Professional Secretary: Occupational Outlook & Job Profile

Professional secretaries require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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With a high school diploma, it is possible to begin a career as a professional secretary. Some employers do prefer postsecondary certification or an associate's degree, and specific training in legal or medical terminology may be required for those who wish to specialize and work in those fields. Job growth is slow in this field, so additional education may improve employment chances.

Essential Information

Secretaries are administrative personnel who help keep offices running smoothly, organize meetings and perform clerical duties. In recent years, their job description has been changing as technology and labor reassignments alter the dynamics of the modern office environment. While a high school diploma and on-the-job training is sufficient for some positions, many secretaries now earn associate's degrees in office administration. Secretaries in specialized areas, such as law and medicine, need to learn the terminology and tasks specific to that field.

Required Education High school diploma or the equivalent and on-the-job training, although associate's degrees are becoming more common
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 3% for all secretaries and administrative assistants
Median Salary (2015)* $36,500 for secretaries and administrative assistants, except medical, legal and executive

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

Professional Secretary Occupational Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of secretaries and administrative assistants was expected to increase as fast as the average for other occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS stated that employment was projected to grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024.

Medical secretaries could see the best employment opportunities, the BLS reported. Individuals with computer software experience should have good prospects as well.

Salary Information

Wages for secretaries may vary by location and specialty. The BLS reported that secretaries, other than medical, legal and executive, earned a median annual wage of $36,500 in May 2015. Legal secretaries earned a median wage of $43,200, and medical secretaries earned a median wage of about $33,040 for the same time period.

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Professional Secretary Job Profile

Secretaries constitute one of the largest labor forces in the job market, according to the BLS. Secretaries work in office environments, helping to facilitate the storage and flow of information and to maintain smooth office functioning. Some secretaries hold associate's degrees in disciplines such as office administration, although professional education is not always necessary. Secretaries can also receive on-the-job training. Secretaries must have knowledge of software and office technologies, as office environments become more and more automated.

Secretaries and administrative assistants have seen their job descriptions change since the days of answering phones, typing, taking dictation and making coffee. Today, executives may type their own correspondence and even answer their own phones, freeing up secretaries to assist with running the office in other ways. Some secretarial duties may include training new employees, filing and distributing information, creating databases and spreadsheets, scheduling meetings and conducting research.

Specialized Duties

Some professional secretaries, such as those working in legal and medical practices, must master a specific skill set for their field. Legal secretaries, for example, must be familiar with legal terminology and be able to prepare subpoenas, summonses and other legal documents. Medical secretaries must understand billing and insurance practices; they might also file and organize patient histories, set up appointments and prepare reports.

The current job growth for professional secretaries is slower than average. In order to compete for positions in this field, applicants should consider postsecondary certification or an associate's degree in administration, or complete an internship to gain practical experience.

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