Administrative Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of becoming an administrative assistant? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if pursuing this career path is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an Administrative Assistant Career

Administrative assistants perform many duties related to daily office operations including handling communications, managing information and providing service to clients. Check out the pros and cons below to find out if a career as an administrative assistant is right for you.

Pros of an Administrative Assistant Career
Often only a high school diploma is needed for entry-level jobs*
Projected growth for administrative assistants in all fields (12% from 2012-2022)*
Jobs available in nearly every industry*
Full-time opportunities in office settings*

Cons of an Administrative Assistant Career
Must keep up with advances in technology**
Must juggle multiple priorities within certain periods **
Increased workloads due to corporate downsizing**
The job may be stressful at times **

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **International Association of Administrative Professionals

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Administrative assistants are responsible for coordinating communications by answering and making phone calls, responding to and sending emails, updating information on websites and providing customer service to vendors and clients. They also schedule meetings, order supplies and organize filing systems. Keen computer skills are necessary for administrative assistants, as they must use a variety of computer software programs to prepare reports, presentations and spreadsheets. Virtual assistants telecommute, performing similar tasks from a home office.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), general administrative assistants (except legal, medical and executive) earned a mean annual salary of $34,500 in May 2014. Administrative assistants working in executive offices earned more, averaging wages of $53,590 per year.

The number of employed administrative assistants is expected to increase at an average rate of 12% for the period between 2012 and 2022. However, these job predictions include executive administrative assistants, legal secretaries, medical secretaries and all other administrative assistants. Additionally, the BLS projected that executive administrative assistants may see a 1% decline, while secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical and executive, may see a 13% growth. Although employment projections are not particularly high, many job opportunities will be available due to the high turnover rate of administrative assistants.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

Many entry-level positions only require a high school diploma, but those with bachelor's degrees will have more job opportunities and be more likely to get higher-paying jobs as executive assistants. Some community colleges and vocational schools offer office administration programs with courses in computer software such as QuickBooks, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Additionally, students will explore concepts in office relations, keyboarding and business correspondence. Because every office has its own methods of accomplishing goals, on-the-job training is common in this field.

Useful Skills

Administrative assistants need good verbal and written communication skills, as well as extensive knowledge of database management, spreadsheet and word processing software. Strong customer relations and interpersonal skills are also important because you'll have to interact with customers, clients and other employees on a regular basis. Being organized and able to handle multiple tasks at once is also vital to the position.

What Do Employers Look For?

Employers typically look for candidates with strong computer skills and experience working with specific programs. Other common qualifications include communication skills, attention to detail and the ability to multitask. In some cases, only a high school degree is needed, while other jobs require a bachelor's degree. The list below outlines a few examples of job openings posted by real employers in March 2012:

  • A consulting firm in New York was looking for an administrative assistant with four years of work experience and a college degree or some postsecondary education. Excellent communication and computer skills, the ability to meet deadlines and attention to detail were other requirements.
  • A public library in Florida advertised for a full-time administrative assistant that had completed high school and 1 year of work experience in an office. The job required communication and organizational skills, computer program knowledge and the ability to follow instructions.
  • A rehabilitation center in Texas was seeking an administrative assistant with six months of experience working with disabled people. The employer was looking for someone with a high school diploma or GED and preferred someone with college experience. Skills in communication, computers, customer service and multitasking were required.
  • A manufacturing company in Illinois advertised for an executive administrative assistant with five years of experience and a bachelor's degree. The job required the ability to multitask, think analytically and work both independently and as part of a team.

How to Maximize Your Skills

Additional Training

One of the best ways to expand your knowledge and stand out in the field is to seek out additional training. Many professional associations offer training classes in computer programs and other skills that are helpful to administrative assistants. The Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals (AEAP) offers web-based seminars and audio conferences on various topics, including computer software, note-taking and time management. The American Society of Administrative Professionals (ASAP) provides a video learning series, as well as online seminars on topics such as minimizing interruptions, making travel arrangements and handling emotional situations at work.

Get Certified

If you want something concrete to prove that you've put extra time into your career, you might consider getting a certificate. The ASAP has a certificate program that offers both online and local classes. The program emphasizes several areas, including communication skills, office technology, management skills and professional development. You may also take an exam through the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) to receive the Certified Administrative Professional certification. The IAAP program also offers a specialty in technology applications.

Alternative Career Paths

Bookkeeping, Accounting or Auditing Clerk

Those with good math skills might want to pursue a position as a bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk. You would manage financial accounts as well as prepare financial statements and reports. Like administrative assistants, bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks can expect numerous job opportunities in a variety of industries. Jobs in this field typically require a high school diploma or an associate's degree in accounting or business. The BLS reported that bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks earned a mean annual salary of $36,000 as of May 2011.

Administrative Service Manager

If you're looking for a higher-paying career in a similar field, you might consider a job as an administrative services manager. People in these positions are in charge of the administrative activities of an office. They supervise support staff, oversee budgets and maintain facilities. As an administrative services manager, you have more responsibilities; however, there is more competition for jobs. The upside is that you will make significantly more money. According to the BLS, administrative services managers earned an average salary of $87,000 per year as of May 2011, and the education requirements include a high school diploma and 1-5 years of related work experience.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Custom/General
      • Master of Business Administration - Multiple Concentrations
      • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Operations Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
      • BS - Business Administration - General
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Dual MBA-MHA
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Business Admin.
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Applied Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Seton Hall University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
    Bachelor's
      • Business Administration, BA - Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - General
      • Master of Business Administration - Undecided
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Management

Featured Schools

University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Business Administration - Custom/General
  • Master of Business Administration - Multiple Concentrations

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Business Studies
  • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

Are you a US citizen?

The University of Scranton

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Dual MBA-MHA

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MBA
  • BS in Business Admin.
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Seton Hall University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
  • Business Administration, BA - Management
  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

What is your highest level of education?