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How to Become a Professional Secretary in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a professional secretary. Learn about job duties, education requirements, and training to find out if this is the career for you.

What Does a Secretary Do?

Secretaries provide administrative support for all types of organizations and are pivotal in helping office operations run smoothly. As a secretary, your typical duties may include scheduling appointments and events and communicating between staff and clients. You may also be responsible for organizing files and office supplies and managing projects, as well as recording the minutes during meetings. You'll need to have good communication and computer skills and be well-organized.

See the table below for information about education requirements, salary potential, and job outlook for this career.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary training helpful
Education Field of StudyOffice administration or related field
Key Skills Organization, communication (written and oral), technological proficiency
Job Growth (2018-2028)-7%* (for all secretaries)
Median Salary (May 2018)$36,630* (for all secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Secretary?

The primary duty of a secretary is ensuring that an office runs efficiently. In this position, you'll serve as a communication conduit between office staff and the company's clients. Secretaries often specialize in the legal and medical industries, which may require some formal training. Others work in corporate environments, educational facilities and government associations. Some secretaries learn their skills on the job under the instruction of experienced workers.

Step 1: Research a Secretary's Career Duties

Secretaries perform administrative, clerical and even managerial tasks. They field telephone calls, greet and direct visitors and type office correspondence, memos, agendas and board meeting minutes. In this career, depending on your exact title, you could plan meetings and schedule appointments, organize paper and electronic files and manage special projects. You may also contact clients or other businesses by telephone, mail, the Internet and e-mail. In your daily work, you might use word processing and accounting software, fax machines, photocopiers, scanners, videoconferencing and multi-line telephone systems.

Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree

You may not need a degree to become a professional secretary. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more employers have begun hiring applicants with college degrees for secretary positions (www.bls.gov). If you'd like to gain an advantage over other job candidates, you might choose to earn an associate's degree in office administration at a vocational or community college. These programs offer courses like office procedures, spreadsheets, advanced word processing, office software applications, keyboarding and records management.

Step 3: Choose an Area of Specialty

If you'd like to become a specific type of secretary, you might take additional courses or pursue more specialized degree options. The most common areas of specialization are legal or medical secretary. As an aspiring legal secretary, you might earn an associate's degree in paralegal studies. Or, if you'd prefer to work in the medical field, you can enroll in an associate's degree program in medical assisting.

Step 4: Earn Certification

No specific certification is required to become a secretary. However, some organizations offer certifications that can make you more marketable to employers. These include the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), which awards the Certified Professional Secretary certification, and NALS (formerly the National Association of Legal Secretaries), which offers the Accredited Legal Secretary designation.

Step 5: Obtain Employment

Temporary placement agencies often seek workers to fill secretarial jobs. By signing on and testing with one or more agencies, placement personnel can match your skills and abilities to their clients who are seeking secretarial professionals. Many of these agencies also provide computer training. If you choose to seek work without the assistance of a placement specialist, you might search online to find secretarial positions in public and private offices.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

People who have good organizational, math and computer skills may also become bookkeeping clerks, with only some postsecondary education required. Those in this profession produce and check financial records. One may also consider becoming an information clerk, which only requires a high school diploma. Information clerks maintain records and collect data in many industries, including healthcare and hospitality.