Pros and Cons of a General Office Assistant Career
A general office assistant helps with basic office management tasks. To determine whether this is the right job for you, take a moment to read the pros and cons of being a general office assistant.
|Pros of Being a General Office Assistant|
|Office environment encourages interpersonal relationships with fellow staff, customers and clients*|
|Expected employment growth of 6% between 2012 and 2022*|
|Few education requirements (most jobs only require high school education)*|
|Wide variety of duties can keep the job interesting**|
|Cons of Being a General Office Assistant|
|May be part-time work only*|
|Not ideal for shy individuals*|
|Requires analytical and critical thinking skills, along with proper time management skills**|
|Must be familiar with computers, computer systems and office equipment**|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online
Job Description and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a general office assistant, also known as an 'office clerk', maintains an office by performing a myriad of clerical duties. Responsibilities vary in each office, but common duties include filing, data entry, sending faxes, copying papers and sorting mail (www.bls.gov). Office assistants may also answer phones, help executives, research questions, write memos and letters, create spreadsheets and manage calendars.
According to May 2014 data from the BLS, a general office clerk at that time earned a mean annual wage of $30,820, with the top 10% of earners bringing in about $46,000. These salaries also vary by field; a general receptionist, for example, may earn an average annual salary of $27,830, whereas an executive administrative assistant can earn an annual average salary of $53,590, according to the BLS.
What Are the Requirements?
According to the BLS and the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Center's online service, general office assistants need to know how to use current databases and computer operating system software. They must also be proficient in the use of office equipment, such as copiers, faxes, postage machines, phones, computers and typewriters (www.onetonline.org).
The BLS states that most office assistant positions require a high school diploma or equivalent. Most office clerk openings are entry-level positions. Advancement opportunities may come after gaining job experience or professional certification.
What do Employers Look for?
Employers often seek office assistants that can work on a part-time or temporary basis. Many employers require that applicants be able to answer phones and enter information into databases. Below are a few sample job postings for general office assistants found in May 2012:
- A California nonprofit needed a general office assistant to help the executive director. Duties included processing outgoing and incoming mail, delivering deposits to the bank and managing communications within the office. An associate's degree was required, but a bachelor's degree was preferred.
- A Texas manufacturing company sought a general office assistant who could perform a number of office duties, such as scanning and uploading pictures, filing, answering phones and data entry.
- An Illinois insurance company wanted to hire a general office assistant to help with data entry and clerical duties. They were looking for a fast typist who was confident working alone or on team projects.
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
Advancement as an office assistant is dependent upon a number of variables. The BLS states that an office assistant who displays excellent work-environment chemistry and a willingness to learn and test their analytical skills may be promoted or assigned specialized duties. Strengthening customer service and communication skills are also positive steps towards enhancing existing clerical skills. Finally, keeping up-to-date with the latest computer and software trends is essential for remaining competitive.
Other Fields to Consider
Secretary or Administrative Assistant
If you like helping out in an office, but do not want to work as a general office assistant, you might be interested in working as a secretary or administrative assistant. Secretaries and administrative assistants tend to work for one individual and help that person out with his or her specific job. This might involve organizing meetings, communicating with administrator contacts and performing clerical duties. The BLS calculates that an administrative assistant or secretary earned an annual average salary of $44,000 in 2010. However, the BLS notes that most of these workers have more experience than an office assistant and may even hold degrees or certificates in office administration from local community colleges.
If you want to work in a sociable setting, but do not want to perform the duties typically required of a general office assistant, you might consider working as a receptionist. Receptionists handle all incoming calls and data requests, such as e-mails, for a business or office, and then allocate the calls and emails to the appropriate employee. Receptionists generally need a high school diploma or equivalent. The BLS states that the average annual salary for receptionists in 2010 was $26,000.