How to Become a Secretary | Career Education to Become a Secretary

Secretaries are known by many names, including administrative, executive and virtual assistants, and these professionals can work in business, medical and legal environments. Because job titles differ, the training required to work in each secretarial position usually varies as well. This article outlines the steps one might take to become a secretary.

Should I Become a Secretary?

Secretaries are responsible for the administrative, planning, and organizational duties involved in maintaining a business. They have a wide variety of daily tasks, such as manning the phones, making appointments and scheduling meetings, handling filing systems, and organizing mail. Most commonly, secretaries work for businesses, law or medical offices, or hospitals, but some positions allow secretaries to work from home.

Most secretaries have full-time schedules, though those who work from home may have schedules that are more flexible. Secretaries often handle confidential information, so they must be discreet and respectful of their employers and clients.

Career Requirements

Education High school diploma
Training Usually offered on-the-job during the first few weeks
Certification Voluntary certification available
Key Skills Organization, communication, ability to write well, integrity, friendliness; knowledge of computer programs
Salary (2014) $38,750 annually (average for all secretaries and administrative assistants)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Step 1: Take Office Courses in High School

Oftentimes, high school graduates who have taken office courses qualify for entry-level jobs. These courses are usually taken through vocational programs or general high school classes that teach basic office skills. However, if an individual can't take office courses while in high school, these skills can be obtained from community colleges or vocational schools.

Step 2: Pick a Field

Secretaries work in a wide variety of environments, but most are employed in legal, medical, or business organizations. Aspiring secretaries should decide which field they are interested in before pursuing training or applying for a job. Since many of these jobs may require training beyond what is learned in high school, students may have to attend college before acquiring a position. It is also helpful to gain some knowledge relevant to the field.

Step 3: Pursue a Postsecondary Degree or Certificate

Many community colleges offer 1-year and 2-year programs in office administration. Students take general courses such as office management, report writing, bookkeeping, word processing, desktop publishing and business communication. Prospective secretaries interested in the legal or medical field should pursue schools that offer programs that will help them learn medical or law terminology and procedures.

Step 4: Find a Secretary Position

Many types of offices hire secretaries, including business offices, medical facilities and law firms. Secretaries can also open their own home-based business working as virtual assistants. Temp agencies are another great resource when it comes to finding secretarial work. Additionally, these agencies may sometimes provide formal computer and office training.

Step 5: Advance in the Field

After gaining experience and mastering the ins-and-outs of the position, many secretaries are able to advance to supervisory or executive assistant positions. These positions offer better salaries on average and typically come with more responsibilities, including overseeing other staff.

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