How to Become a Secretary

For all companies and organizations to function efficiently it is mandatory to have trained professionals to carry out administrative and clerical tasks. These professionals must deal with paperwork and filing and many other duties. This is the job of secretaries.

What does a secretary do?

Secretaries perform and coordinate many different administrative tasks such as storing, retrieving, and incorporating information for distribution to staff and clients. They are responsible for answering telephones and taking messages, planning and scheduling appointments and meetings, managing projects, organizing and maintaining electronic and paper files, carrying out research, and distributing information via telephone, paper mail, email, and Web sites. They may also be responsible for handling travel and guest arrangements and accommodations.

Secretaries use many different office equipment including telephone systems, videoconferencing systems, photocopiers, fax machines, and scanners. They also commonly use computers to perform managerial tasks such as creating spreadsheets, reports, presentations, and documents using digital graphics and software. They often manage databases and create correspondence.

What kind of training does a secretary need?

Secretaries have at least a high school diploma and basic office skills. Many secretaries complete high school vocational education programs that provide instruction on typing and office skills. Some secretaries complete 1 and 2-year programs in office administration. These programs are usually offered by community colleges and vocational-technical and business schools. Many employers provide on the job training. Secretaries in specialty areas must go through more extensive training. Nowadays, many employers who are seeking executive secretaries require applicants to have a college degree in business or related field. Many secretaries participate in online education and attend classes to learn about new technologies and software.

Some organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, offer testing and certification examinations for secretaries to demonstrate their proficiency in office skills.

What are the prospects for a career as a secretary?

Employment of secretaries is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Employment will vary by specialty, but the most opportunities will arise in the health care and social assistance industries. Job growth will also be driven by the need to replace workers who retire or leave the field for other reasons.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for secretaries with extensive experience and a bachelor degree. Prospects will also be great for secretaries that have widespread knowledge of software applications.

How much do secretaries make?

As of July 2009, the middle 50% of secretaries earned annual salaries between $28,249 and $36,183. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $40,107 (2).

A career as a secretary is a great choice for individuals who have good spelling, typing, oral communication, grammar, and punctuation skills. Excellent customer service and interpersonal skills are also essential qualities because secretaries must be polite when dealing with people. Being adaptable, versatile, organized, and having good judgment are also desirable qualities.

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