Administrative assistants perform a variety of clerical and other duties in support of the business or agency for which they work. With over 4 million people being employed in the profession in 2014, opportunities exist across a wide variety of industries in cities all over the country. While the growth rate between 2014 and 2024 is considered below average at 3%, that means that an anticipated 120,000 new positions are likely to be created within that time period based on currently employment levels and the projected growth.
In 2015, in the state of Florida, there are currently over 173,000 people working within the administrative assistant profession, which is the fourth highest total in the nation, only behind California, New York and Texas. Additionally, administrative assistants in the state of Florida can anticipate an average pay rate of $32,080 annually, or approximately $15.42 an hour.
Those who advance as an administrative assistant, achieving a position of an executive administrative assistant, can expect an average annual wage of $49,120, or an hourly rate of $23.62. Executive administrative assistants make up an additional 39,760 positions in Florida, based on data from 2015, which is also the fourth highest amount in the country.
Often, the minimum requirement to begin working as an administrative assistant is a high school diploma, or its equivalent, as well as the necessary computer skills to complete tasks as they are assigned. Though advanced education may not always be required, employers may show preference to those who have completed certain certification requirements, graduated from programs through accredited educational institutions, or received an undergraduate degree. Certain entry-level opportunities may provide on the job training either in addition to these educational preferences or in lieu of them.
Many community colleges and technical schools offer programs focused specifically on the skills one needs to work successfully as an administrative assistant. Programs of this nature vary in length, with some being completed in as few as five months, and most result in graduates receiving certificates of completion or program diplomas.
Administrative assistant programs provide the fundamental skills that are in use in most office environments. Classes can include time management techniques as well as a review of basic office procedures. Others will focus on particular areas, such as travel and meeting planning, event planning, filing techniques and records management, and workplace technology and equipment. Other courses will focus on the more commonly used software applications, such as those used for word processing, building spreadsheets, creating presentations, and designing newsletters or other informational materials.
When program courses are taken through an accredited educational institution, the class credits may transfer to other programs if one chooses to pursue a more advanced undergraduate degree in the field, or to general educational requirements in other degree programs.
The next level of education available is an Associate’s Degree, or an Associate’s in Applied Sciences (AAS). These educational opportunities are also available at community and technical colleges, but look to provide more in-depth information than that which is provided in a certificate or diploma program. Most commonly, these programs are designed to be completed within two years if you are attending as a full time student, though actual completion times may vary.
An AAS requires the completion of certain core educational requirements as well as a variety of specialty courses. The core educational courses will provide a stronger foundation for the skills most commonly used by administrative assistants, such as advanced word processing, as well as introductions into other areas, such as bookkeeping. Some associate’s degree programs will also require a professional office internship, office simulations, or a combination of the two. Internships allow students to develop their skills in an actual working office environment while simulations look to replicate the activities that take place in an average office environment for the purpose of practicing the skills that have been taught in traditional classroom environments.
As with the certificate programs, course work taken from an accredited educational institution during the pursuit of an associate’s degree may be transferrable to other degree programs. While a bachelor’s degree is not traditionally a requirement in order to become employed as an administrative assistant, it may be helpful for those who would like to work in specific industries or environments, or those looking to perform supervisory duties in the future.
For example, an undergraduate degree with a focus on business may help those looking to work for a large business or corporation, while a bachelor’s in health sciences may help those more interested in medical or health fields. Degrees in communications, advertising, or marketing may make a candidate stand out for certain positions, while those looking to work in government positions may benefit from degrees in categories such as political science, public policy, or public administration.
On the Job Training
Whether you are beginning with an entry-level position or have some post-secondary education, a certain amount of on the job training will likely occur. This will cover the idiosyncrasies of a particular office or industry, such as proprietary or industry-specific software programs, or other internal standards. The exact nature of the training will be based on the needs of the business or organization in which you work, with the pace dictated by how quickly they would like you to perform certain duties or assume various responsibilities.
Just as with certain undergraduate degree or post-secondary certificate programs, certain industry certifications may also be available. These certifications are designed to show that the person who has been certified possess the skills and abilities necessary to meet an industry standard regarding the performance of duties associated with working as an administrative assistant.
For example, the International Association for Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) examination to those working in the industry. In order to qualify, a minimum requirement, based on educational level and work experience, is required. For those without a college degree, a minimum of four years of experience is necessary. Those with an associate’s degree will need three years of experience, while those with a bachelor’s degree will only need two years of on the job experience.
