for daily operations, so when you come in fresh off the street knowing only the basics about banking it makes it easier to train you.

If you find you are comfortable with being a bank teller and want to consider a career in banking, you can take bank education courses that will improve your skill and knowledge levels. We will diverge here for a moment and explain your future going forward as a bank teller. Because of what was stated earlier about technology replacing bank tellers, it is important to consider your future career that can use banking as a basis for your future success. While a Bachelor’s degree is not necessary for a teller position, it can be used in combination with the experience you accumulate as a teller to prepare you for your next job. The demonstrated qualities of someone who is successful as a bank teller includes: attention to detail, reliability, trustworthiness, and the all-important soft skill of dealing with people.

Another seemingly unrelated career path is that of cybersecurity. Banks and financial institutions are two of the major targets of cybercriminals, and as a bank teller you will deal firsthand with the threats they pose to people’s money. If you earn an Associate’s degree in a technical field such as computer programming, you can go to work as a bank teller, catch up on your student loans, and then return to college full time and use your experience as a resume booster when you finally graduate. These are just a couple of examples, but the most important point is that you approach becoming a bank teller with a future orientation in mind since it can lay the foundation for a successful career in another field.

Staying Put in the Bank

Do you need to leave the banking field altogether, even if you are happy with your position? Currently, the answer is no as you can advance to other positions such as a head teller or teller supervisor. However, be warned that these types of positions only pay in the low $30,000 a year range, which for many people is not an ideal salary. On average, you can expect to make between $8 and $12 per hour before taxes to start. There are also part time opportunities available, making it a convenient alternative for students or others who have idle time gaps during their day.

Next we will look at the pros and cons of becoming a bank teller. For many people, a job is not strictly about the money, and a career in banking offers a number of advantages that simply make your life easier. Until the point is reached where cash is no longer a way of conducting financial transactions (and some people believe that is not too far off in the distant future) bank tellers continue to be a critical part of the bank’s function.

Pros of being a Bank Teller

If you like working inside in an air conditioned environment, becoming a bank teller may be the simplest way to go. Customers do not like sweaty hands handling their money, and there are all those computers and machines that are constantly running to perform transactions, which generates heat. Your work area has to be kept cool, giving you a safe haven from hot, humid summer days (in most locations).

For security and a number of other reasons, banks are notorious for having normal business hours with very few exceptions. “Bankers hours” which generally are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the weekdays, almost never vary. Banks are closed on Sunday, but they often have extended hours on Friday to accommodate people who get paid on Friday. (Did you know that there is a federal law that prohibits a federally insured bank from being closed more than three consecutive days?)

Speaking of working days and hours, banks religiously adhere to the Federal holiday schedule, so there is no chance of your boss asking you to work on a holiday. Many businesses do not conform to the Federal holiday list, so you have to ask yourself how important is it for you to have those three day weekends a regular thing throughout the year. The downside to this is those are also days where you will not get paid because you are an hourly worker. So you have to look at your own situation and determine if the trade-off is worth it.

Here is an often overlooked benefit because so many people have been accustomed to working in cubicles. You won’t be working in a cubicle. Depending on the layout of the bank, you may find a dividing partition but you won’t be walled in on three sides. Oftentimes those partitions are made of glass or Plexiglas, so you will actually be able to see people all around you. It brings a level of sanity to your working environment.

You will also learn a lot about the basics of money. Because you will be dealing with checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, mortgage loans, and other financial instruments you will get a real world knowledge of what it is like to handle real money. This is especially good for younger people who are just starting to learn about what it’s like to have real money to spend – or save.

A bank always has a secure working environment. You might hear people say they could make more money working at a 7-11, so why choose being a bank teller? Part of the reason is that cameras are everywhere, and security is very high. Statistically, bank robbery is a very high risk crime for the socially maladjusted, so from a security perspective you are very safe. There are security guards in most banks, which is an added level of safety. People who have had a gun pointed in their face working at a 7-11 will tell you it is enough to cause you to quit your job. Bank tellers usually get a polite note asking them for money.

If you look back at this list of pros, you’ll find it covers a broad range of benefits that most people can relate to. Security, decent working hours, and learning about something that is near and dear to most people (money) makes becoming a bank teller an easy choice.

Cons of Being a Bank Teller

As with any job, there are downsides. We briefly covered the salary issue, but there are other considerations that may have you looking elsewhere for a job. When it comes to your working environment, it is not just about the physical surroundings. People are also a part of that environment, and a good number of them will not be so pleasant. Many people only come to a bank when there is a problem – a problem they expect you to fix yesterday. People get very upset when something bad happens to their money, and as a representative of the bank you will get much of that anger. There are some customers that are so difficult you will prefer having the grungy looking man handing you a holdup note.

This next downside is one of those that you will likely become better with as you gain experience – the con artist. There are people who will try and get you to make a mistake and rob you in a totally different way. Since you are responsible for the money in your drawer, a single mistake can make your banking career short, as well as becoming the target of an investigation that accuses you of stealing the money yourself.

If you walk into a bank you often see chairs for the tellers to sit on. But if you pay close attention you will notice they rarely use those chairs when serving customers. You can potentially be on your feet for hours during the busy times, which may not be something that appeals to you. On the flip side, there may be times where you literally sit around doing nothing because you will deal with 2 customers in a four hour period. You can’t bring a book, so boredom can be a part of the job.

Privacy and confidentiality are both huge issues in today’s society, so you will be expected to be constantly aware of each customer’s level of privacy during the transaction. Some people are almost paranoid about the security of their account information, and the last thing you need is for a customer to complain that you are not taking the confidentiality of their personal information seriously.

This last downside is somewhat debatable, depending on your personality. Some articles will tell you that because money is a dirty thing (you never know where it has been) it means that you could pick up some type of disease such as a cold from dealing with a sick customer. Hand sanitizers aside, there is also the other side of the “dirty money” which is handling those newly minted bills. Your fingers may get a little dirty from the new money, but that minor inconvenience is offset by the smell of new money. Again, this is a personal thing.

Revisiting a Bank Teller Salary

Earlier it was mentioned that the salary of a bank teller is on the low side. The research shows that how much you make can vary depending on where you work and how long you have been at the same job. For the numbers we have chosen to use the well-known Indeed job search and information website as a reference point.

One of the factors that can get you off to a higher starting salary is previous job experience as a customer service representative. Customer service is a large part of being a bank teller, and if you walk in with this type of background it makes management’s job easier because they don’t have to worry about the new hire not having the right stuff. That extra value can mean an extra $2 an hour.

There are many posts on the Indeed website that show bank tellers taking on additional duties, such as sales. This is an extension of the customer service skills required for the position, but also adds the possibility of making a higher salary via commission. If you research other websites you are likely to find the phrase “plus commission” added to the bank teller salary. This is the reason why.

One interesting post was made by a new hire who said that during the interview they were offered $13.50 an hour but when they were actually hired it got bumped up to $14 an hour. True, that won’t make you rich but it does illustrate the importance of doing your best at the job interview because they may believe you are worth the extra money.

Though this article has primarily focused on bank tellers, as in The First National Bank of Anycity, you can also opt to try for a position as a bank teller at a credit union. The starting salary is reported to be considerably higher ($15 an hour and upward) making it a more attractive option. If you read this entire article you can consider this a reward for being thorough and doing your research correctly. However, the number of credit union jobs is far smaller than banking jobs, so you will want to approach the opportunity with a reasonable level of expectation.


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