Administrative assistant jobs are one of the largest occupations within the United States economy. Job prospects for administrative assistants are expected to be favorable as businesses expand and grow. The primary responsibility of an administrative assistant is to offer clerical and organizational support within a business, organization, government agency, school, law office, or medical facility. Administrative assistants generally plan, direct, and coordinate support services while utilizing technology to maximize day to day operational efficiency. They are required to have several personal and job related skills to perform and meet work related responsibilities. Administrative assistants are required to possess strong oral and written communication skills, extensive knowledge of computer software and office equipment, and extensive organizational abilities.
Administrative assistants oversee the collection, storage, integration, and retrieval of information within any organization or business. Administrative assistant positions within an organization or business are versatile and dependent upon the industry of employment. Administrative assistants generally plan and schedule meetings or appointments, organize and maintain paper and electronic files, conduct Internet research, and oversee projects. Administrative assistants operate a variety of electronic and office equipment, like fax machines, photocopiers, scanners, telephone systems, and computers. Administrative assistants are required to create spreadsheets, manage data bases, develop presentations, create documents and reports, compose email or standard mail correspondence, and often provide support for executive staff. Some administrative assistants also negotiate with vendors, purchase supplies, manage stockrooms or corporate libraries, maintain leased equipment, handle guest and travel arrangements, and often provide training or orientation for new staff.
Preparing for a career as an administrative assistant requires a combination of educational training and specific personal attributes. Individuals who are organized, detail oriented, motivated, and those who have strong leadership skills often do well as administrative assistants. Administrative assistants are generally required to work flexibly, in teams, and also independently. Most administrative assistants share their skills and experience with other secretaries and staff to assist in the daily operations a company, facility, or agency. Most administrative assistants work as full time employees with a 40 hour work week. Administrative assistants generally are required to sit for long hours using a key board and computer. The potential for problems with eyestrain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or repetitive motion ailments exists for those within the field of administrative assistant. As with any career, always be certain of the associated health risks.
As industrial and office environments evolve, the qualifications and responsibilities of administrative assistants have changed significantly. Many employers now seek candidates with certification or degrees from administrative assistant programs. Administrative assistants are required to be proficient typists, have great interpersonal communication skills, and have a solid educational or experience related background. Training to become an administrative assistant may begin for students as early as high school. Many high schools offer vocational training programs geared at expanding business, office, and keyboarding skills necessary for future careers as administrative assistants. High school students who participate in courses like: English, accounting, keyboarding, communications, psychology, and mathematics acquire skills necessary for future administrative assistant positions. One to two year formal administrative assistant programs are offered through a variety of business, technical, vocational schools or community colleges. Most formal administrative assistant programs offer courses designed to enhance and expand office and typing skills and culminate with a certificate of achievement. Many community and online colleges offer two year programs with opportunities to increase training through courses like: transcription, bookkeeping, website design, project management, and computer technology. Many administrative assistants may specialize training to advance into medical, legal, or virtual assistant fields with courses geared at learning various facets of each industry. The International Association of Administrative Professions offers certification programs for administrative assistants to expand training and experience. Completion of certification programs offer designations including the Certified Professional Secretary and Certified Administrative Professional. Most certificate programs require candidates to possess a high school diploma or GED. Certificate programs include courses in keyboarding, business communications, information systems, spreadsheets, applications, human relations, desktop publishing, general accounting, interpersonal skills, and introduction to power point. Most certificate training programs are offered through trade or technical schools as well as community colleges and require a two semester time investment. Individuals may than continue to associate’s degree programs or find entry level employment as administrative assistants within a variety of businesses or agencies. Associate degree programs offered by traditional brick and mortar colleges or online universities offer a variety of options to specialize training or advance career objectives. Courses in administrative assistant educational programs consist of keyboarding, bookkeeping, transcription, website design, accounting, interpersonal skills, project management, computer technology, business communications technology, principles of finance, human relations in business, business mathematics, information systems management, and computer applications. Many administrative assistant associate’s degree programs require elective courses in foreign languages due to demographical changes within the business sector. Graduates from associate’s degree programs may then advance to licensing or certification programs or gain employment as administrative assistants. Higher degree programs have been largely phased out of most college curriculum’s. Those seeking a higher degree often must advance education in business related degree programs.
Many administrative assistants advance within an organization upon completion of on the job training programs, online educational programs, or seminars devised to expand or continue education. As office technologies change, administrative assistants are required to change as well. Most on the job training is offered by employees within the business or agency, as well as equipment or software vendors. Many administrative assistants are required to participate in programs to operate new office technology like information storage systems, scanners, or updated software packages. Many administrative assistants advance within an organization or agency through promotions into positions with increased responsibility. Administrative assistants may advance to upper level executive secretarial or executive administrative assistant positions, or clerical supervisory or office manager positions.