For each case, a minimum of 12 consecutive months must have been with the same employer within the past five years, and all applicable experience must have been achieved within the past 10 years in order to count towards to total. Additionally, education credit will only be awarded to those who have received degrees from accredited educational institutions.
The CAP examination will cover seven primary functional areas; organizational communication, business writing and document production, technology and information distribution, office and records management, event and project management, human resources, and financial functions.
Specialty examinations are also available as supplements to the CAP examination. This includes organizational management and technical applications.
Maintaining International Association of Administrative Professionals Certifications
Certifications offered through the IAAP are valid for five years. During that time frame, points will need to be earned in order to qualify for recertification. Points can be earned through the completion of continuing education courses, achievement of other certifications, as well as the performance of leadership responsibilities as dictated by the IAAP.
Those looking to work in specific specialties may be eligible to complete additional certifications, or may be required to do so. This most commonly applies to those working in the fields of law or medicine, though other specialty certifications may also be available depending on the industry.
Administrative Assistant Job Duties
Though some duties will vary depending on the exact industry, the majority of the job functions center on a set of specific tasks. This can include duties associated with reception, such as answer incoming calls, taking messages, and transferring calls to other employees within the organization, as well as receiving and sorting incoming mail or deliveries. They may also be responsible for managing schedules and updating appointments, as well as making meeting arrangements such as selecting a location and securing any needed resources or materials.
Document creation duties are common, as well as file maintenance and organization. Responsibilities can include the creation of interoffice memos, customer invoices, various reports, and other communications. Document editing may be required including work on letters, publications, and presentations. Some administrative assistants may be required to publish certain document on internal network share drives as well as publicly facing web portals. Additionally, file maintenance, both paper and electronic, may be common as well as file retrievals.
In some cases, more advanced administrative may be required. This can include the knowledge and ability necessary to work with specific pieces of software as well as basic bookkeeping and cash handling. The use of point of sales systems, including credit card readers, may be required for business that provide services onsite for specific fees.
At times, industry specific knowledge can help you perform your duties more effectively, and may even be a requirement for some positions. For example, those working in the medical field may need a basic understanding of medical terminology as well as medical insurance verification procedures and claims submission. Similarly, those working for legal or government organizations may find industry specific experience valuable. Even though specific industry knowledge or experience may not be required, preference may be given to those candidates who can demonstrate an understanding of common terms and tasks associated with the given organization.
Executive administrative assistants perform similar duties as regular administrative assistants, but more often work under a specific member of the executive management team, or a select group of executives within an organization. Duties assigned to executive assistants are often more complex in nature, and may require advanced knowledge of industry standards and internal business practices. Further, some executive administrative assistants supervise other office support staff including approval of their work, delegations of tasks and responsibilities, as well as managing vacation and sick leave requests.
Common Work Environments
Administrative assistants may work in a wide variety of workplaces, though most work is completed within an office environment within the facility in which you work. For example, administrative assistants may work in schools and hospitals, as well as in government offices, legal offices, or medical clinics. Various businesses, including those in the manufacturing or production fields, financial services, and corporate offices for various retail or restaurant chains also employee administrative assistants to provide office-based support.
Dress code is often based on the specific environment. Those working within more industrial business may be allowed to dress more casually while those in corporate offices may need business attire. In some cases, administrative assistants may work from home in a position commonly referred to as a virtual assistant. Those working virtually may not have any requirements in regards to acceptable attire.
Work Schedules and Hours
The majority of administrative assistants are employed full time, though part time or on-call work may also be available. Additionally, while most positions will focus on day shifts with a Monday through Friday schedule, certain employers may require support 24/7, resulting in a variety of schedules being available for those who require something other than a day shift.
Annual salaries vary depending on the precise work environment as well as the specific position. While the median annual wage for administrative assistants working in the United States in 2015 was listed at $36,500, those working as executive administrative assistants saw a median annual wage of $53,370. Additionally, those working in the legal field traditional saw higher wages than those working in medical offices or working in a more general capacity.
As an administrative assistant furthers their education or gains additional experience, opportunities for advancement can arise. For example, the transition to an executive administrative assistant often comes with higher pay. Additionally, some administrative assistants may be able to move into the position of office manager, or may choose to shift into a specific department or field after a time, such as accounting, medical records or billing, or legal assistants.