Administrative assistants work within corporate settings, small businesses, government agencies, schools, hospitals, law offices, and/or medical offices. Administrative assistants may specialize in medical, technical, educational, virtual, or legal fields. Administrative assistants plan and execute work specific to procedures dependent upon industry of employment. Generally all administrative assistants are required to have word processing, writing, and communication skills paired with extensive knowledge of computer software, including desktop publishing, project management, spreadsheets, and database management.
Within most organizations, administrative assistants plan, direct, and coordinate support services within an organization to guarantee daily operations run effectively. Administrative assistants act as information and communication managers while performing a variety of increasing responsibilities pertaining to the industry of employment. Administrative assistants oversee the collection, storing, retrieving, and integrating of information for clients, managers, and support staff. Administrative assistants typically plan and schedule meetings and appointments, organize and maintain paper and/or electronic files, conduct research, and manage projects. Administrative assistants use a variety of electronic office equipment in the form of computers, fax machines, photocopiers, scanners, videoconferencing, and telephone systems to perform job related tasks. Administrative assistants often also create spreadsheets, manage data bases, create presentations, compile documents and reports, compose correspondence via email or mail services, and provide support for executive staff. Additionally, many administrative assistants handle travel and/or guest arrangements, negotiate with vendors, purchase supplies, oversee and manage stockrooms or corporate libraries, and maintain leased equipment. Many administrative assistants work flexibly in teams sharing their expertise with other secretaries and staff to conduct Internet research, operate or troubleshoot office equipment, and provide training or orientation for new staff.
Industrial and office environment changes have transformed the qualifications necessary for employment as an administrative assistants. Administrative assistants must be proficient in typing and possess strong written and oral communication skills. Administrative assistants are also required to possess accurate spelling, punctuation, and grammar skills, as well as strong organizational and management abilities. Administrative assistants are also required to have great interpersonal communication skills and must always be tactful in their dealings with coworkers, clients, and others. Most employers also seek administrative assistants who have good judgement, initiative and those who can work independently.
Training to become an administrative assistant may begin as early as high school. High school graduates with basic office skills may gain employment as an entry level secretary or administrative assistant and gain skills necessary for advancement in the field. Many high schools offer vocational educational programs based upon instilling office and typing skills. Many business, technical, or vocational schools, as well as community colleges, offer one to two year formal training programs geared specifically for future administrative assistants. Additionally, many community and online colleges offer two year programs with courses in transcription, bookkeeping, website design, project management, and computer technology to provide skills necessary for employment as an administrative assistant. Specialized training is required for administrative assistants seeking employment within the medical or legal fields. Most medical, legal, or virtual assistants are required to receive formal training in relation to the area of expertise. For example, medical and legal assistants are required to have knowledge of of the language of the industry. Most virtual assistants are required to be familiar with transcription, bookkeeping, website design, project management, and computer technology.
Most employers seek candidates with a college degree and other qualifications, like certification and on the job experience, pertaining to industry requirements. Administrative assistants are full time employees who often work 40 hours per week. Generally administrative assistants must sit for long hours using a keyboard and computer and the potential for resulting problems of eyestrain, stress, and repetitive motion ailments (like carpal tunnel syndrome) exists.
Many organizations require all secretaries and administrative assistants to acquire on the job training and participate online education, attend classes, or go to seminars focused upon expanding and continuing education as office technologies change and evolve. Most on the job training is offered by employees within an organization, equipment vendors, or software vendors to instruct administrative assistants in operating new office technology, like information storage systems, scanners, or updated software packages. Many certification programs offered by the International Association of Administrative Professions help secretaries and administrative assistants gain training and experience. The designations, including the Certified Professional Secretary and Certified Administrative Professional, are offered upon the completion of educational, experience, and examination requirements.
Many opportunities for advancement exist for secretaries and administrative assistants. Most administrative assistants advance within an organization through promotions into other administrative positions with increased responsibility. Administrative assistants who expand their knowledge and skills may advance to upper level executive secretarial or executive administrative assistant positions as well as clerical supervisory or office manager positions. Individuals with word processing or data entry experience may advance to word processing, data entry trainers, supervisors, instructors, sales representatives, and/or manager positions. Legal secretaries with proper training and experience may advance to paralegal positions.
Secretarial and administrative assistant jobs rank as one of the largest occupations within the United States economy and job prospects for administrative assistants are expected to be favorable.