Education and Training: High school plus training
Salary: Median—$34,970 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Administrative assistants work for managers and executives. Some organizations do not distinguish between executive secretaries and administrative assistants. In organizations that distinguish between the two, administrative assistants tend to spend more time on long-range assignments. The secretaries have to do more detailed, day-to-day tasks and are more closely supervised by their employers.
Administrative assistants often help their employers prepare reports. They attend meetings with their employers, collect and research documents, and may do much of the writing themselves. They may produce computer graphics such as illustrations. Administrative assistants often edit and enter reports and in- house publications into the computer. Some administrative assistants conduct Internet research and collect facts and figures to be included in budgets.
In some organizations, such as universities, administrative assistants may work on planning. They look at different ways of organizing certain office tasks and recommend changes. In research companies each project director may have an administrative assistant. The assistants take responsibility for all routine administrative chores. They keep track of funds spent and produce monthly budget reports. They keep track of vacation schedules. They may deal with the accounting department regarding errors in paychecks and withholding taxes. They may be responsible for seeing that a project has enough office space and equipment. Administrative assistants may arrange for the maintenance and repair of equipment and even negotiate prices with office supply vendors.
Administrative assistants must be highly organized and able to work independently. They nearly always need strong secretarial skills. They frequently need computer skills to deal with budgets, word processing, and desktop publishing. Good writing and analytical skills are a requirement. Administrative assistants often must talk to clients or discuss problems with other staff members. They must work easily with other people.
Education and Training Requirements
Administrative assistants need a high school diploma, basic typing skills, and computer skills. In companies where high-level secretaries may be called administrative assistants, advanced secretarial skills and experience are essential. In companies where administrative assistants have distinct duties, a basic knowledge of accounting and business administration is often helpful. Employers also often require competency in spreadsheets, database management, and other software applications. Some organizations require a bachelor's degree for these positions.
Getting the Job
A school placement office may be able to find a job for a graduating student as an administrative assistant. Interested individuals can contact companies directly, Internet job sites, or the classified ads in local newspapers for openings. Try to find out exactly what duties the employer requires for a position before applying; duties may vary from business to business. If candidates are interested in a government job, they should arrange to take the necessary civil service test. State and private employment agencies may be able to lead prospective workers to administrative assistant openings.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Administrative assistants may advance to managerial positions. However, additional training is often required. They may also move into such areas as sales.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1,547,000 administrative assistants and executive secretaries held jobs in 2004. Employment of administrative assistants was expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Continued office automation in the form of computer programs, voice messaging systems, and scanners will allow fewer administrative assistants to accomplish more in less time.
Administrative assistants work in many kinds of offices. They usually work in a room close to their executives or managers. They often share office space with secretarial or other staff. Assistants to top administrators may have their own offices. Most administrative assistants work thirty-five to forty hours per week. The need to work additional hours depends on the type of organization. The job of an administrative assistant in a major industry tends to be more high pressure than that of an assistant in a university. Some employers allow administrative assistants to work flexible schedules.
Where to Go for More Information
International Association of Administrative Professionals
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings depend on the type, size, and location of the organization. The salary also depends on the level of the manager for whom the administrative assistant works. The median salary for administrative assistants and executive secretaries was $34,970 per year in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest-paid 10 percent made more than $53,460 per year. Full-time employees usually receive paid holidays and vacations, health and life insurance, and fringe benefits.