Professional practices, schools, stores and other offices rely on equipment, supplies, technology and delivery systems, electronic and non-electronic. The office assistant job description requires such an employee, also known as a general office clerk, to use these tools. By having the skills, education, training and experience necessary to perform the job duties, an office assistant helps other office workers receive mail and communications, send work product and hold meetings and other events.
Job Overview: What Does an Office Assistant Professional Do?
The office assistant job description features a blend of duties which require organization, the ability to understand messages and directions, and promptly delivering communications to office staff. The office assistant contributes to efficient operations by keeping needed items stocked and equipment working properly.
Office Assistant Job Duties
- Transmit documents via facsimile, email, regular mail and overnight or express delivery service.
- Answer and then direct telephone calls, facsimiles and emails.
- Take messages from clients and also other callers.
- Retrieve, sort and deliver incoming mail to staff and professionals in office.
- Deliver outgoing mail or items to post office or overnight delivery depositories.
- Troubleshoot and alert supervisor, office manager or upper-level management about problems with equipment.
- Place correct postage on outgoing mail.
- Type, proofread, format or edit documents as needed, from dictation machines or handwritten notes.
- Copy, scan and organize documents.
- Monitor need to replenish supplies.
- Schedule appointments as needed.
- Reserve space for conferences and meetings.
- Prepare invoices and bills.
With respect to duties, the office assistant job description may vary by type of employer. For example, office assistants in health care offices may need to process insurance, Medicare and Medicaid payment requests or send prescriptions. In law offices, the assistant’s duties may include taking documents to the courthouse for filing or recording deeds and other property records. Office assistants in stores might need to answer questions about store merchandise or policies or engage in minor sales activities.
Office Assistant Essential Job Skills
Communication. The office assistant job description involves the ability to listen. Instructions must be followed and messages are to be relayed. Moreover, an office assistant must be able to understand these communications.
Organization. Office assistants need organizational skills to sort mail by recipients and group files and documents for easy access. With scheduling calendars or software, the office assistant can avoid double-booking conference rooms or appointments. Being organized also helps the office assistant and other office staff find supplies.
Detail-Oriented. Many of the tasks of office assistants require considerable attention to details. For instance, with the ability to be detail-oriented, the office assistant can properly apply postage, prepare bills and type documents. Concentration helps office assistants catch all the necessary details.
Becoming an Office Assistant
Office assistants usually qualify by gaining necessary skills through education and training. While a college education is not regarded as a prerequisite, knowledge of computers, technology and terminology in the particular industry can help office assistants land positions.
Qualifications and Training
Generally, office assistants hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Typically, a college education is not part of the office assistant job description. However, to perform the job duties, office assistants may need classes in high school or community college with word processors, databases and spreadsheets.
Employers normally provide on-the-job training for office assistants. The training usually takes no more than one month. Generally, topics include use of phone systems, copiers and other office equipment, etiquette and the preferred manner addressing and responding to callers or visitors to the office.
Required or preferred work experience varies by employer. Generally, an office assistant should have at least one year of work history in an office setting or doing administrative tasks, such as answering phones, typing documents or using computers.
For those seeking jobs in retail stores, experience in a retail setting may be helpful. Office assistants may need prior work experience in a particular type of office or field, such as legal or medical. For example, office assistants in a law practice may be hired with prior work history in a court or governmental setting.
Normally, office assistants work full-time. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only a fourth of office assistants hold part-time positions.
Shifts normally run on weekdays during traditional day-time hours. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Healthcare and Social Assistance” settings accounted for 12 percent of office assistants, while educational institutions employed 12 percent. With many of these office assistant positions being governmental, irregular work hours typically are rare. Even in facilities that operate around the clock, the business office normally is open only during regular weekday hours. Accordingly, office assistants in the administrative or business office should not expect evenings or weekends as a general rule.
However, office assistants who work in retail settings may have nights, evenings or weekends. Retail stores often are open at least evenings and weekends, with some operating 24 hours.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the office assistant field should experience employment growth of three percent, or 95,800 jobs, through 2024. O*NET projects job openings of 756,200 through 2024.
Technology plays a role in the slower job growth. With a trend toward office automation comes a lesser need for the services of office clerks. For instance, automated phone systems, rather than humans, can answer and direct phone calls. Using email, instant messaging or texts, office staff or professionals can receive messages and documents directly.
The health care field affords strong prospects for employment of office assistants, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of May 2015, physicians’ offices employed 79,450, ranking fifth among employment sectors. In clinics and physicians’ offices, office clerks submit claims to health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid. Other administrative tasks include billing patients, calling pharmacies and otherwise transmitting prescriptions and scheduling appointments for patients.
Local governments led employment of office assistants, at 169,700. Elementary and secondary schools, along with colleges, universities and professional schools combined to fill 252,010 office assistants positions. “Employment Services” accounted for 168,710 of these workers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, office clerks made on average $31,890 per year.
In conclusion, office assistants deliver various types of messages and communications, keep supply rooms stocked; copy, scan, fax or email documents. They also send bills and perform tasks as directed or needed by other staff or required in the office assistant job description.
As technology allows automated answering services and digital transmission of documents, office assistants may become in less demand. However, strong prospects exist in fields such as health, where office assistants bill patients and third-parties. In medical and other specific professional settings, the office assistant may need some familiarity with basic terminology of that profession. Education may also prove a solid ground for office assistant employment. You can explore this field, by reading about the office manager job description.