Administrative Assistant: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become an administrative assistant. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Administrative Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Administrative Assistant?

Administrative assistants perform a variety of tasks that help organizations and businesses operate efficiently. Job duties of administrative assistants may include scheduling things like meetings and appointments, as well as keeping the office event calendar up to date. They have numerous clerical tasks, from preparing memos and invoices to doing basic bookkeeping. Administrative assistants are able to specialize in the legal and medical fields, and they can also work as executive administrative assistants for the chief officers and managers of the company. Information about education and training requirements, duties, and employment for administrative assistants is listed in the following table.

Education RequiredHigh school diploma
Training RequiredShort-term training on the job
Key Responsibilities Answer phone calls, organize files, prepare documents, write and edit materials, and schedule appointments
CertificationVoluntary certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024)3% (for all secretaries and administrative assistants)*
Mean Salary (2015)$35,200 (for all secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical and executive)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Job Duties Entail as an Administrative Assistant?

As an administrative assistant, you'll distribute and file company documents and memos, as well as compose and proofread reports and letters. You'll also greet visitors, arrange meetings with colleagues or clients, record and type board-meeting minutes, order supplies and distribute incoming correspondence. Other aspects of your job might include making and receiving telephone calls and organizing travel arrangements on behalf of employers. You may maintain and use office equipment, such as fax machines, scanners and photocopiers. You'll most likely use computers on a daily basis, utilizing desktop publishing and spreadsheet programs, overseeing e-mail correspondence and working with bookkeeping software.

What Can I Expect the Career Outlook to Be?

Nearly four million people worked as administrative assistants and secretaries in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). From 2014 to 2024, the BLS indicated that job opportunities for this group would grow about 3%, which was slower than the expected national average for all jobs (www.bls.gov). You could anticipate more jobs to exist in growing industries, such as education, healthcare and construction. Career opportunities were also projected due to administrative assistants leaving the field for professional positions. The mean annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants (except legal, medical and executive) in May 2015 was $35,200, per the BLS. In the same year, executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants made an annual mean income of $55,460.

What Education Do I Need?

You might acquire the skills to become an administrative assistant by attending a vocational college and completing a 1-year certificate program. Training will be given in areas such as word processing, spreadsheets and office applications.

Employers may seek administrative assistants who've acquired college degrees and specialized computer technology training; this is particularly true for those hiring senior and executive-level administrative assistants. If you decide to obtain a bachelor's degree, make sure your program of study closely relates to the industry you'd like to work in. Otherwise, you can enroll in an associate's degree program in office administration.

Such programs can take two years to complete, and they offer such degrees as an Associate of Applied Science in Office Administration. Your classes may include accounting, office procedures, office software applications, records management and writing. If you'd like to become a specialized administrative assistant and work in a legal firm or medical facility, you may need additional training courses to learn legal and medical terminologies. You might obtain additional, on-the-job training once hired.

You can enhance your professional image by becoming certified. The certification process also builds your skills and job knowledge and demonstrates your competency to potential employers. The International Association of Administrative Professionals offers examinations leading to the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credential, which requires applicants to have 2-4 years of experience (www.iaap-hq.org). The 3-part examination covers knowledge of organization and planning, information distribution, records management, document production and communication, among other topics.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Similar careers to administrative assistants include those of receptionists, general office clerks and bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks. These careers typically require a high school diploma, although further training may be preferred by some employers. Receptionists perform similar job duties to administrative assistants, including scheduling appointments and greeting visitors, maintaining files and answering phone calls. General office clerks share some of the clerical duties of administrative assistants, such as filing and typing. Bookkeeping clerks expand on the basic bookkeeping duties of administrative assistants, performing tasks like tracking debits and credits and creating balance sheets.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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