Administrative Assistant Job Description

Administrative assistant job highlights

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  • On average, secretaries make around $13 per hour
  • Administrative and executive assistants can make up to $30 per hour
  • You will spend most of your time on the computer
  • Having additional education will give you a leg up

What do administrative assistants do?

If the tippity tap of keyboards is music to your ears, then you've got a future as an administrative assistant. As a secretary or administrative assistant, you could be working anywhere: corporate settings, government agencies, legal and medical offices, schools, hospitals, you name it.

Who better to tell you what administrative assistants do than the best one around? Jessica Bennett, Executive Assistant to Shawn Boyer (the CEO of Snagajob) says this about her job: "I assist the CEO in managing his daily activities, from monitoring his calendar to performing administrative duties, as well as working to manage basic office needs, working with the marketing department to plan conferences and seminars and assisting Snaggers with whatever they may need."

So there you have it. For the most part, a job as an administrative assistant requires you to structure someone else's (typically an executive's) day by coordinating their appointments, taking messages, and sending emails on their behalf.

Office support jobs, such as a receptionist or secretary, will probably have you doing a variety of tasks such as answering a more general phone line, mail delivery, copying, collating, and other tasks. These positions are more entry-level and require much less experience.

As with most front office jobs, you'll be spending a lot of time typing your heart out in front of a computer screen, so if you think you'll be bothered by eye strain, or back problems from sitting all day, this probably isn't the job for you. You'll need to be a self-starter with a high attention to detail, who isn't easily distracted by things like instant messenger or Google. It's a jungle out there in computerland and it's really easy to get lost.

How much do administrative assistants make?

The average hourly pay for all administrative assistant roles is around $20 per hour, but will vary by experience and location. Skill level is the biggest differentiator in pay. Those in secretarial and office support roles usually make around $13 per hour, whereas executive assistants can make upwards of $30 per hour.

What are the education requirements to be an administrative assistant?

A high school diploma or GED and some basic office skills are necessary training for most entry-level administrative assistant positions. There are one- and two-year vocational programs available for additional training for office administrative support roles that will help you gain the skills you'll need to succeed in this position.

Employers of executive secretaries are starting to look more and more for candidates with college degrees. Many of these secretaries work closely with high-level executives, so a degree related to the business of the company would be appropriate. Even if a degree isn't required, it's often preferred, and will provide you a leg up when applying.

Career paths for administrative assistants

For administrative assistants, there isn't really a straightforward ladder to climb. Experienced admins will move into more advanced administrative positions with more responsibilities, such as office manager jobs. Those who make the effort to learn about their company's operations and commit to enhancing their skill set may be promoted to positions with more seniority (senior assistants) or manager roles.

The future of administrative assistant jobs

According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), job opportunities for secretaries are growing at an average pace. Fast-growing fields such as healthcare and social services require administrative roles to support their growth. The increased use of technology and automation will make administrative assistants more productive, but not obsolete.

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