What Is an Administrative Assistant?

Administrative assistants perform administrative support duties in organizations of every conceivable type. Though specific job descriptions vary, it's possible to identify some common elements. This article briefly describes what it means to be an administrative assistant. Schools offering Administrative Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Role of the Administrative Assistant

Many people describe an organization's administrative support structure as a pyramid in which executive secretaries and personal assistants occupy the peak. The broader base is occupied by the administrative assistants. In larger offices, administrative assistants are frequently supervised by the senior support staff, rather than directly by an executive officer.

Whoever their supervisor, administrative assistants have generally assumed greater responsibilities in recent years. This is due to advances in office technology and in workforce training. It's not unusual now for executives to answer their own phones and to type their own correspondence. Meanwhile, administrative assistants may be conducting research and managing databases.

Modern administrative assistants often work as a team with other support personnel or even with executives and managers. Conversely, some administrative assistants work in a more autonomous manner.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2012) $35,330 (for secretaries and administrative assistants)
Entry-level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 12% (for secretaries and administrative assistants)
Work Environment Office setting

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Basic Responsibilities of the Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants are basically managers of time and information. In that capacity, they perform a number of traditional duties. Some of those duties may include the following:

  • Schedule appointments
  • Plan meetings
  • Arrange travel
  • Gather, integrate and distribute information
  • Organize, maintain and access file systems
  • Monitor projects and budgets

Technological Enhancement

Today's administrative assistants must stay up-to-date with advancements in technology. They often use contemporary computer programs to conduct research, create spreadsheets and maintain databases. Administrative assistants are also responsible for a number of other technology-based tasks:

  • Composing and publishing documents
  • Organizing presentations
  • Communicating information

Specialized Demands

Certain work environments may require specialized skills. Administrative assistants in law offices may need to prepare a summons or a subpoena. In a medical office, they may deal with an insurance bill or a lab report. In an engineering firm, they may need to know their way around a technical library. Demands may vary widely, so individuals seeking employment can enhance their resumes by highlighting all work experience and special skills.

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