Are you organized and conscientious, with a good eye for detail? If so, you might enjoy a career as an administrative assistant. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about becoming an administrative assistant in the state of Connecticut.
What Does an Administrative Assistant Do?
Administrative assistants are integral parts of every office environment, and have many different duties. Administrative assistants (often also referred to as secretaries) read and address incoming faxes and mail, and send outgoing faxes and mail; answer the telephone, taking messages and transferring calls whenever necessary; set up staff meetings; maintain the schedule of appointments, and add new appointments to the office calendar/diary; update calendars of events; carry out basic bookkeeping tasks; maintain filing systems and databases, which can be electronic and/or paper; edit documents (for example, letters); prepare reports, invoices, memos, presentations, and various other documents; and prepare spreadsheets using computer software. Other duties that administrative assistants sometimes have include managing corporate libraries and stockrooms, buying supplies, and negotiating with vendors. Administrative assistants use a variety of different kinds of office equipment during the workday, including, for example, computers, printers, and fax machines.
You may decide to work as a general administrative assistant, or you may choose to become more specialized. There are several different specialist administrative assistants, such as medical secretaries/administrative assistants; legal secretaries/administrative assistants; and executive secretaries/administrative assistants. While most administrative assistants choose to work simply as general (non-specialized) administrative assistants, you may be interested in the possibility of entering a specialty. This will typically involve education and training additional to that of a general administrative assistant.
Executive administrative assistants work directly for executives. These administrative assistants must be able to effectively manage high-level administrative support, and be skilled in the areas of report preparation and research. It is quite common for executive administrative assistants to also function as supervisors for other clerical staff in the organization. Executive secretaries often work for large private organizations and companies. After getting a few years of experience working as an administrative assistant, some people choose to upgrade their qualifications to the executive level in order to make themselves competitive for executive administrative assistant opportunities.
If you choose to work as a general administrative assistant, you will find opportunities to work in a wide variety of different areas, including, for instance, private corporations, government agencies, and schools. Administrative assistants work in an office setting.
What Qualities Do I Need to be an Administrative Assistant?
Outstanding organizational skills: Administrative assistants must have excellent organizational skills as they must always keep schedules, folders, and files in the correct order. The administrative assistant’s strong organizational skills are essential for the office to function smoothly.
Excellent interpersonal skills: Administrative assistants must personally interact with other staff, customers, and/or clients on a daily basis. Strong interpersonal skills are needed to ensure that the interaction is consistently courteous.
Integrity and trustworthiness: Administrative assistants must be trustworthy, as they may often be required to deal with sensitive, personal information. Well-developed communication skills: Administrative assistants need to have strong skills in the areas of writing, reading, speaking, and listening. Writing is especially important in this field.
Computer skills: Strong computer skills are absolutely essential for administrative assistants. You will need to be willing to upgrade your skills in this area whenever necessary, and to learn new software programs. Administrative assistants also have to feel comfortable learning how to use a variety of other kinds of office equipment.
Typing skills: General administrative assistants need to be able to touch type at a decent speed (usually at least around 35 to 40 words per minute).
There are many administrative assistant education and training programs in the state of Connecticut. You may find a program at a vocational or technical school, or community college. Make sure to carefully research the program, and ensure that it is well-respected and will give you the knowledge and skill you need to be successful in your chosen career. General administrative assistant education and training programs are usually between one and two years in length (if studying on a full-time basis). It is most common for these programs to be one year in length. If you study on a part-time basis, it will take you longer to complete your education. Specialty administrative assistant programs (such as legal, medical, or executive) are generally longer and more intensive than general programs.
Your administrative assistant program will require you to take a variety of different courses. Examples of courses you will take include: keyboarding (typing); using Microsoft Word; business writing; customer service skills; databases; communications; business English; and office management. You might be required to carry out an internship or practicum in a real workplace. This will give you valuable experience, as well as the opportunity to make useful contacts.
Once you have completed your education and have been working as an administrative assistant for at least two to four years, you will be able to take the examination to obtain the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) certification from the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP).
The median salary for administrative assistants in the United States is $36,500 (or $17.55 per hour). Salary can vary significantly depending on the workplace and the administrative assistant’s level of experience and skill.
Administrative assistant salaries in Connecticut vary by location. As is the case in most professions, administrative assistants generally find higher paying positions in cities than in small towns or rural areas. Below are the median administrative assistant salaries for a number of different Connecticut locations. You should note that these numbers do not include information on possible bonuses and benefits.
