Bank PO vs. Bank Clerk - Which is a Better Career Option?

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Jun 15, 2020

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Government jobs, especially in the banking sector is highly coveted and considered a very reputable and stable opportunity. There are several banking institutions that organize national level exams for the recruitment of entry-level employees like the Bank PO and Bank Clerk. Both posts have a high opportunity for growth for dedicated employees. IBPS and SBI, both conduct PO and Clerk Exams which are attempted by lakhs of candidates every year. There are slight differences between the exams. The primary difference is that the clerical position is beneath PO though the exam pattern to eligibility criteria is similar. But at the same time, the growth opportunity is exceptional in both the posts. Here, we are going to compare and contrast the Bank PO and Clerk position as a career option to determine which is the better opportunity to pursue.

Difference between Bank PO and Bank Clerk

The primary difference between bank PO and bank clerk is the hierarchy of position, salary, and job role. The PO is a more superior position compared to a clerk and is responsible as the supervisor of the clerical position.

Both bank PO and Clerk are designations that bear major responsibilities and offer significant scope for growth. Moreover, if you are able to crack the clerical exam, you will also have the scope to get a promotion to the post of bank PO eventually in a few years. But it is definitely advantageous when you are able to begin your banking career straightaway as a Bank PO.

Check IBPS PO Application & Registration

Conducting bodies for Bank PO and Bank Clerk

Both bank PO and clerk is conducted by SBI and IBPS. While the exams conducted by SBI is for recruiting candidates only for State Bank of India, the exams conducted by IBPS is for recruiting candidates for all the Bank PO and Clerk vacancies across 17 national and state banks of the country.

There are minor differences in the eligibility criteria, exam pattern, syllabus, and selection process of both the organizations. Also, the difference in terms of eligibility, syllabus, and selection process for Bank PO and Bank Clerk is also very similar. This means you can take the same type of preparation for PO as well as Clerk posts and also for exams of IBPS and SBI and even other banking exams. This is a major advantage of preparing for the exams of either of these positions. Your one-time preparation will be enough to attempt at least four major banking exams- SBI PO, SBI Clerk, IBPS PO, and IBPS Clerk.

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Eligibility Criteria for Bank PO and Bank Clerk

The first and foremost thing to consider is whether you meet the necessary eligibility criteria for both Bank PO and clerk. The criteria are similar except for the age limit which varies for the positions. The age limit is higher for Bank PO. Another significant difference between IBPS and SBI exam is that, for SBI PO, there is a limit to the number of attempts you can take while there is no such limit in the case of IBPS. The following table has all the details of the eligibility criteria that should be noted.

Check IBPS Clerk Application & Registration

Eligibility criteria for IBPS PO and Clerk

The age limit is between 20 years to 30 years There is 5 years relaxation for reserved categories. You can check the details from the IBPS website. The age limit is between 20 years to 28 years Up to 5 years of age relaxation is allowed for reserved categories and you can check the details from the IBPS website.
The nationality of the candidate must be any among the following listed-
  • Indian citizenship
  • If not a citizen of India, subjects of Bhutan and Nepal are also eligible.
  • Tibetan Refugee who arrived prior to January 1, 1962 with the intention of settling permanently.
  • A person of Indian origin migrated from Sri Pakistan, Burma (Myanmar), Uganda, Kenya, Lanka, Vietnam, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zaire or Ethiopia to permanently settle in India.
The candidate should belong to any of the following criteria in terms of the nationality-
  • Citizenship of India
  • Subject of other countries- only Nepal and Bhutan are eligible.
  • Tibetan refugees who have come to India with the intention of settling down permanently before January 1, 1962.
  • A person of Indian origin migrated from Malawi, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Burma(Myanmar), Vietnam, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zaire or Ethiopia to permanently settle in India.
Number of attempts- there is no restrictions of the number of attempts you take till you reach the maximum age limit Number of attempts- There is no limit to the number of attempts till you cross the age limit.
Educational Qualification- 60% minimum marks in 12th and bachelor’s degree from a recognized University or its equivalent. Diploma is not eligible. Educational Qualification- Bachelor’s degree from a recognized University.

