How to Become an Administrative Assistant
If you’re organized, have good time management skills, and have basic computer skills, a career as an administrative assistant may be for you. Administrative assistants play a crucial role in office settings in nearly every industry, and breaking into the field may not be as difficult as you think.
A typical day for an administrative assistant includes answering phones and emails, transferring calls, scheduling appointments, and other clerical duties. It’s becoming more common for administrative assistant jobs to require an associate’s degree or certification, but getting an entry-level job with just a high school diploma may be possible.
The median annual salary for an administrative assistant was nearly $41,000 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Executive assistants earn the most money, and you could also look into becoming a legal secretary or medical administrative assistant, which also comes with a higher salary but requires more training.
In the past few years, there’s been some debate about the job outlook for administrative assistants, a career field that’s been around for quite some time. The BLS projects a 6% decline in secretary employment through 2024, primarily because of the increasing use of technology and automation.
Empire Resume will delve into the administrative assistant profession, telling you how to become one, what the job is like, and what skills are required.
What Does an Administrative Assistant Do?
The duties of a secretary depend on the company you work for and the industry you’re in. There were about 3.6 million administrative assistants and secretaries working in the U.S. in 2019, according to BLS, and they work in every type of industry you can imagine.
It’s often said that secretaries are the backbone of a functioning office. Typical responsibilities include answering phone calls and taking messages, managing calendars and databases, performing basic bookkeeping, generating and proofreading documents, and sometimes even planning staff events. Legal assistants do all these things, but they have specific training and knowledge of legal terminology. Medical assistants do general clerical duties, as well, but must learn to deal with medical insurance companies and read medical reports.
Executive assistants are the cream of the crop in this career field, and they work as assistants to CEOs and other senior execs. This means they often deal with important documents, interface directly with clients, manage travel, and other clerical duties for a company’s leaders. The median salary of an executive assistant is about $54,000, but some can earn as much as $120,000.
What Education is Required?
The type of secretary you want to become and the higher level the role will determine the education and training requirements. Administrative assistant jobs don’t really require any specific advanced education, and it’s possible to break into the field with a high school diploma or GED.
If you’re going for an entry-level job, consider going to a secretarial training program after high school and then trying to secure a job via a temporary staffing agency to get hands-on experience. If you have a good academic record and basic computer skills, also try to land an entry-level job through a referral from a friend or family member. Networking is key.
For legal secretaries and medical assistants, it’s usually required to have a bachelor’s degree and have certifications like Accredited Legal Secretary and Certified Medical Administrative Assistant. Most companies looking for executive assistants will require them to have a bachelor’s degree or at least some college credits. While these jobs require more schooling, the pay can be better, so it’s worth the effort.
What Skills are Required?
Administrative assistants require several skills to excel at their jobs. Perhaps the biggest one, especially nowadays, is computer and software skills. Secretaries should be comfortable using programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook, and you may also need to learn QuickBooks or other accounting software.
Other skills you’ll need include:
- Multi-tasking. You’ll be juggling several priorities at once, so you’ll have to stay calm under pressure and manage your time well.
- Written and verbal communication. This is crucial. You’ll need to have solid writing and proofreading skills and be able to interact politely and professionally with customers and co-workers.
- Organization. The whole job is basically organizing and scheduling, so you’ll need solid attention to detail and the ability to stay organized.
Are Administrative Assistants in Demand?
The job outlook, unfortunately, may not be too great for secretaries. As we mentioned, federal statistics project administrative assistant employment to decline by as much as 6% by 2024. One possible reason is because companies are outsourcing secretarial positions to workers overseas, who can perform the work online and sometimes at a much cheaper rate.
Secretaries are also at higher risk of being replaced by automation, according to some research studies. A recent report from AgileCraft said administrative assistants have a 96% chance of being automated. Other jobs with a high risk of automation include cashiers (97%), office clerks (96%), and retail salespeople (92%).
But some people question if secretary jobs are in that great of danger. Legal secretaries and medical administrative assistants, for example, still provide a “human touch” that could make them less at risk, as they require some specialized knowledge and skills.
How Do You Get an Administrative Assistant Job?
The first step to getting a secretary job is earning the level of education that’s required. For entry-level positions, you may only need a high school diploma and attendance at a secretarial training program afterward.
To break into the field, consider gaining relevant experience by volunteering or looking for a part-time role. Another great option is to work for a temporary staffing agency, which would provide you with short assignments that could potentially turn into full-time roles.
If you want to advance, consider earning technical certifications to increase your knowledge and beef up your resume. You can earn certifications in business writing, office management, or specific software programs like Microsoft Office.
As remote work has become more common, many companies now are also hiring virtual assistants. Many virtual assistants do most of the same work as a secretary, except they do the job remotely. The average salary for a virtual assistant is slightly lower than for in-office secretaries, but it’s possible to start your own virtual assistant business and work as a freelancer.
Last but not least, a crucial part of becoming an administrative assistant is putting together an excellent resume and applying to companies online. Look no further than Empire Resume for help in crafting your resume. Our resume writers are experienced at creating resumes that land our clients interviews and jobs.
Remember to bookmark our blog and keep reading for more great insights on careers and employment, including articles like Three Essential Resume Must Haves, 5 Reasons You Need to Be on LinkedIn, and Mastering the Phone Interview.
Empire Resume Will Help You Get Hired
We have greater than a 97% success rate landing our clients’ interviews!
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.