How to Become an Administrative Assistant

All companies and organizations rely on administrative assistants for efficient operation and function. Administrative assistants perform and organize the administrative activities of their employers. They perform many clerical and other tasks to keep the office running smoothly.

What does an administrative assistant do?

Administrative assistants carry out many different tasks such as organizing paper and electronic files, sorting and distributing postal mail, faxes, and other documents, and scheduling meetings and appointments. They are typically responsible for typing, filling, copying, and faxing documents. They often answer telephones and screen people before their boss will meet with them. Some often complete research and carry out many tasks assigned by their boss or other superiors. They coordinate meetings and conferences and often prepare the needed documents for them. They also set up conference calls and prepare agendas.

Some administrative assistants negotiate with vendors, order and purchase supplies, retrieve data from many different sources, maintain and inspect leased equipment, and manage corporate libraries and stockrooms. Others provide orientation and training to new employees, operate and troubleshoot new technologies, and prepare reports. Some administrative assistants also supervise other clerical staff.

What kind of training does an administrative assistant need?

Administrative assistants must have at least a high school diploma, but an increasing amount of employers prefer applicants with formal training. Many vocational-technical schools, community colleges, and business schools offer 1 to 2 year programs and some colleges and universities offer bachelor degree programs. Most administrative assistants complete on the job training. Administrative assistants must stay up to date on technological advances and regularly complete continuing education and attend conferences and seminars to improve their skills.

Administrative assistants can earn a voluntary certification called the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). To become certified, applicants must meet minimum educational and experience requirements and pass an examination.

What are the prospects for a career as an administrative assistant?

Employment of administrative assistants is projected to grow as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Job growth will be driven by the growth in administrative and support services industries.

Job prospects are expected to be very good, especially for administrative assistants with formal training and extensive experience. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace administrative assistants that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do administrative assistants make?

As of September 2009, the middle 50% of administrative assistants earned annual salaries between $31,517 and $40,178. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $44,302 (2).

A career as an administrative assistant is an excellent choice for people interested in carrying out administrative tasks for organizations. Administrative assistants must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and great customer service skills. Administrative assistants must be tactful, proficient in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They must be versatile, adaptable, organized, have good judgment and be able to work independently and as part of a team.

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