Check IBPS PO Pattern & Syllabus

Eligibility Criteria for SBI PO and Clerk

Age Limit- 21 years to 30 years There is age relaxation for the reserved categories up to a certain extent which you can check-in details from the SBI website. Age Limit- 20 years to 28 years Age relaxation is also there for the reserved categories like PWD, SC, ST, etc. and you can check the details in the respective SBI Notice.
  • Only citizens of India can apply for this position.
  • You have to be a citizen of India to apply for this position.
Educational Qualification- Graduation degree in any discipline from a recognized University or any equivalent qualification which is recognized by the Central Government. Educational Qualification- Graduation degree in any stream from a recognized University or any equivalent qualification which is recognized by the Central Government.
Number of attempts-
  • General – 4
  • SC/ST- No limit
  • OBC/ General (PWD)/ OBC (PWD) – 7
Number of attempts- No bar to the number of attempts but should not have crossed the maximum age limit

Notice that the educational qualification required for both Bank PO and Clerk is the same however, the responsibilities of the PO is much more than a clerk. Note that a bank clerk can get promoted to the position of the bank PO later through an internal promotion test of the bank within 1-2 years of service or get the opportunity for the promotion automatically after 4-5 years of service.

Check IBPS Clerk Pattern & Syllabus

Syllabus for Bank PO and Bank Clerk

Both bank PO and Clerk have a Prelims and a mains test which the candidates have to qualify in order to be selected. The syllabus is similar for both the exams and so is the exam pattern. However, the exam for bank Po is considered tougher and it also has an interview round that must be qualified. The following table gives a gist of the syllabus for all the exams for bank PO and clerk.

Syllabus for IBPS PO and Clerk

IBPS PO syllabus IBPS Clerk syllabus
Prelims: English, Quantitative Aptitude and Reasoning Ability
  • The exam has sectional cut-off as well as a time limit.
  • There is negative marking too.
Prelims: English Language, Reasoning Ability and Numerical Ability
  • There is a sectional cut-off as well as a time limit.
  • The exam also has negative marking for wrong answers.
Mains: Computer Aptitude, Banking Awareness, English language and Data Analysis & Interpretation Mains: General and Financial Awareness, General English, Reasoning Ability and Computer Aptitude, and Quantitative Aptitude

Syllabus for SBI PO and Clerk

SBI PO syllabus SBI Clerk syllabus
Prelims: Quantitative Aptitude, Reasoning Ability, and English Language Prelims: Quantitative Aptitude, Reasoning Ability, and English Language
Mains: Data Analysis & Interpretation, Reasoning & Computer Aptitude, General/Economy/Banking Awareness, and English Language Mains: English Language, Quantitative Aptitude, Reasoning Ability, and General Awareness

As you can see, the basic syllabus of all the bank exams is the same which means you can make a single preparation strategy for all the four exams. This is a major advantage as many students can attempt all four exams every year. However, there is a state-wise variation in types of questions being asked and can be best deciphered when you practice the previous years’ questions paper sets of the state you are appearing for.

Check IBPS PO Practice Papers

Selection process of Bank PO and Bank Clerk

The selection process for PO and Clerks is similar for both IBPS and SBI. The only difference is that there is an extra interview round if you are applying for a bank PO. In the case of SBI PO and Clerk, though, both exams have three stages. For the clerical position, the last stage is the local language proficiency test while for Bank PO it is the interview and group discussion round.

Selection process for Bank PO:

  • The first stage is the prelims exam for both SBI and IBPS PO. There is a sectional cut-off and time limit in both the exams.
  • Only those who qualify the prelims will be selected for the mains. Usually, eligible candidates in the number of 10 times the vacancy available is selected for mains.
  • Once they qualify the mains they will be sent a call letter for the interview and group discussion round. For SBI there is no sectional cut-off in the mains.
  • The final merit list of the exam will be published after the interview based on the total marks acquired in the mains and the interview.

The selection process for bank clerk

  • The first stage of the bank clerk exam is prelims for SBI and IBPS.
  • Only those who qualify the prelims will be called for mains. The minimum cut-off has to be acquired in prelims as well as a sectional cut-off, in order to be selected for mains.
  • In the case of SBI, once the merit list is published after mains, the qualified candidates have to go through the third round of local language proficiency test, on the other hand, qualified candidates of IBPS will be directly recruited based on their ranking and preference list.

