Administrative assistants are a pivotal part of most any business or organization. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted about 4.3 million people in this or similar jobs in 2008, making it one of the largest professions in the country. The job title can also be secretary or office assistant. Even as computer technology advances mean that more people handle their own word processing and other computer work, there is still a substantial need for the skills of administrative assistants.
What is the administrative assistant job?
A person with the title of administrative assistant handles communications for an office or business, including sending and receiving mail, email, and faxes, answering telephone calls, and greeting people who walk into the business. They manage document creation and dissemination, organize and maintain paper and electronic files, provide scheduling for company executives, and perform any needed computer services, such as word processing and spreadsheets. Many administrative assistants are responsible for creating presentations and reports, maintaining databases of client names, composing letters, dealing with vendors for office supplies and equipment, and conducting market research for the company.
Administrative assistants who have taken more specialized training and have more work experience often work as executive assistants or legal and medical secretaries.
What are the requirements for the job?
For many administrative assistant jobs, a high school diploma or GED is the basic requirement. Some more advanced job openings will list more training, even an Associate degree in business administration. Training in computer software enhances the job search. The more computer skills an administrative assistant has, the better. Skills with word processing, spreadsheet, database, and presentation software are essential. The administrative assistant must have good people and communication skills. He/she is usually the first point of contact between the business and new clients, so the first critical impression depends on the administrative assistant. Other crucial skills are good spelling and grammar, excellent time management, discretion and good judgment in dealing with people, strong multi-tasking techniques, and the ability to work independently. There are certification possibilities for administrative assistants. Organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals or the National Association of Legal Secretaries have programs leading to certification.
What is the work environment?
Administrative assistants work in offices of all sizes. Some businesses may consist of a couple of employees and an administrative assistant. Others can have a pool of many assistants to handle the needs of hundreds of employees.
These job positions can be found in a variety of businesses and organizations. Work can be performed at schools, hospitals, non-profit organizations, and manufacturing facilities, as well as businesses.
The main health concerns are the same as for anyone who spends long hours on computers: repetitive injuries, strained back and neck, or eyes.
Most administrative assistants work 40-hour weeks with some overtime. Many work only part time or perform part of their duties from home offices.
What are the job outlook and advancement possibilities?
Employment for administrative assistants is expected to show about the same growth rate as the average of all professions, around 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of the growth will come from people in the positions moving up or to other professions, or retiring. Some industries, such as healthcare and legal, will show above average growth.
Administrative assistants can advance in their jobs by moving to jobs with more responsibilities, such as overseeing other assistants or becoming office managers.