Administrative assistants, also called executive assistants, are often the backbone of companies. They keep offices running efficiently and smoothly.
We’ve compiled some key facts and figures about administrative assistant jobs, including where to find them, expected salaries and job growth rate to help you find an administrative assistant job that fits your skills.
Main Takeaways: Getting an Administrative Assistant Job
- Administrative assistance is a career based off of experience. There are many fields that bleed into this career, and they tend to value experience over a formal education.
- People in this role are considered the backbone of the office. They often wear many hats and are responsible for the wellbeing of the office space and those in it.
- There are many skills that make someone a good candidate for this position. We explore this and more below.
What is an Administrative Assistant?
An administrative assistant is an individual who supports office functions by performing administrative tasks such as answering phones, filing, drafting correspondence, greeting customers and maintaining records. Almost all industries need office support. There were 3,990,400 secretarial jobs in the U.S. as of 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What Are Administrative Assistants Responsible for?
Administrative assistants wear many hats and are responsible for a variety of tasks. A typical day might entail:
- Opening mail and filing documents
- Meeting with managers to discuss proposed outgoing letters and emails
- Responding to customer inquiries via email and phone
- Drafting and mailing correspondence
- Ordering office supplies and scheduling meetings
- Making travel arrangements for leaders and catering office events
Smaller businesses might only employ one administrative professional, while bigger companies could have a large staff of administrative assistants. Administrative assistants could report to an office manager, HR manager, company owner or president.
Do I Need a Degree to Work in this Field?
You don’t usually need a college degree to work as an administrative assistant. There are thousands of job openings for applicants with high school diplomas and some on-the-job training. You can get an associate degree in office administration, office technology and secretarial science, though several years of secretarial experience will suffice in lieu of a college education.
There are also many different kinds of certifications you can acquire to help give you an edge in specific subjects and programs. Here are a few examples:
- Certified professional secretary
- Certified administrative professional
- Microsoft Office specialist
- Adobe certified expert
Types of Administrative Assistant Jobs and Titles
There are many different types of administrative assistant job categories and titles that fall under the larger administrative assistant umbrella. Let’s take a look at some typical examples.
Entry-Level Administrative Assistant Jobs
You can get a job as an entry-level administrative assistant, entry-level secretary or office assistant as a high school graduate with little to no experience. You would perform filing tasks, computer work and other types of office tasks.
A receptionist or front office clerk is typically the first person a client sees at an office. Receptionists greet clients, answer phones and set appointments. They usually support other administrative professionals such as office managers.
Executive Assistant Jobs
An executive assistant (also called an executive secretary or executive assistant to the president/CEO) supports mid- to high-level executives by preparing correspondence, scheduling meetings and drafting letters.
Since executive assistants work closely with leaders such as presidents and CEOs, they’re often required to handle sensitive or confidential information. Executive assistant jobs are typically filled by more experienced administrative professionals.
A secretary or executive secretary could also be called an administrative assistant or executive assistant. Secretaries handle the same type of administrative functions as administrative assistants, including filing and drafting correspondence.
Front Desk Jobs
Front desk jobs (called front desk clerks, front office clerks and front office assistants) are essentially the same as receptionist jobs, responsible for answering phones and greeting customers. A front desk clerk might also be tasked with making copies and filing.
Office Manager Jobs
An office manager, office administrator or executive office manager, is responsible for all aspects of administrative work in a company and typically oversees clerical staff in day-to-day job functions.
He or she assigns clerical tasks to administrative staff and also handles building-related tasks such as facilities maintenance, office repairs and equipment purchase.
Operations Assistant Jobs
Operations assistants (also known as executive operations assistants or operations associates) work with operations managers to ensure business operations run smoothly. Sample job functions might include making courier arrangements, coordinating meetings, taking inventory and reviewing merchandise orders.
Medical Assistant Jobs
Medical assistants are administrative assistants in health care settings. They support physicians and work in doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics.
Medical assistants primarily perform clerical duties but may be asked to do other basic tasks such as take patients’ vital signs, prepare blood samples for laboratory tests and assist physicians with examinations. Those required to perform more healthcare-related tasks usually need to obtain a medical assistant certification.
