How to Begin a Professional Career as an Administrative Assistant

How to Begin a Professional Career as an Administrative Assistant
Administrative Assistant: A Quick Look
Median Salary $35,330 per year
$16.99 per hour
Entry-level education High-school diploma or equivalent
On-the-job training Yes (short-term)
Primary employers Healthcare and social assistance; Educational services (state, local, and private); Professional, scientific, and technical services; Government.
Number of positions (U.S.) 3,947,100
Job Growth (2010-2020) 12% (as fast as average)
New positions (2010-2020) +479,500

Begin a Professional Career as an Administrative Assistant

What Does An Administrative Assistant Do?

Administrative Assistants, also known as Secretaries, cover a wide range of professional categories. These professionals fulfill a variety of administrative tasks. They offer additional clerical support to other professional groups in a variety of professional organizations.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that median salary for an Administrative Assistant was $35,330 in 2012.

Becoming An Administrative Assistant

The entry level of educational attainment for an Administrative Assistant is a high school diploma or its equivalent. Certain employers may require an associate’s degree or certification. Administrative Assistant generally possess certain essential office and computer operating skills.


Job Outlook

The Bureau expects the Administrative Assistant position to grow by 12 percent over the next decade. This rate is in line with the average growth of all US positions from 2012 to 2022. The Bureau expects that job openings for the Administrative Assistant position will result from the need to replace workers who leave or retire from the occupation. Candidates with a both work experience and computer skills should have the upper hand.

Administrative Assistant Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for Administrative Assistants in 2012 was a little over $35,000 per year. Assistants working in the executive branch of a company tend to receive the best pay. The bottom 10 percent in this professional category earn less than $21,910 per year. The top 10 percent earn over $57,750 per year. Please note that salaries for Administrative Assistants may fluctuate depending on the industry one works in. Executive assistants typically earn $47,500 per year, Legal Secretaries earn $42,100 per year, and Medical Secretaries earn a median of $31,350 per year. The Bureau notes that most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time in an office environment. However, some assistants may work remotely. These virtual assistants usually enjoy a much more flexible schedule.

How To Become An Administrative Assistant

How Long Does It Take To Become An Administrative Assistant? Generally, any candidate with a high school diploma (or equivalent) and the necessary office skills can become an Administrative Assistant. Obviously, high school requires 4 years. On the job training is typically short term and only last for a few days (or weeks). Certain employers (or Administrative positions) may require a candidate hold a certification from a community college or trade school. More specialized positions in fields such legal or the medical practice might necessitate more training or specialization. Additionally, candidates may stand out from the competition with a two year associate's degree in Secretarial Science or a four bachelor's degree in Business Administration. The top position in this field, the executive administrative assistant, typically requires both relevant professional experience and some form of higher education.

Educational Requirements

High school typically prepares most candidates with the necessary office, English grammar, and computer skills necessary to become Administrative Assistants. Some employers may require a candidate possess specialized training through a course held by a trade school or a temporary recruiting office. Additionally, certain types of Administrative Assistant positions may require a candidate hold relevant two year associate's or four year bachelor's degree from a community college or university. Assistants typically receive associate's degrees in Secretarial Science or bachelor's degrees in Business Administration. Some of the highest positions in the Administrative Assistant family require higher education along with a quality clerical experience. Administrative Assistant candidates may choose to attain higher education in order to stand out from the rest of the competition in the job market. If you want to become a medical or a legal administrative assistant, you must typically undergo specialized training. Such jobs require candidates have a grasp of specific terminology and industry practices. You can take classes for these skills at community colleges or technical schools. While on the job as an administrative assistant, you will receive limited training. This generally involves learning how to use certain software, administrative procedures, and document drafting.


Employers typically don't require that Assistants possess certifications, licenses, or registrations. However, they items may prove useful in showcasing your skill and experience for potential employers. You can obtain the Certified Administrative Professional (or CAP) certificate from the International Association of Administrative Professionals. In order to be eligible, you must have at least two to four years of experience in the administrative field. This number varies depending on your level of education. Naturally, you must also pass the exam.

Administrative Assistant Job Description

Administrative Assistants, also known as Secretaries, cover a wide range of professional categories. These professionals fulfill a variety of administrative tasks. They offer additional clerical support to other professional groups in a variety of professional organizations. Among other things, they file folders, write (and record) messages, schedule organizational appointments, and fulfill clerical support tasks. They also work with spreadsheets, databases, presentations, reports, and written documents. Often times, these documents require knowledge of different software programs. Since the job also involves handling conference calls, faxes, and video conferences, Administrative Assistants must know how to operate dedicated machines. The field of Administrative Assistant is eclectic and broad. We've included some of the most frequently encountered types:
  • Executive Administrative Assistants. They handle complex administrative tasks. These tasks include document reviews, research, report writing, and supervision. The organization generally assigns them to the top executives.
  • Regular Administrative Assistants. Most administrative assistants and secretaries work in governmental organizations, schools, and private businesses. Schools place school secretaries in charge of supervising communication procedures between the parents, the teachers, school officials, school employees, and the community. These professionals schedule meetings, welcome visitors, and handle the record keeping within the institution.
  • Virtual assistants. They work from home and handle the communication administration needs for one or more clients, on a project basis. They work on long-term and short-term assignments. Since they work remotely and can afford to work flexible hours, they also handle clients from various lines of business.
Duties The typical duties of a secretary or administrative assistant involve:
  • Recording phone messages, answering and transferring calls, and ensuring communication.
  • Arranging meetings and appointments; scheduling organization calendars.
  • Scheduling company staff meetings.
  • Processing mail and faxes.
  • Writing memos, reports, and handling bills.
  • Editing various types of documents, including official company mails.
  • Negotiations with suppliers and vendors.
  • Bookkeeping.

Job Outlook

The Bureau expects Administrative Assistant and Secretary employment to grow by 12 percent in this decade. This pace is just around the national average of growth for all jobs. However, the rate differs from one occupational specialization to the next. There won't be much change for the job prospects of executive assistants. The Bureau believes that cost-cutting measures will force many companies and organization to assign a single executive assistant to multiple executive managers. In other organizations, company management is taking on some of the responsibilities of former administrative assistants to cut labor costs. Employment of legal assistants is expected to drop by 3 percent from 2012 to 2022 as a result of cost-cutting measures. The Bureau expects a 36 percent increase over the same span of time in the field of medical assistants. That’s because the federal health care reform will likely bring more insured patients into the system. The increase in aging populations will contribute to an increased need for professional Administrative Assistants. Overall, the need for Administrative Assistants is expected to grow by 13 percent by 2022. This pace is similar pace with the national average of 11 percent. The job requires a significant amount of interpersonal interaction. Therefore, the Bureau does not expect such professionals to be replaced by technology.

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