Secretaries and administrative assistants do routine clerical and organizational tasks.
Administrative Aide, Administrative Assistant, Administrative Associate, Administrative Coordinator, Administrative Secretary, Administrative Specialist, Executive Administrative Assistant, Executive Assistant, Executive Secretary, Office Assistant
Secretaries and administrative assistants typically do the following:
- Answer telephones and take messages or transfer calls
- Schedule appointments and update event calendars
- Arrange staff meetings
- Handle incoming and outgoing mail and faxes
- Prepare memos, invoices, or reports
- Edit documents
- Maintain databases and filing systems
- Perform basic bookkeeping
Secretaries and administrative assistants help an organization run efficiently. They use computer software to create spreadsheets; manage databases; and prepare presentations, reports, and documents. They also may negotiate with vendors, buy supplies, and manage stockrooms or corporate libraries. Secretaries and administrative assistants also use videoconferencing and other office equipment. Specific job duties vary by experience, job title, and specialty.
The following are examples of types of secretaries and administrative assistants:
Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants provide high-level support for an office and for top executives of an organization. They often handle complex responsibilities, such as reviewing incoming documents, conducting research, and preparing reports. Some also supervise clerical staff.
Legal secretaries and administrative assistants must have knowledge of legal terminology and procedures. They prepare summonses, complaints, motions, subpoenas, and other legal documents under the supervision of an attorney or a paralegal. They also review legal journals and help with legal research—for example, by verifying quotes and citations in legal briefs.
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants transcribe dictation and prepare reports or articles for physicians or medical scientists. They also take simple medical histories of patients, arrange for patients to be hospitalized, or process insurance payments. Medical secretaries and administrative assistants need to be familiar with medical terminology and codes, medical records, and hospital or laboratory procedures.
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive form the largest subcategory of secretaries and administrative assistants. They handle administrative activities for offices in almost every sector of the economy, including schools, government, and private corporations. For example, secretaries in schools are often responsible for most of the communications among parents, students, the community, teachers, and school administrators. They schedule appointments, receive visitors, and keep track of student records.
Decision-making skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants often prioritize tasks and make decisions on their employers’ behalf, so good judgment is essential.
Interpersonal skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants interact with clients, customers, or staff. They should communicate effectively and be courteous when interacting with others.
Organizational skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants keep files, folders, and schedules in order so that an office runs efficiently.
Writing skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants write memos and emails when communicating with managers, employees, and customers. Therefore, they must have good grammar, ensure accuracy, and maintain a professional tone.
- Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive
- Medical secretaries and administrative assistants
- Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants
- Legal secretaries and administrative assistants
Some community colleges and technical schools offer courses or programs in a variety of secretarial and administrative assistance fields. For example, courses or programs in-office procedures focus on working in a business setting; those in industry-specific terminology and practices prepare students for jobs as medical and legal secretaries. Temporary placement agencies also may provide training in word processing, spreadsheet, and database software.
A bachelor's degree typically is not required to become a secretary or administrative assistant. However, some of these workers have a degree in a field such as business, education, or communications. Employers may prefer to hire candidates for executive secretary and executive administrative assistant positions who have taken some college courses or have a bachelor’s degree.
Secretaries and administrative assistants typically learn their skills through on-the-job training that lasts a few weeks. During this time, they learn about administrative procedures, including how to prepare documents. Medical and legal secretaries and administrative assistants may train for several months as they learn industry-specific terminology and practices.