Legal Assistant Jobs
Legal assistants, also known as paralegals, assist lawyers in preparing documents, performing research and filing motions. These jobs require specialized knowledge of legal terminology and often require a certification. Legal assistants might work for one lawyer or a large law firm.
Virtual Assistant Jobs
A virtual assistant, virtual secretary or remote assistant performs clerical, customer service and other data-entry related tasks and work remotely rather than in an office.
These jobs usually don’t provide benefits but perks include flexibility in hours and the ability to work from home. You can save money by skipping the commute and writing off expenses if you file your taxes as an independent contractor.
Salary Ranges and Expectations for Administrative Assistant Jobs
The average annual pay for an administrative assistant is $38,880, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Administrative assistants in the highest 10% earn more than $64,230 per year. Medical assistants earn $33,610 and legal assistants earn $50,940.
Projected Growth Rate of the Administrative Assistant Field
The projected job growth rate for administrative assistants is -5% by 2026 but it’s much more positive for those who specialize in medical or legal fields. Legal assistant jobs are expected to grow 15% (much faster than average), and medical assistant jobs are projected to grow 29% by 2026.
How to Get a Job as an Administrative Assistant
There are many different ways you can get your foot in the door as an administrative assistant. Here are a few strategies to help get you started:
- Register with a personnel agency. Staffing agencies such as Kelly Services vet candidates by testing their typing speed and other skills before they match them with employers. These agencies do the job searching for you and you won’t have to pay them a dime for their services.
- Network. Update your LinkedIn profile and add as may networking contacts as possible to increase your job search possibilities.
- Join a professional organization. Join professional organizations such as the American Society of Administrative Professionals or the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Groups like these can provide training opportunities (such as webinars) as well as links to job postings and other informational resources.
- Specialize in a particular area. You’ll be more marketable and in-demand if you specializing in a particular area, such as a legal or medical administrative assistant. You can also take an online office manager training course to boost your knowledge if you’re planning to specialize in a particular area.
- Revamp your resume. Make sure your resume is error-free and use a grammar site like Grammarly. Show your resume to a skilled editor who can offer constructive feedback.
- Earn certifications. You’ll be able to command a higher salary if you gain certifications, such as a certified medical assistant program, which will allow you to command a higher salary.
- Apply online. Post your resume on sites such as LinkedIn and search for job postings on credible online job search engines.
- Start your own business. Start your own administrative or virtual assistant business by creating a Facebook page or website if working for yourself sounds appealing. You’ll be able to set your own rates and hours and choose the clients you’d like to work for.
Top 6 Skills to Be Successful as an Administrative Assistant
Administrative assistants are central to a company’s profitability and performance. Here are the top 6 skills you’ll need to be successful in this role.
1. Communication Skills
You’ll need exceptional written, verbal and presentation skills on a daily basis as an administrative professional. You need to be able to effectively communicate to customers, managers and other business partners as you represent your organization. You may be asked to write letters from scratch and create presentations for executives, so you’ll need excellent written communication skills, too.
2. Organizational Skills
Administrative assistants juggle multiple tasks and job functions each day. From organizing personnel files and invoices to arranging events and meetings, good organizational skills are essential for all office support professionals.
3. Technical Skills
Since most tasks performed by administrative assistants are done using computers, you need good data entry and technological skills. You should also be proficient in Microsoft Office Suite, Google Docs and Skype, among other office applications.
4. Time Management Skills
Administrative assistants need good time management skills in order to coordinate mailings, correspondence and meetings. You’ll need to be able to perform tasks quickly, efficiently and accurately.
5. Problem-Solving Skills
Administrative professionals need to be good problem solvers, as unexpected issues can arise, from disgruntled customers to computer-related problems. You must be good at assessing problems and creating effective solutions.
6. Customer Service Skills
Since most administrative assistants serve in customer-facing environments, you’ll need good customer service skills. It’s important to be friendly, good-natured and able to assist customers with their questions and concerns.
Explore Administrative Assistant Opportunities
An administrative assistant job can be very fulfilling and can provide you with a career and can even reward you with pay raises if you stay with a company for many years. In some cases, you may get annual performance bonuses. An administrative assistant job can also help you formulate a successful plan for retirement.