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Become An Assistant

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Working As An Assistant

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Performing Administrative Activities
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • $54,768

    Average Salary

What Does An Assistant Do

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine clerical and administrative duties. They organize files, prepare documents, schedule appointments, and support other staff.

Duties

Secretaries and administrative assistants typically do the following:

  • Answer telephones and take messages or transfer calls
  • Schedule appointments and update event calendars
  • Arrange staff meetings
  • Handle incoming and outgoing mail and faxes
  • Prepare memos, invoices, or other reports
  • Edit documents
  • Maintain databases and filing systems, whether electronic or paper
  • Perform basic bookkeeping

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform a variety of clerical and administrative duties that are necessary to run an organization efficiently. They use computer software to create spreadsheets; manage databases; and prepare presentations, reports, and documents. They also may negotiate with vendors, buy supplies, and manage stockrooms or corporate libraries. Secretaries and administrative assistants also use videoconferencing, fax, and other office equipment. Specific job duties vary by experience, job title, and specialty.

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants provide high-level administrative support for an office and for top executives of an organization. They often handle more complex responsibilities, such as reviewing incoming documents, conducting research, and preparing reports. Some also supervise clerical staff.

Legal secretaries perform work requiring knowledge of legal terminology and procedures. They prepare legal documents, such as summonses, complaints, motions, and subpoenas under the supervision of an attorney or a paralegal. They also review legal journals and help with legal research—for example, by verifying quotes and citations in legal briefs.

Medical secretaries transcribe dictation and prepare reports or articles for physicians or medical scientists. They also take simple medical histories of patients, arrange for patients to be hospitalized, or process insurance payments. Medical secretaries need to be familiar with medical terminology and codes, medical records, and hospital or laboratory procedures.

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive is the largest subcategory of secretaries and administrative assistants. They handle an office’s administrative activities in almost every sector of the economy, including schools, government, and private corporations. For example, secretaries in schools are often responsible for handling most of the communications among parents, students, the community, teachers, and school administrators. They schedule appointments, receive visitors, and keep track of students’ records.

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How To Become An Assistant

High school graduates who have experience using computer software applications, such as word processing and spreadsheets, usually qualify for entry-level positions. Although most secretaries learn their job in several weeks, many legal and medical secretaries require additional training to learn industry-specific terminology. Executive secretaries usually need several years of related work experience.

Education

High school graduates can take courses in word processing and office procedures at technical schools or community colleges. Some temporary placement agencies also provide training in word processing, spreadsheet, and database software.

Some medical and legal secretaries learn industry-specific terminology and practices by attending courses offered at community colleges or technical schools. For executive secretary positions, employers increasingly prefer to hire those who have taken some college courses or have a bachelor’s degree.

Training

Secretaries and administrative assistants typically learn their skills through short-term on-the-job training, usually lasting a few weeks. During this time they learn about administrative procedures, including how to prepare documents. Medical and legal secretaries’ training may last several months as they learn industry-specific terminology and practices.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Executive secretaries can gain experience by working in administrative positions that have less challenging responsibilities. Many secretaries and administrative assistants advance to higher level administrative positions.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certification can demonstrate competency to employers.

The International Association of Administrative Professionals offers the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) certification. Candidates must have a minimum of 2 to 4 years of administrative work experience, depending on their level of education, and pass an examination.

Legal secretaries have several certification options. For example, those with 1 year of general office experience, or who have completed an approved training course, can acquire the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) certification through a testing process administered by NALS (previously known as National Association of Legal Secretaries). NALS also offers the Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) certification, considered to be an advanced certification for legal support professionals.

The Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) certification is conferred by Legal Secretaries International in areas such as intellectual property, criminal law, civil litigation, probate, and business law. Candidates typically need to have 5 years of legal experience and pass an examination to become certified.

Advancement

Secretaries and administrative assistants generally advance to other administrative positions with more responsibilities, such as office supervisor, office manager, or executive secretary.

