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Become a Receptionist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn the steps for becoming a receptionist. Research the various job duties and education requirements, and find out how to become employed in office work. View article »

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94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)
  • 0:01 Should I Become a…
  • 1:15 Step 1: Obtain the…
  • 2:32 Step 2: Seek Employment
  • 3:49 Step 3: Advance in the Field

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Receptionist?

Education High school diploma or equivalent; certificates and training available and preferred
Degree Field administrative/clerical studies, communications, or business
Experience 1-3 years of experience; many employers provide training
Key Skills Customer service, oral and written communication, listening, filling and organizationa; skills; knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite, Corel WordPerfect, billing, bookkeeping, and database software; ability to use fax machines, calculators, photocopiers, postage machines, and multi-line phone systems
Salary $28,430 (2015 for all receptionists and information clerks)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ONet Online, job listings from August 2012, various community college programs.

Receptionists work as administrative clerks in a variety of office settings, from architectural firms to doctors' offices to large corporations. Specific duties depend largely upon the workplace, but receptionists generally answer and route incoming calls and provide general assistance to clients or customers. They also assist employers with incoming and outgoing mail, faxes, emails and other communications. This work can be stressful, and receptionists sometimes must deal with difficult callers or customers. So, strong oral and written communication, customer service and listening skills are necessary. Additionally, receptionists need organizational skills and familiarity with office technology, such as Microsoft Office, billing, bookkeeping and database software.

The earnings for receptionists vary significantly depending on the industry and organization in which they work. However, the average annual salary for receptionists in all industries was $28,430 in May 2015. Now let's discuss the steps you can take toward a career in reception.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Administrative Assistant or Secretary
  • Clerical and General Office
  • Customer Service and Call Center Support
  • Executive Assistant or Secretary
  • Office Technology and Data Entry
  • Receptionist
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Step 1: Obtain the Necessary Skills

The minimum education needed to become a receptionist is a high school diploma. However, many employers prefer to hire receptionists with administrative skills in addition to experience. One way to obtain administrative skills is by earning a certificate in clerical studies or office assistance, which can be earned in about a year and generally covers data entry, switchboard operation, word processing, payroll accounting, business math, customer service, office management and office software.

These programs can be found at many community, technical and vocational colleges. Keep in mind that associate's degree programs related to communications or business may give you an edge over the competition, though a 2-year degree is generally not expected for receptionists.

Those who choose not to attend college may want to pursue training independently. For instance, you might complete online training for office software, such as tutorials and webinars on Microsoft Office and other office technology. You might also volunteer in an office setting to develop office and communication skills. Such volunteers may gain experience operating basic office equipment, such as multi-line phone systems, and communicating with the public.

Step 2: Seek Employment

After gaining the skills required for the job, it's time to begin the job search. Many different industries employ receptionists. As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics points out, many receptionist jobs are in healthcare. However, the list of potential employers is long and includes religious organizations, design firms, publishing companies, insurance companies, market research firms, scientific organizations, charities, real estate companies and educational services.

It's wise to direct your job search according to your skills. Different employers need people with specialized skills. For example, individuals who are bilingual have an advantage when applying for jobs in organizations where knowledge of another language is needed.

When seeking employment, consider your long-term career goals. Working as a receptionist can provide insight into the daily ins and outs of other positions within your industry. For example, an individual with an interest in becoming a veterinarian can learn about the industry by working at the reception desk at a veterinary clinic. Or a prospective architectural drafter can gain a perspective on the industry by working as a receptionist at an architecture firm.

Step 3: Advance in the Field

Receptionists who show great proficiency in clerical skills may have the opportunity to advance to a higher position such as an administrative assistant, personal assistant or secretary. When considering career advancement, receptionists should focus on honing administrative skills and networking to make connections within their industry.

Many receptionists earn certificates in clerical studies or office assistance to obtain the administrative skills necessary for this career. And with time, they may advance to positions such as administrative assistant, personal assistant or secretary.

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