Computer, organizational, and communication skills are essential for a successful career as a communications assistant. It may be possible to enter this field without any formal training; however, training in office work through a vocational school program can be an asset, and a public relations communication assistant certificate or marketing communications assistant certificate are also options for entry-level positions.
Communications assistants use their interpersonal, office and media relations skills to maintain smooth internal operations and promote a desired public image. Education paths for assistants may range from community college to bachelor's degree programs. To build industry distinction, experienced workers may apply for voluntary certification.
|Required Education||High school diploma for entry-level|
|Other Requirements||Bachelor's degree in communications for advanced levels|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||3% for secretaries and administrative assistants|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$33,910 annually for secretaries and administrative assistants|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for a Communications Assistant
Communications assistants coordinate office activities, manage information and facilitate internal operations. New hires are trained on-the-job and begin with mostly administrative and clerical duties, such as answering phones, filing documents and disseminating information. Additional responsibilities may include planning meetings, scheduling appointments, reviewing communiqués and operating office equipment.
Experienced assistants prepare agendas, conduct research and manage projects. These professionals may be required to create databases and spreadsheets as well as help prepare reports and presentations. Additionally, assistants may help support sales initiatives, fundraising efforts and media coverage. In these capacities, they may be asked to write press releases and assist with public relations functions.
Requirements for a Communications Assistant
A high school diploma and office skills are the basic requirements for entry-level positions. High school vocational education programs and community college courses can prepare applicants to perform office work and be computer proficient. Familiarity with spreadsheet applications such as Microsoft Excel may be required in this position. Certificate programs in public relations communication assistant and marketing communication assistant are available and may last from six months to two years. These programs include hands-on classes featuring presentation applications as well as theoretical courses like organizational behavior and public relations.
Communications assistants seeking advancement or entry-level public relations positions may consider a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism, public relations or communication studies. Programs may commence with introductory topics such as visual communications, speech and literature. Students who choose to study communications or journalism may have the option to concentrate in public relations or graphic design. Internships and professional organizations like the Public Relations Student Society of America provide students with opportunities to gain work experience and networking skills.
Employees may also gain voluntary certification through a number of professional organizations. The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) recognizes applicants who pass a 4-part exam as a Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). Another option is the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential. Administered by the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), it designates public relations specialists who have at least five years of work experience and are members of the Public Relations Society of America. A readiness review and examination must also be successfully passed.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) secretaries and administrative assistants are expected to see a 3% growth in employment from 2014-2024, which is about as fast as the national average for all occupations. As of May 2015, these same professionals earned a median annual salary of $33,910, according to the BLS. Additionally, executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants earned a median annual salary of $53,370 as of May 2015, according to the BLS. Executive secretaries and administrative assistants may be responsible for more complicated tasks, like research and arranging meetings.
A communications assistant does officer work, such as answering phones, relaying messages and typing documents. Those with experience may advance to more complex tasks, although a bachelor's degree in communications may be required for advancement. Professional certification, obtained through experience and an exam, is also a way to prove competency.