Check IBPS Clerk Practice Papers

Salary for Bank PO and Bank Clerk

The major difference lies in the salary structure and perks offered for bank PO and Clerk. There is also a significant difference in the entry-level pay package offered by SBI and other banks. The pay scale is SBI is much higher than the banks participating in IBPS. Also, the perks in SBI are much more for the same designation compared to that of the banks in IBPS.

Salary range offered by banks through IBPS

IBPS PO salary IBPS Clerk salary
Pay Scale – Rs. 23700/- Rs 42020/- Pay Scale- Rs.13075/- Rs. 31540/-
Perks & Allowances – Dearness allowance, City Compensatory Allowance, House rent allowance, and Special allowance Perks & Allowances- Dearness allowance, House rent allowance, Medical Insurance, and Travelling allowance

Salary range offered by SBI

SBI PO salary SBI Clerk salary
Pay Scale – Rs. 27620/- Rs 42020/- Pay Scale- Rs.13075/- Rs. 31540/-
Perks & Allowances – Dearness allowance, City Compensatory allowance, Leased house accommodation, Furniture allowance, Medical allowance, Travelling allowance, Petrol, Miscellaneous and Loan benefits Perks & Allowances- Dearness allowance, House accommodation, Pension, Medical Insurance, and Provident Fund

When you consider the salary and benefits associated with the bank PO and Clerk position, it is evident that Bank PO is a more advantageous position to begin your career. It is superior to a clerk but also comes with many additional responsibilities right from the beginning of the career. For someone with no job experience before this, Bank PO is also more challenging than a clerical position to handle.

Check Different Posts Available in the Banking Sector

Career Graph for Bank PO and Bank Clerk

In the case of both Bank PO and Clerk, there is ample opportunity for growth. You can get the promotions by cracking the internal promotion exams or through experience in terms of years. Someone who can crack the internal exams will definitely have an edge over those who gain the position through experience as you will be able to climb up the career graph faster. However, after a certain level, the promotion is given more based on years of experience and acquired skill set and performance in all this time rather than internal tests.

The career graph for both clerical position and bank PO is similar when you consider the position that you are being promoted to. The major difference however lies in the years of service. For someone who is joining as a clerk, the first promotion will be to the post of a bank PO while those who are getting directly recruited as the bank PO do not have to lose extra years or effort for gaining the next career leap.

The following is the stages of career growth that you can get over the years of service after joining as a bank Clerk or bank PO-

Scale I- probationary officer Bank clerk Assistant Manager SBI PO
Scale II-Manager Officer Deputy manager SBI Senior Assistant
Scale III- Senior Manager Senior Officer Manager SBI Special Assistant
Scale IV- Chief Manager Assistant Manager Chief manager Senior Special Assistant
Scale V- Assistant General Manager Manager Chief general manager -
Scale VI- Deputy General manager Senior Manager Deputy general manager -
Scale VII- General Manager Chief Manager General manager -
Executive Director Assistant General Manager (AGM) Chief general manager -
Chairman and Managing Director Deputy General Manager (DGM) Deputy managing director -
- General Manager (GM) Managing director -
- Executive Director (ED) Chairman  -
- Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) - -

Check Life & Responsibilities of a Bank PO after recruitment

Roles and responsibilities

There are quite a few similarities between the job role of SBI PO and Clerk. However, there are some major differences too. The primary difference is that clerical positions are supervised by the bank PO. This also means, when you are joining as a PO, you have more responsibilities than that of a clerk and will also be held responsible for any error committed by the clerks who are being supervised by you. The following are the details of the roles and responsibilities associated with bank PO and Clerk-

Responsibilities of the Bank PO

  • The bank PO also works as a public relations officer and is necessary for almost every department like finance, accounting, marketing, billing, and investments.
  • They also manage the daily cash flow and supervises the business as well as the clerical jobs.
  • They also take care of various inter-departmental work.
  • Bank PO has to check, verify, and even do site visits regarding loan approvals.
  • They have the power of authorizing the issuance of various important documents.
  • They have to handle customer complaints and also take care of general customer queries.
  • In the initial two years, the bank PO has to do all kinds of work that includes clerical as well as managerial to get familiar with the different functions and working of the bank.

