Organizer, secretary and gatekeeper constitute part of the administrative assistant job description. Employees in this field help manage the time and work of their superiors. With commercial and professional sectors becoming more specialized, administrative assistants must learn and stay informed on the terminology, forms and tools their supervisors employ or invoke in their own work.
Job Overview: What Does an Administrative Assistant Do?
Administrative assistants support the work of their supervisors and professionals. In the support role, they keep schedules clear and manageable, files organized, and communicate with a variety of people and parties. The administrative assistant job description involves following the directions of superiors in preparing documents and records.
Administrative Assistant Job Duties
- Answer and direct phone calls to other employees and supervisors or voice mails.
- Schedule appointments, itineraries and meetings of managers and other professionals.
- Update calendars with appointments, meetings, deadlines and reminders.
- Arrange meetings of staff.
- Prepare documents such as memoranda, invoices, reports and letters.
- Maintain and organize case files and records of clients, students, patients or particular matters.
- Mail, fax or email documents and messages.
- Log the arrival and departure of clients, visitors and students.
The types of documents assistants prepare may depend on the field. For example, legal assistants may type or draft, under an attorney’s supervision and for their review, complaints, motions, orders, subpoenas and agreements. In medical practices, administrative assistants may craft basic medical histories and also help physicians prepare reports or articles.
Executive administrative assistants may even review incoming documents and also perform research.
Administrative Assistant Essential Skills
Organization. Administrative assistants must keep files maintained and their contents readily accessible. Organization generally include filing documents by type, in chronological order or by subject matter. To keep the professional or executive from missing deadlines or having conflicts, assistants need to record appointments or deadlines when set.
Integrity. In legal and medical practices, administrative assistants handle sensitive and often confidential information. The posting, discussion or publication of such information could jeopardize cases, embarrass clients and violate laws and regulations.
Typing. Administrative assistants need skills in typing and using machines that transcribe dictation. Furthermore, the administrative assistant job description for many employers may include the ability of the assistant to type a minimum number of words per minute.
Computers. With paperless business transactions and practice taking prominence, administrative assistants must be skilled with using computers, email and scanners. Documents may take various electronic formats, such as portable document files (pdf), images and word processing documents.
Communication. Listening is a major part of the administrative assistant job description. Professionals, executives and supervisors instruct administrative assistants what tasks to perform and how they are performed. Clients, opposing lawyers, staff from other offices or establishments leave messages during phone calls. Administrative assistants must inform clients about appointments or may repeat instructions or messages from the executive or professional.
Becoming an Administrative Assistant
While administrative assistants may have the same general tasks and skills, their assignments will turn on the sector in which they are employed. The education and training of administrative assistants are, therefore, tailored to that industry or sector.
Qualifications & Training
A high school diploma with courses using computer word processors and typing can land assistants in entry-level jobs in many offices. Employers may prefer applicants who have taken post-secondary courses in the field in which the manager or professional works. For example, legal assistants take community college courses to learn legal terms and types of legal documents such as subpoenas, pleadings and instruments. In medical offices, assistants may need classes dealing with medical terminology.
With the advanced level of work they perform, executive administrative assistants might have bachelor degrees.
The length of training depends on the type of office. Establishments that perform general services or retail might train assistants in only a few days or a couple of weeks. In professions such as legal or medical, administrative assistants might undergo several weeks of training if not already experienced.
The accumulation of work experience can help administrative assistants advance into more senior roles or gain certifications. For instance, candidates need two to four years of work experience to qualify for the Certified Administrative Professional tag.
With a one year of general office, administrative assistants can take a test through NALS to gain Accredited Legal Professional status. Those who have five years experience can qualify to become a Certified Legal Secretary Specialist through Legal Secretaries International. These certified assistants might work for attorneys who practice in business, criminal, intellectual property, probate and civil litigation law.
Generally, administrative assistants work full time. However, certain offices may employ part-time assistants.
In fact, for full-time administrative assistants, shifts typically track office hours. In law offices, insurance agencies and financial establishments, administrative assistants usually work from 8 am to 5 pm. On the other hand, school secretaries may report as early as 7:30 am and finish around mid-afternoon, depending on the school. In some medical offices or establishments that operate longer hours, assistants may have evening, night or weekend shifts.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says employment of administrative assistants will grow by three percent, or 118,000 new jobs, from 2014 to 2024. Professions such as law and those employers who might use executive administrative assistants may stunt the growth considerable.
There could be 44,600 less executive administrative positions and 8,900 less legal secretaries from 2014 to 2024. In these fields, assistants generally serve multiple managers or professionals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest projected growth of administrative assistant jobs will come in the health sector. As a result, medical secretary jobs could increase 21 percent from 2014 to 2024. An increasing population of elderly Americans will certainly bring a demand for medical secretaries who can bill Medicare and Social Security. Increased access to health insurance coverage will also drive demand for medical services and medical secretaries.
As of May 2015, the average salary for administrative assistants, other than medical and legal secretaries, was $35,200 per year, or $16.92 per hour. Medical secretaries earned on average $16.50 per hour, or $34,330 per year. For legal secretaries, the averages are $22.34 per hour and $46,470 per year.
Technology shapes many of the administrative assistants’ job duties. The administrative assistant job description portrays the use of computers to prepare documents and manage schedules and workloads of managers and professionals. Organization and listening to instructions play a major role in the administrative assistant’s work.
To conclude, the best job prospects lie in the medical field. Administrative assistants with experience and skills tailored to particular professions or with certifications may enjoy a competitive advantage in finding work.