A Clerical Secretary Career: Pros and Cons
If you're naturally inclined towards communicating and have an eye for detail, work as a clerical secretary may be for you. Check out the pros and cons of the field to find out if it is the right fit for you.
|Pros of a Clerical Secretary Career|
|Educational requirements are minimal (in most cases, only a high school diploma is required)*|
|On-the-job training is usually available*|
|Virtual job opportunities *|
|Full-time work in comfortable office settings*|
|Cons of a Clerical Secretary Career|
|Average growth for non-specialized secretaries (13% from 2012-2022)|
|Work may be repetitive*|
|Must remain pleasant regardless of emotional climate in office*|
|Required multi-tasking may be stressful *|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Essential Career Info
Job Description and Duties
Clerical secretaries, also known as administrative assistants, complete day-to-day organizational and clerical tasks to keep their office running smoothly. They answer phones, work on computers and manage correspondence. Often they communicate with vendors, order office supplies and manage filing systems. Clerical secretaries manage materials and information using spreadsheets, filing systems and software programs. They also proofread documents and perform additional tasks as delegated by staff members.
To work in this field, you must feel comfortable working with computers and other office equipment. Clerical secretaries often use complex copiers, fax machines and multi-line phone systems. Some clerical secretaries work in virtual positions. This allows them to work from any location, including their home. Clerical secretaries who work virtually must manage communications using e-mail and phone correspondence. They may need knowledge of industry-specific database software.
Career Prospects and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical and executive, would see average growth from 2012-2022. Growth is expected to remain steady largely because the duties of secretaries are not easily automated. The BLS also stated that most clerical secretaries earned between $20,000 and $50,000, as of May 2014. The industries with the highest levels of employment were elementary and secondary schools, local government and colleges.
What Are the Requirements?
Clerical secretaries are generally required to have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for entry-level positions. Grammar skills, computer competency and strong communication skills are necessary at all levels. Typically, you will learn your job through on-the-job training. You also may need specialized knowledge of computers and office technology. Additional, skills that may be necessary include:
- Time management
- Customer service
- Written and oral communication
- Problem sensitivity
- Information ordering
What Employers Are Looking for
As demonstrated by the job postings below, clerical assistants can work in many industries and take on varied responsibilities. While not all encompassing, these Monster.com postings will give you an idea of what real employers were looking for in April 2012:
- A hospital in Miami is hiring a secretary who is fluent in both Spanish and English to support their administrative staff. Applicants must be able to perform internal and external communications, follow complicated instructions and use Microsoft Suite effectively.
- In Houston, TX, a long-term contract position is open for a data-entry, clerical and administrative staff person. Candidates must be able to perform filing, billing, correspondence and additional clerical tasks.
- In Ohio, a clerical office position is open in a growing company. Candidates need at least three years of experience, strong keyboarding and communication skills and data entry experience. Applicants with experience in a technical or manufacturing environment are preferred.
- In Baltimore, MD, a financial company seeks an administrative and clerical assistant to handle accounts payable and receivable, create letters and memos and manage reception. Ideal candidates will have at least two years of experience and excellent communication skills.
How to Make Your Skills Stand out
Since a high school diploma is generally the only educational requirement, candidates can stand out by having some post-secondary schooling. Certificate and vocational programs are available at community colleges or technical schools. Coursework in English grammar, communications and office skills suit the needs of a clerical secretary career.
Clerical secretaries can also stand out from the rest by familiarizing themselves with the terminology and practices within their industry. For example, you can become specialized in the field of medicine through the completion of postsecondary education. Specialization in the field may open the door to advanced job opportunities in medical offices. You can also choose to become specialized as a legal or executive secretary for more advanced opportunities.
Clerical secretaries working in specialized fields can benefit from gaining certification. Legal secretaries, for example, can gain Accredited Legal Secretary Specialist status by completing a training program and passing an exam. Additionally, the Legal Secretaries International offers the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist credential.
Other Fields to Consider
Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks
If you'd like to apply your organizational skills to a career, but don't want the communication responsibilities of a clerical secretary, you may want to consider a career in bookkeeping. This position requires you to track the expenses and earnings of your employer and produce financial records. Bookkeepers generally need only a high school diploma. Growth for this career is expected to be 14% between 2010 and 2020, stated the BLS. On average, individuals working in this field earned an annual salary of $36,000, as of May 2011.
Paralegal and Legal Assistants
If the average salary of a clerical secretary is lower than what you would like to earn, you may want to work as a paralegal. In this position, you will support lawyers by performing research, managing files and writing documents. Average yearly earnings for paralegals were around $50,000 as of May 2011, stated the BLS. To enter this career candidates usually need an associate's degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in a similar field. According to the BLS, the growth in this field is expected to reach 18% from 2010-2020.
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
You may also consider working in the fast-growing field of medical records. Positions in this sector are expected to grow at a rate of 21% from 2010-2020. In this field, you will manage both paper and electronic filing systems to ensure that medical information and patient records are organized, accurate and secure. To enter this field, most employers require an associate's degree in health information technology. As of May 2011, the average yearly salaries were around $36,000 for individuals working in this field, stated the BLS.