Administrative assistants (sometimes also referred to as secretaries) perform routine clerical and organizational tasks. They organize files, draft messages, schedule appointments, and support other staff. Although administrative assistants work in nearly every industry, many are concentrated in schools, hospitals, government agencies, and legal and medical offices.
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The work of an administrative assistant typically involves the following:
Administrative assistants use computer software to create spreadsheets, compose messages, manage databases, and produce presentations, reports, and documents. They also may negotiate with vendors, buy supplies, manage stockrooms or corporate libraries, and get data from various sources. Specific job duties vary by experience, job title, and specialty.
High school graduates can get basic office, computer, and English grammar skills in various ways: through high school vocational education programs, vocational–technical schools, or community colleges. Many temporary placement agencies also provide formal training in computer and office skills.
Employers of more specialized positions, including medical and legal secretaries, often require applicants to have some knowledge of industry-specific terminology and practices. Community colleges and vocational-technical schools usually offer instruction in these areas. Though not required, certification can demonstrate competency to employers. Legal secretaries have a few certification options. Legal Secretaries International confers the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) designation in areas such as intellectual property, criminal law, civil litigation, probate, and business law to those who have five years of legal experience and pass an examination. In some instances, certain requirements may be waived.
Although administrative assistants work in nearly every industry, many are concentrated in schools, hospitals, government agencies, and legal and medical offices. Most work full time in comfortable office settings. Virtual assistants typically work from a home office.
The median annual wage for administrative assistants was $34,660 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $21,730, and the top 10% earned more than $55,960.