How Can I Become a Secretary?

Research what it takes to become a secretary. 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 a Secretary?

Secretaries, usually called administrative assistants, keep the office organized. They answer phones, relay messages, schedule appointments, take care of faxes and handle basic bookkeeping tasks. Many times they also organize meetings and put together reports as needed. The tasks that secretaries do help keep the organization or company they work for running smoothly. Depending on the job, secretaries may have to handle more difficult tasks such as researching or preparing articles.

The following chart gives you an overview about a career as a secretary.

Degree Required High school diploma at minimum; post-secondary certificate or associate's degree preferred
Key Responsibilities Process phone calls, faxes, appointments and mail; prepare correspondence, memos, billing and reports; maintain and organize computer files and hard copy files; perform basic bookkeeping
Licensure and/or Certification Professional certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% for secretaries and administrative assistants*
Median Salary (2015) $33,910 for secretaries and administrative assistants*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Regular Duties of a Secretary or Administrative Assistant?

They answer and screen phone calls and answer general inquiries over the phone. They may greet and direct visitors, prepare invoices and handle the office's postal mail and any courier services. In this role, you may also be responsible for filing, faxing, performing Internet research and word processing.

The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) notes that administrative assistants may also draft correspondence, use desktop publishing software, generate reports, handle basic bookkeeping and sometimes assist others with overflow projects. You may schedule appointments and meetings, maintain the office calendar and keep information flowing to the department manager or executive whom you assist.

What Skills and Education Do I Need?

An entry-level administrative assistant must have above-average typing speed, be friendly, professional and very organized. You must be able to use common business software packages such as Microsoft Office Suite. You may also be asked to learn additional software, so you must be comfortable on a computer.

A number of vocational schools offer clerical certification programs. While these can enhance your resume, they are not typically required. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that some employers may prefer a bachelor's degree, but overall, a high school education or associate's degree should be help you gain employment.

What Are the Advancement Opportunities for Administrative Assistants?

Advancement to other departments such as sales, customer service or accounting is common among administrative assistants, the BLS reports. However, once you have experience, you can move to higher-level administrative positions such as office manager or executive assistant. After you have worked as administrative assistant for a few years, you can take the CAP exam to become a Certified Administrative Professional.

A career-minded administrative assistant might also become a notary public. Notaries certify the signatures on legally binding documents such as contracts, loan agreements and partnerships. While states differ in their requirements for notaries, in most cases, you simply pay a small fee and take an exam. The National Notary Organization's website details each state's processes.

How to Apply for an Administrative Assistant Job

The BLS states that many administrative assistants get their start working through a staffing agency. Staffing agencies, also called temporary agencies, work to place job seekers in positions where they are best qualified. Other candidates find success sending their resume to job board postings and newspaper classifieds. Some schools and colleges may have career centers with job postings for students or alumni. These career centers may also help you with preparing and editing your resume.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other career options that also require only a high school diploma include those of general office clerks, information clerks and receptionists. A general office clerk is very similar to a secretary as they also answer phones, create documents and file information. Information clerks also do similar clerical duties including helping customers with information they need, filing reports and assembling data. A receptionist greets customers, answers phone calls and presents information about the company they work for.

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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