The job of an administrative assistant is diverse. Commonly referred to as secretaries, they handle numerous front-desk administrative tasks. They are often hired to conduct research, handle information requests, prepare statistical reports and other clerical jobs. While these are part of the package, it is also essential component of their job to receive visitors in office, arrange the conference calls, prepare correspondence and schedule meeting. They are basically there to help their superior and make their work easier. Oftentimes, administrative assistants may be assigned to train and monitor the clerical staff.
They file and retrieve various corporate reports and documents. They are in charge of preparing invoices, letters, memos, financial documents and other documents. They may be assigned the task to open and distribute correspondence such as faxes and emails. General office duties including maintaining archives and databases, ordering supplies and performing basic book-keeping work. If you are hired as a secretary, you will be expected to direct phones to parties, receive calls and take messages.
In fact, as a professional you will have to be able to focus and see details of every situation. Reading and understanding variety of documents is important. As crucial part for the office, you may even be asked to articulate ideas and problems.
Your task may require you to prepare agendas and make necessary arrangements like managing catering for lunch and other meetings. You have to schedule and also direct most office services. This ranges from handling archives to housekeeping to assisting executives. Your clerical help will be requested by all departments. You might have to make travel arrangements for the executives and look after their schedules. You even have to process payroll data sometimes.
After reading a brief summary of what this job is like, you probably clearly understand that they must have extraordinary integrity. They also have to be very thorough and dependable.
To summarize the above section, it can be said that your duties as an administrative assistant will be as follows:
- Answer phone calls, transfer calls and take messages
- Schedule appointments for executives and update the event calendars
- Organize staff meetings
- Analyze and distribute all incoming and outgoing faxes and mails
- Make invoices, memos and other reports
- Edit documents for executives
- Maintain specific electronic or paper databases and filing systems
- Do the basic bookkeeping
In order to fulfil these job role, you must have integrity, interpersonal skills, organizational skills and writing skills. As a secretary, your superior will often trust you with sensitive information. This could be documents which contain important customer information or legal papers of the firms. To qualify as a good administrative assistant, you must possess the integrity to respect and protect the privacy of these documents.
It is your job as administrative assistant to interact with the customers, clients and also staff. If you lack interpersonal skills, you will fail to communicate effectively and convey messages. You have to be courteous when you interact with others. This helps to establish a positive work environment and will automatically enhance client experience.
Organizational skills are essential because your job entails keeping files, folders, and all schedules in right order. If you possess good organizational skills, you can run the office very efficiently. As previously mentioned, you will have to write a lot of memos and emails from the front desk went communicating with employees, managers and customers. For this reason, importance to good writing skills is given. It is expected that you will have good command over grammar. You should ensure accuracy and always maintain a professional tone during writing.
So, secretaries basically perform a wide range of clerical and administrative tasks which are vital for smooth running of an organization. They are required to use computer software effectively to create spreadsheets, manage databases and also prepare reports and presentations. These administrative assistant can with vendors and buy supplies. They often manage the company’s stockrooms and corporate libraries. They use office equipment, fax and video conferencing. The role and specific job duties differ based on experience, specialty, and job title.
Secretaries and administrative assistants handle the office’s administrative activities in every sector of the economy. This includes not only private corporations but also in schools, government firms, etc. If you get job as secretary in a school, you will be requested to handle most of the communications with students, parents, teachers, the community, and school administrators. You will schedule the appointments, receive visitors who come to the school and keep track of all student records.
Usually, anyone who is a high school graduate and has experience using software applications like word processing and spreadsheets qualify for the entry-level positions. It does not take more than a few weeks for most secretaries to learn their job. Legal and medical secretaries may require slightly more time to learn industry-specific terminology we will not discuss their job prospects today. Executive secretaries might need a few years of relevant work experience to excel.
1. Fulfill the Educational Requirements and Obtain Training
If you are a high school graduate, you can take some courses to learn about different software applications from community colleges or technical schools. These office procedures can also be learnt at some temporary placement agencies as they provide training in spreadsheet, word processing and database software.
Legal and medical secretaries too learn their industry-specific terms and common practices by enrolling in courses offered at either community colleges, or technical schools. Employers generally prefer to hire people who have taken college courses or have a reputed bachelor’s degree for the executive level job.
Administrative assistants can learn their skills via short-term on-the-job trainings. These may last a few weeks. During this time, they learn about the various administrative procedures such as how documents are prepared. Executive secretaries can gather experience by simply working in administrative positions which have less challenging responsibilities.