New Haven: $42,564
New London: $41,114
Opportunities for Advancement
As an administrative assistant, you will have excellent opportunities for career advancement! You may work to be promoted to an office supervisor or office manager position. Once you have worked for a while as a general administrative assistant, you might decide to get the additional education and training needed to enter one of the specialty areas we discussed earlier (medical administrative assistant/secretary, legal administrative assistant/secretary, or executive administrative assistant/secretary).
As we mentioned earlier, administrative assistants can find jobs in a wide variety of different workplaces. Let’s talk about some specific workplaces here, and go over some of the duties for which an administrative assistant in each of those workplaces would likely be responsible.
Working in a school: Administrative assistants working in schools are often referred to as “school secretaries.” You probably remember the school secretary at your elementary and high school, and know that secretaries working in this setting need to be friendly and personable, with excellent interpersonal skills. They also need to be amazing multitaskers! Given that school secretaries work with vulnerable populations, they are required to pass background checks before being hired.
Let’s discuss the most common duties of a school secretary in an elementary school. This school secretary makes certain that the school functions in an organized and orderly way on a daily basis; acts as a sort of representative of the school, linking it to the community and other stakeholders; performs the clerical and administrative work needed in support of the teaching staff, principal, and vice principal; gathers and organizes documents needed for the school’s communication with the district office; carries out data entry; keeps track of student attendance and absences, using reporting software and creating reports; communicating with community and school district officials; prepares and processes billings for payroll accounts receivable; carries out reconciliation of benefits liabilities and payroll accounts; carries out school funds, petty cash, benefit, and payroll transactions and maintain recordkeeping; correctly uses the school’s multi-line phone system, as well as its public address system; uses computer software and hardware; respects staff and student confidentiality at all times; keeps up all records for staff and students; work effectively and efficiently with many interruptions during the course of the day; cooperating with other members of staff; keeps up a high standard of accuracy in records; purchases resources such as office equipment, computer hardware, computer software, and other materials; carries out daily mail processing, editing, proofreading, and typing for teachers and administrators; carries out general office duties like making journal entries, creating spreadsheets, processing mail, filing, and answering inquiries on the phone; acts as administrator of the payroll computer system; creates newsletters and correspondence for the school; prepares curriculum documents, and circulates them with staff; books resources and other items, as well as rooms, for meetings; records meeting minutes, and then distributes the minutes; and oversees the planning of workshops, seminars, and special events.
Working for a non-profit organization: Administrative assistants often find rewarding and challenging jobs in non-profit organizations. Such workplaces may include charitable programs, religious programs, health outreach, education outreach, museums, and many other places that seek to create a better world. Administrative assistants working for non-profit organizations carry out the duties that most other administrative assistants do, in addition to more specialized tasks. Administrative assistants in non-profit settings are responsible for handling the daily communication of the organization’s managerial employees and/or director; operating at the gatekeeper of the organization; answering the phone and taking messages; responding to email messages; redirecting email messages; maintaining both electronic and paper filing systems; proofreading written documents, such as reports; setting up meetings; preparing draft press releases; writing letters; opening mail, sorting it, and making sure it gets to the recipients; and various other general office duties.
If the non-profit organization has a paying membership, the administrative assistant must create the members and membership fee database, and must maintain it and update it on a continual basis. This will probably include monitoring membership renewal dates. The administrative assistant will be the person who will send mail or email reminders to members that they need to carry out renewal. If you work for a small non-profit organization that lacks an accountant, you might have to take responsibility for some bookkeeping tasks.
Working in Insurance: If you obtain a job as an administrative assistant in the insurance industry, you will have to carry out many general office tasks as well as duties specific to insurance. Administrative assistants in the insurance industry have many different duties, including: all necessary general office administrative tasks; entering insurance claims into the company’s computer system; filing paper records of the claim; making copies of claims and other documents; writing office memos and letters; answering the phone; dealing with inquiries; and directing calls. If you work for a smaller insurance office, you may also act as the receptionist, and will need the strong multitasking skills needed to be able to work effectively with frequent interruption. You may also have to carry out duties usually linked to human resources, like filing of personnel forms. If you have web design knowledge, you may be asked to update the business’ website. Alternatively, you may have to write posts for social media, in promotion of the business. If you want to work as an administrative assistant in the insurance industry, you will need to be able to handle high levels of stress during certain periods (for example, during and after a natural disaster that leads to a large overabundance of claims all at once). If you specifically want to work in the insurance industry in this position, you may consider the benefit of taking a few business administration courses at the college level. This may make you more competitive.