With additional training, many legal secretaries become paralegals or legal assistants.

Important Qualities

Integrity. Many secretaries and administrative assistants are trusted to handle sensitive information. For example, medical secretaries collect patient data that is required, by law, to be kept confidential in order to protect patient privacy.

Interpersonal skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants interact with clients, customers, or staff. They should communicate effectively and be courteous when interacting with others to create a positive work environment and client experience.

Organizational skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants keep files, folders, and schedules in proper order so an office can run efficiently.

Writing skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants write memos and emails when communicating with managers, employees, and customers. Therefore, they must have good grammar, ensure accuracy, and maintain a professional tone.

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Assistant Career Paths

Average Length of Employment
Personal Secretary 2.9 years
Secretary 2.8 years
Regional Assistant 2.6 years
Staff Assistant 2.6 years
Process Assistant 2.4 years
Office Assistance 2.4 years
Business Assistant 2.3 years
Broker Assistant 2.3 years
Assistant Operator 2.3 years
Assistant Drafter 2.3 years
Assistant Analyst 2.1 years
Team Assistant 2.1 years
Service Assistant 2.1 years
Assistant 2.0 years
Program Assistant 2.0 years
General Assistant 2.0 years
Office Assistant 2.0 years
Data Assistant 1.9 years
Clerk/Assistant 1.9 years
Mailroom Assistant 1.9 years
Housing Assistant 1.8 years
Assistant Curator 1.8 years
College Assistant 1.8 years
Project Assistant 1.7 years
Student Worker 1.6 years
Art Assistant 1.6 years
Museum Assistant 1.5 years
Studio Assistant 1.5 years
Gallery Assistant 1.5 years
Field Assistant 1.4 years
Showroom Assistant 1.4 years
Costumer Assistant 1.3 years
Casting Assistant 1.1 years
Campaign Assistant 0.8 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 12.3%
Cashier 11.8%
Volunteer 6.3%
Manager 4.4%
Server 3.7%
Teacher 2.8%
Secretary 2.7%
Waitress 2.6%
Supervisor 2.2%
Top Employers After
Internship 10.2%
Cashier 9.9%
Manager 5.8%
Volunteer 5.0%
Server 4.6%
Teacher 3.7%
Associate 3.3%
Supervisor 2.5%
Specialist 2.4%

Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

60.5%

Male

36.5%

Unknown

2.9%
Ethnicity

White

76.5%

Hispanic or Latino

12.7%

Asian

8.4%

Unknown

1.8%

Black or African American

0.6%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.8%

French

11.7%

Chinese

5.6%

Mandarin

4.9%

German

4.3%

Italian

3.0%

Russian

2.7%

Japanese

2.5%

Portuguese

2.4%

Arabic

2.2%

Korean

1.8%

Cantonese

1.6%

Hindi

1.5%

Vietnamese

1.0%

Polish

0.8%

Urdu

0.8%

Greek

0.7%

Tagalog

0.7%

Hebrew

0.6%

Swedish

0.5%
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Assistant Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