2. Applying for and Getting Licenses and Certifications
In this line of work, certification is not a necessity. Yet, it is recommended to get certified as it demonstrates competency to the employers. The Certified Administrative Professional certification, also known as CAP, is offered by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). To be eligible for this title, candidates should have administrative work experience of minimum 2 to 4 years. The required duration depends on the individual’s level of education. They will have to pass an examination as well.
In addition to offering the CAP certification, IAAP offers the Organizational Management (OM) specialty certification. To qualify for either of these certifications you must have experience and pass a written examination. There are colleges and schools which offer educational programs especially designed to prepare candidates for testing. Courses which are commonly covered are topics like keyboarding, word processing, office management and computer systems.
A college degree is not needed to be eligible to sit for the CAP exam but you need a lot of experience. If you have better educational qualification, number of years of experienced required to appear for this examination will be lower. In you do not have any degree at all, you will have to have administrative career experience of minimum 4 years. If you hold an associate's degree, you can register for the exam with only 3 years of experience. You will require just 2 years work experience if you have a bachelor’s degree. Keep the following points in mind if you want your work experience to qualify:
- It must be within the past 15 years
- You can count work for 20 hours or more per week
- You must be able to record 12 consecutive months of work experience with same employer within the period of last 5 years
- Minimum level of education required is high school diploma or GED equivalent
There are a few certification options for legal secretaries including Accredited Legal Professional certification, National Association of Legal Secretaries and Certified Legal Secretary Specialist. Each kind of administrative assistants have distinct options for certifications. Each one has separate requirements as well.
The CAP exam, for example, is conducted each year on the first Friday and Saturday of the months of May and November. You can purchase a review guide and study from it. The examination comprises of total 300 to 350 multiple-choice questions. Topics covered are office technology, management and administration. If your plan is to pursue the OM specialty, you may take the organizational management test by IAAP instead. This test measures different skill set, particularly your level of creativity and your analytical and critical responses to different scenarios.
After approximately 45 days of taking the exam, you will receive your results. If you successfully pass all sections of the test, you will be given a personal identifier number along with a certificate. The certificate has a 5-year validity. If you fail to pass all components of the exam, you can sit for it again. Individuals are allowed to retake the exam up to 6 times.
CAP certification holders who applied for certification on or after January 1, 1988 need to recertify after every 5 years to maintain their professional status. If you fail to recertify, your designation will be shows as inactive status.
Career Advancement Options
You probably already understand that entry into this career is quite easy. The same can be said about advancement. Secretaries generally advance to better administrative positions as they gain more and more expertise. In addition to better payment and designation, the advancement comes with more responsibilities. Secretaries and administrative assistants can progress and become office managers, office supervisors, or executive secretary. If legal secretaries can gather extra training, they can become legal assistants or paralegals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual salary for this profession was $35,970 in 2014. The opportunity for job growth rate was 3% between 2014 to 2024. The work in this career is usually conducted from the office front desk and work environment is the typical office settings.
According to 2015 data, the nation’s median annual salary for secretaries and administrative assistants was $36,500. This represents that half the workers in this career earned over that amount and the other half earned less. The lowest 10% earned salary less than $22,390 per year while the highest 10% secured yearly salary of $60,640, which is quite impressive.
It is understandable that the salary fluctuates based on the location of residence, expertise of individual and market condition, but the specialty is important as well. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants make $53,370 per year while legal secretaries make $43,200 and medicinal secretaries earn $33,040. Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive earn $33,910 per year.
In the Texas area, administrative assistants can get many educational and career opportunities. At present, about 149,850 people are employed as administrative assistants in the state. It was expected that the number will grow 22% by 2016 to about 182,770 employment scopes. In fact, this data demonstrates better scope than the entire nation. The overall sector in United State for administrative assistants is expected to grow by almost 12.8%. It is a lucrative industry to work in. Easy entry is definitely a factor but nature of work and comparatively high salary make it quite lucrative.
Administrative assistants generally offer high-level administrative support by doing research, making statistical reports, processing information requests, and completing clerical functions. While these seem like simple tasks, role of these individuals are crucial in the work place. They act as intermediaries and take care of all situations. If you reside in Texas and believe that you possess the required skills, you should definitely pursue this career. If you can integrate your writing, organizational and interactive skills properly, you will do great on the job. In fact, with enough experience you will even get the promotion opportunity and earn as much as $60,000 annually.