Efficient administrative assistants and secretaries ensure the smooth operation of an office. A high school diploma may be enough for some positions, but industry-specific training may be required in some cases. Read on to learn more about the duties and requirements for this job.
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Administrative assistants and secretaries provide important clerical assistance to offices. Higher-level administrative assistant job duties may include more advanced work. Educational requirements vary, but some college is usually preferred. They work in a variety of industries, and because of the level of interaction with others, it is helpful to have strong interpersonal skills for this career.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary education preferred|
|Other Requirements||Voluntary certification available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||3%*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$33,910*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Administrative Assistant Job Description
Administrative assistants, also referred to as secretaries, offer support for office personnel. Their responsibilities can vary greatly, depending on the size of the office and how many other assistants there are. Administrative assistants may schedule meetings or appointments, arrange travel accommodations and organize files. They need to be well-versed with office equipment, such as fax machines, scanners, videoconferencing systems and photocopiers.
Executive assistants provide support for executives and managers. These assistants share some clerical duties, such as handling correspondence between high-ranking personnel, but may also conduct research and prepare reports. Executive assistants may train and supervise other clerical staff members.
Medical and legal secretaries need technical knowledge about their field. Medical secretaries may need to understand insurance claims, billing and medical procedures. Legal secretaries may need an understanding of the legislation relevant to the types of law their firms practice. Other administrative assistants who perform specialized duties may work in engineering or with schools.
Virtual assistants are freelance administrative assistants who work from home. They handle jobs similar to traditional assistants, except they work and communicate mostly online. Depending on their training, these individuals may perform the job duties of general, medical or legal administrative assistants.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment for secretaries and administrative assistants was expected to increase 3% from 2014-2024. The outlook varied greatly depending on the industry in which an individual worked. For example, the BLS indicated that employment for legal secretaries was expected to decrease by 4%, while medical secretary jobs were predicted to increase 21% over the same period.
In May 2015, the BLS indicated that the median annual wage for general secretaries and administrative assistants (excluding executive, medical and legal) was $33,910. However, executive secretaries and administrative assistants earned a median annual salary of $53,370 in the same year, per BLS reports.
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for most entry-level administrative assistant jobs. Relevant programs are offered at the associate's degree or certificate levels, which offer coursework in keyboarding, databases management and office administration. Programs specific to medical or legal administrative assistants are available, which include courses on the procedures and terminology specific to those fields. The BLS indicates that employers of executive-level assistants are increasingly seeking individuals with college degrees.
Certifications are available for general administrative assistants and specialists. Some certifications, such as the Certified Professional Secretary and the Certified Administrative Professional, have experience or educational requirements. Both legal and virtual assistants have options for certification that may be based on the type of work they do. Passing a certifying exam is often required.
Though you may qualify for an entry-level position with just a high school education, you may want to pursue some relevant postsecondary courses or even a certificate or degree program. Legal and medical secretaries and assistants must be familiar with industry-specific terminology. Professional certifications are available and may be advisable for career advancement.