How Do I Become an Office Assistant?

Research what it takes to become an office assistant. Learn about job duties, education requirements and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Office Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Office Assistant?

Office assistants maintain office productivity by assisting office personnel with general clerical tasks. They can work in a wide variety of settings, such as a medical office, university office, business office and more. Their daily tasks will usually depend on their place of work, but in general office assistants perform different administrative tasks. They may answer phone calls, schedule appointments, enter data, sort mail or prepare reports. Some office assistants may also be charged with preparing and paying bills, providing information to the public and receiving customers. Take a look at the chart below to learn about typical job responsibilities and educational requirements.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent
Training Required Short term on-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Set appointments, answer calls and inquiries, perform various data entry duties, file documents
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3%*
Median Salary (2015) $29,580*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Office Assistant Do?

An office assistant, also sometimes called a general office clerk, performs general clerical duties for office personnel. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups the job as indistinguishable from administrative assistant, secretary, receptionist or office clerk (www.bls.gov). However, some companies make a subtle distinction and hire office assistants to assist senior administrative staff or to undertake a light clerical load when an experienced administrative assistant may not be necessary.

Your duties as an office assistant may fluctuate with the industry and company. The International Association of Administrative Professionals reports that office assistants do tasks such as filing, copying, faxing, routing phone calls, and sorting and preparing mail (www.iaap-hq.org). You may also type letters and e-mails, run errands, maintain break areas and inventory office supplies. Additional duties may include filling orders, maintaining customer records and inputting data. As you gain more experience, you could coordinate travel for executives, perform basic bookkeeping, create and maintain expense reports, and set appointments and meetings.

What Skills and Education Would I Need?

Most companies simply require a high school diploma, although O*Net Online reports that some do prefer a bachelor's degree (www.onetonline.org). It's important to be able to type, file and have basic computer knowledge. In some offices, you must have your own transportation to run errands. You may also interact with customers and vendors, so you need to dress professionally and have a friendly and patient demeanor.

How Could I Advance?

The BLS notes that the advancement opportunities for an office assistant vary. Some offices will hire you as an assistant and train you for other tasks, such as customer service or sales. Other companies may move you into other administrative titles such as executive assistant, office manager or human resource representative. Some companies may train you for professional positions, provided you acquire more education.

How Do I Apply?

To be an office assistant, you need a resume, and many community colleges and job assistance centers offer resume assistance. After you have a resume, you can apply to newspaper postings or online advertisements for clerical positions. However, many entry-level assistants get their start by registering with a staffing agency or temporary agency.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other closely related careers that require a high school diploma include receptionists, customer service representatives and secretaries. Receptionists generally interact with an organization's customers or guests and complete necessary administrative tasks. Customer service representatives also work directly with customers, but address any questions, concerns or complaints they may have. They also help fill orders. Secretaries execute the administrative and clerical tasks that support other staff members in an office.

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