Responsibilities of the Bank Clerk

  • The bank clerk is responsible for handling customers related to any kind of transaction at the bank.
  • Inquiries related to transactions from customers have to be solved by the bank clerk.
  • They are also responsible for cheque deposits and loan payments from the customers.
  • If there is a necessity, the SBI Clerk will also have to work as the Cashier. Hence, they have to be familiar with the working of different equipment related to demand drafts, cheques, etc.
  • They have to work with documentation and ledger maintenance, balance tally, data entry and other similar tasks.
  • All kinds of documents related to plans and applications have to be scrutinized by the Bank clerk to make sure they are completed, authentic, viable and properly written.
  • They also have to update all the payment and deposit related data in the bank’s computer system.
  • They have to assist the administrative department as well in their work.

Check IBPS Score Calculation Method for IPBS Exams 2020

Final words- which is the better choice?

Candidates have a tough time choosing between bank Clerk and Bank PO posts owing to their similarity in terms of career growth and job responsibilities. Here are a few more things that you should consider-

  • The first promotion for bank PO happens after 2 years while in the case of the clerks, the promotion takes more time.
  • The entrance exam for Bank PO is comparatively tougher than that of a bank clerk and it is also comparatively a longer recruitment process.
  • Getting selected in either of the positions gives ample opportunities for promotion but the struggle and time needed is more when you join as a bank clerk.
  • The starting pay package is significantly higher when you join as an SBI PO compared to SBI Clerk.
  • SBI PO is considered socially a more prestigious position for anyone in the banking sector.
  • The benefits and perks of SBI PO are higher.

When we consider all these factors, it is very obvious that SBI PO is the better opportunity for beginning your career. However, the best strategy is to apply for all the clerical and Bank PO exams and appear for them. If you get selected even in one of the Bank Clerk exams, you can still join the service and strive towards promotion for Bank PO through the internal exams.

The key is to start your preparation focusing on cracking any one of the doorways into banking services. We wish you the best of luck for your future endeavours to become a part of one of the most prestigious public services.


Ques. Which is better- IBPS PO or SBI PO?

Ans. The choice entirely depends on your priorities and preferences. However, through IBPS PO you have the opportunity to choose from 17 banks while SBI PO is specifically for the recruitment in SBI. In terms of salary and perks, however, SBI has a better starting pay package and growth opportunities than through IBPS PO.

Ques. Which should I go for if I am able to crack both IBPS PO and Clerk?

Ans. You should opt for the IBPS PO. Bank Clerk is the junior-most entry-level post while PO is superior to it. Hence, if you are able to crack both, bank PO is the better choice. It takes 3 years of service to be promoted to the post of bank PO if you join as a clerk.

Ques. Bank clerk or bank PO- which usually have more vacancies?

Ans. The number of vacancies vary from year to year and from one bank to another for IBPS. Hence, there is no fixed statistics on the vacancy pattern of PO or clerk. But on the brighter side, you can appear for both exams in the same year.

Ques. As a PO, will I be the checker of the bank clerks even during my first two years?

Ans. Yes, the position of Bank PO is superior to the clerk, and especially during the first two years of service as a PO, you have to do all kinds of bank work from managerial to service-oriented. This also includes being the checker for the clerks. Once you are confirmed in the position, this will be one of the elemental parts of the job description.

Ques. You can either get recruited through direct exam for bank PO or get promoted to the rank from the post of a clerk. Is there any similar way to get selected as a bank clerk?

Ans. No, a clerical position is the basic there is, you have to get recruited through the entrance exam. However, if a sub-staff is able to acquire the qualification required and meet all the eligibility criteria, they will also be considered for being promoted to the clerical position or any other position that is superior.

Ques. Is it always mandatory to qualify internal banking exams to get a promotion?

Ans. If you can qualify the internal promotion exams, you will get the rise in designation sooner than usual. Otherwise, the default promotion based on experience will happen in the due course depending on your present designation.

Ques. Can I follow the same reference books for SBI PO and Clerk as well as IBPS PO and Clerk?

Ans. The syllabus for both SBI and IBPS Po and clerk posts is similar and often the same in certain cases. However it is advisable that you carefully go through the syllabus before consulting the same reference books and if needed, invest in separate reference books for SBi and IBPS.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.