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Secretary Careers

Secretaries do more than just pick up a phone. In fact, they perform most of the clerical and administrative duties for the office. Since this kind of work is in high demand, secretaries can find work in nearly every industry.

Think of all the opportunities you'll have as a secretary. In addition, you'll have the freedom to choose what industry you want to work in. Hello, summer school breaks.

Many secretaries only work full-time hours, so around 40, but this also depends on what industry you work in. Some secretaries only keep school hours, which obviously includes any school breaks and off days. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

What Does a Secretary Do

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


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.

How To Become a Secretary

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.


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.


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.


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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Secretary Career Paths

Top Careers Before Secretary

15.7 %

Top Careers After Secretary

11.9 %

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Average Salary for a Secretary

Secretaries in America make an average salary of $38,579 per year or $19 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $49,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $30,000 per year.
Average Salary

Best Paying Cities

Average Salarydesc
Washington, DC
Salary Range45k - 66k$55k$54,516
Boston, MA
Salary Range41k - 55k$48k$48,083
East Hartford, CT
Salary Range39k - 53k$46k$45,725
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range35k - 52k$43k$43,249
New York, NY
Salary Range35k - 50k$42k$42,426
Urban Honolulu, HI
Salary Range40k - 43k$42k$41,900

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Secretary Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Secretary. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Secretary Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Secretary resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Secretary Demographics



83.5 %


12.2 %


4.4 %



69.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

15.5 %

Black or African American

9.3 %

Foreign Languages Spoken


62.8 %


8.5 %


3.0 %
See More Demographics

Secretary Education


25.7 %



29.7 %


25.1 %


18.2 %

Top Colleges for Secretarys

1. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

2. Western Carolina University

Cullowhee, NC • Public

In-State Tuition

3. Ball State University

Muncie, IN • Public

In-State Tuition

4. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

5. California State University - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, CA • Public

In-State Tuition

6. Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green, OH • Public

In-State Tuition

7. SUNY at Binghamton

Vestal, NY • Public

In-State Tuition

8. Cedar Crest College

Allentown, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

9. Villanova University

Villanova, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

10. Boston College

Chestnut Hill, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
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Top Skills For a Secretary

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 10.3% of secretaries listed customer service on their resume, but soft skills such as interpersonal skills and organizational skills are important as well.

  • Customer Service, 10.3%
  • Telephone Calls, 7.9%
  • Scheduling Appointments, 6.5%
  • Payroll, 5.8%
  • Office Supplies, 5.0%
  • Other Skills, 64.5%
  • See All Secretary Skills

Best States For a Secretary

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a secretary. The best states for people in this position are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and Vermont. Secretaries make the most in Massachusetts with an average salary of $48,095. Whereas in Connecticut and Maryland, they would average $45,876 and $44,733, respectively. While secretaries would only make an average of $44,428 in Vermont, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Massachusetts

Total Secretary Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. District of Columbia

Total Secretary Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Connecticut

Total Secretary Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Secretary Employers

1. State Farm
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2. Kelly Services
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3. Allstate
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4. United States Army
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5. H&R Block
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6. ManpowerGroup
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Updated October 2, 2020