16.6%

Liberty University

6.7%

Michigan State University

5.8%

Pennsylvania State University

4.8%

Florida State University

4.7%

Temple University

4.5%

New York University

4.5%

Kaplan University

4.4%

University of Alabama

4.2%

Ashford University

4.2%

West Virginia University

4.1%

Southern New Hampshire University

4.1%

Georgia State University

4.0%

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

4.0%

Arizona State University

4.0%

University of Central Florida

3.9%

Miami Dade College

3.9%

Syracuse University

3.9%

Grand Canyon University

3.8%

George Mason University

3.8%
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Majors

Business

21.8%

Psychology

8.8%

Criminal Justice

6.3%

Communication

5.8%

Accounting

5.4%

Nursing

5.2%

Biology

4.4%

Health Care Administration

3.9%

Medical Assisting Services

3.8%

English

3.7%

General Studies

3.7%

Education

3.6%

Marketing

3.5%

Management

3.2%

Liberal Arts

3.0%

Graphic Design

3.0%

Political Science

3.0%

Kinesiology

2.8%

Finance

2.8%

Computer Science

2.7%
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Degrees

Bachelors

41.4%

Other

27.2%

Masters

12.3%

Associate

10.8%

Certificate

4.4%

Doctorate

1.9%

Diploma

1.5%

License

0.5%
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Job type you want
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Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Assistant Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Assistant Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Jul 14, 2014 $193,600
Architectural Assistant DHD Architecture Design, PLLC New York, NY Jun 11, 2014 $100,000
Architectural Assistant DHD Architecture PC New York, NY Aug 11, 2015 $100,000
Physican Assistant Pelham Healthcare Associates, PLLC Pelham, NH Sep 24, 2013 $90,000
U.S. Equities Investment Assistant Jpmorgan Chase & Co. New York, NY Sep 13, 2016 $85,000
Physican Assistant Southern Maryland Pulmonary & Critical Care Pa Whitehaven, MD Sep 01, 2015 $80,000 -
$90,000
Assistant (Astp) Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Jan 07, 2016 $77,500
Assistant (Astp) The Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Jan 07, 2016 $77,500
Assistant Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Jul 01, 2015 $77,500
Assistant Perella Weinberg Partners Group LP New York, NY Nov 16, 2014 $76,461 -
$85,000
Plant Assistant All American POLY, Corp. Piscataway, NJ Jun 04, 2016 $73,362
Assistant/Professor Lamar University Beaumont, TX Sep 01, 2014 $70,656
Reseach Assistant W. H. Reaves & Co Inc. Jersey City, NJ Sep 03, 2014 $67,205
Assistant In University of South Florida Tampa, FL Mar 01, 2016 $65,000
Statistician Assistant University of Kentucky Lexington, KY Dec 15, 2015 $51,834
Flame Assistant Click 3X LLC New York, NY Sep 16, 2016 $51,591
Assistant Pacific Union College Angwin, CA Nov 01, 2014 $51,409
Assistant Winemaker Berkshire Winery LLC Pittsfield, MA Aug 01, 2014 $50,000
Assistant BJX LLC New York, NY Jul 01, 2014 $50,000
Assistant University of Rochester Rochester, NY Jan 15, 2015 $50,000
Assistant CAO Maharishi University of Management Fairfield, IA Aug 01, 2016 $49,464
Grants Assistant Research Foundation of Cuny New York, NY Jan 07, 2016 $37,000
Cabinet Drafter Assistant Hammer and Wood Hawthorne, CA Oct 31, 2016 $36,585
Greens Tournament Assistant Oakmont Country Club Oakmont, PA Sep 08, 2015 $36,432
Auto Repair Assistant SK Tops Auto Body, Inc. Fullerton, CA Apr 22, 2016 $35,610
Subsidiary Rights Assistant New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. New York, NY Jan 09, 2016 $35,250
Professor Assistant American Education Center, Inc. New York, NY Sep 10, 2014 $35,249
Export Assistant Haykingdom Inc. Winters, CA Sep 20, 2016 $35,229

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Top Skills for An Assistant

CustomerServiceSkillsProceduresSafeEnvironmentAssistanceDataEntryPhoneCallsFinancialStatementsPayrollLabSchedulingAppointmentsSupervisePowerpointCommunicationSkillsFrontDeskWindowsFoodPreparationOfficeSuppliesVitalSignsSetupTemporary

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Top Assistant Skills

  1. Customer Service Skills
  2. Procedures
  3. Safe Environment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed high customer service skills.
  • Performed full service banking transactions in compliance with legal requirements and bank policies and procedures.
  • Maintained a safe environment for children and help prepare them for school.
  • Provide assistance to passengers with special needs Provide assistance to people with large bags.
  • Light administrative work such as filing, copying, and data entry.

Top Assistant Employers