Unit Secretary: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

A unit secretary requires some formal education. Learn about the training options, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

A high school diploma or GED and a certificate or degree in health unit secretary studies or a related field are required to be a unit secretary. Unit secretaries benefit from training on office equipment, knowledge of medical terminology, and familiarity with insurance coding. They also need to be familiar with applicable laws and regulations.

Essential Information

Unit secretaries are administrative professionals who work in a specific department, or unit, of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Their duties are varied and may include answering telephones, billing, filing and admitting patients. A high school diploma can qualify individuals for this job; however, most employers prefer to hire unit secretaries who have completed a medical unit certificate or associate's degree program. Some schools offer health unit coordinator programs, which provides training that can help qualify secretaries for professional certification.

Required Education Medical unit certificate or associate's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 21% for medical secretaries
Mean Salary (2015)* $34,800 for medical secretaries working in hospitals

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Description

Unit secretaries handle administrative duties within a medical office, such as a department of a hospital, a private care facility or a physician's office. They performs clerical duties to maintain an organized healthcare office and allow medical staff to focus on patient care. He or she also maintains a line of communication between the patient and clinical staff. Unit secretaries should not be confused with physician or nursing assistants, who assist with patient treatment.


Unit secretarial work involves standard administrative responsibilities, such as answering phones, making copies, scheduling appointments and maintaining supplies. Additionally, unit secretaries admit patients, administer and maintain patient records, break down medical charts for record keeping and coordinate billing. They also communicate with the clinical staff to ensure all appropriate patient information is gathered. Unit secretaries may also be responsible for typing up discharge instructions for a patient.


Unit secretary jobs typically require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED, as well as a relevant associate degree or certificate, such as a health unit secretary certificate. Coursework typically includes basic secretarial topics, such as keyboarding, math and business, as well as job specific topics like medical terminology, hospital procedures and insurance coding. Unit secretaries should also be familiar with all applicable medical laws and regulations, especially regarding the dissemination of patient information. Good verbal and written communication skills are also required and general administrative work experience may enhance employment opportunities.

Colleges offering a unit secretary program may also offer a health unit program, which provides a similar educational background, but is a step toward certification from the National Association of Health Unit Coordinators (NAHUC). Certification can allow unit secretaries to advance into leadership or management roles.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an annual mean salary of $34,800 for medical secretaries working in hospitals. The employment growth predicted by the BLS for medical secretaries was much faster than the average, at 21% from 2014-2024.

Unit secretaries work in a department or unit of a hospital or medical center. They perform administrative tasks and may admit patients, maintain patient records and process information for billing purposes. Formal education isn't always required, but earning a health unit secretary certificate or associate's degree can be beneficial.

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