Secretary or Administrative Assistant

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Salary Range: $40,000 to $59,999

Average Hourly: $ 19.71

Education: High school diploma or equivalent

Number of Jobs: 3363900

Jobs Added to 2029: -226200

Growth: Decline



Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.

What Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Do

Secretaries and administrative assistants do routine clerical and organizational tasks. They arrange files, prepare documents, schedule appointments, and support other staff.

Duties

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.


Work Environment

Although secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry, about half of all workers in the occupation are employed in healthcare; education; and professional, scientific, and technical services. Most work full time.


Work Environment Details

Secretaries and administrative assistants held about 3.4 million jobs in 2020. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up secretaries and administrative assistants was distributed as follows:
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive 2,053,500
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants 611,200
Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants 538,800
Legal secretaries and administrative assistants 160,400

The largest employers of secretaries and administrative assistants were as follows:

Healthcare and social assistance 24%
Educational services; state, local, and private 15
Professional, scientific, and technical services 12
Government 9
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 6

Secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry.

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work in offices. Some administrative assistants work out of their own homes as virtual assistants.

Work Schedules

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.


Job Outlook

Overall employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 7 percent from 2020 to 2030.

Despite declining employment, about 324,300 openings for secretaries and administrative assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


How to Become a Secretary or Administrative Assistant

High school graduates who are comfortable using word processing and spreadsheet programs typically qualify for entry-level positions. Although workers typically learn their duties over several weeks on the job, legal and medical secretaries and administrative assistants may need additional training to learn industry-specific terminology. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants typically need several years of related work experience.

Education

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. For executive secretary and executive administrative assistant positions, employers may prefer to hire those who have taken some college courses or have a bachelor’s degree.

Training

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.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants typically need several years of work experience in other administrative positions, such as secretaries and general office clerks.

Important Qualities

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.


United Kingdom Job Data

Source:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm (visited ).