Office Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about an office assistant's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of an office assistant career.
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An Office Assistant Career: Pros and Cons

Office assistants are responsible for completing a wide variety of tasks while providing courteous, professional customer service. Decide if becoming an office assistant is a career that you would like to pursue by checking out the pros and cons below.

Pros of an Office Assistant Career
Minimal education requirements (typically only a high school diploma is required)*
Many employers offer on-the-job training*
Part-time and temporary positions are available for flexible work schedules*
Opportunities for advancement after gaining work experience*

Cons of an Office Assistant Career
Increased use of technology in the workplace may reduce the need for people in this position*
Average salary for office assistants is less than for secretaries*
Additional computer training could be required to increase employability*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

Office assistants typically spends their days completing various administrative tasks, including faxing, photocopying, filing, answering phones and maintaining inventories. Office assistants usually need to use a computer, especially for word processing. Because of the nature of the career, you should possess organizational skills and have an eye for detail.

You may be responsible for proofreading, editing and typing documents, as well as handling incoming and outgoing mail. Office assistants may order supplies and services in addition to keeping records. You may also make travel arrangements, handle customer complaints and deliver messages.

Job Growth and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected general office assistant jobs to grow at an average rate of 12% from 2012-2022. According to Salary.com, the median annual salary for office assistants was nearly $38,000, as of 2015.

Education Requirements

Typically, you'll need only a high school diploma to qualify for this position. Though experience can lead to advancement, some more advanced secretarial-oriented positions may still need you to have an undergraduate degree. Undergraduate programs provide you with knowledge in accounting, management, business and keyboarding. Important skills for office assistants include active listening, time management and speech clarity.

Job Postings From Real Employers

Handling mail, answering telephones and taking messages, data entry and scheduling are all tasks that employers typically include in the job description. Both education and experience requirements vary based on the position; however, the majority of employers require a combination of experience and at least a high school diploma. Below you can find some job openings for office assistants that were available in April 2012:

  • A non-profit agency located in Chicago is looking for a level one office assistant. Those interested in applying should have a high school diploma and 0-2 years of experience in reception and office duties.
  • A staffing firm advertised for a general office assistant to fill a temporary position in New York City. Applicants should be able to use Microsoft Office Suite programs, as well as Lotus Notes.
  • An international architecture firm in San Francisco is looking for an office assistant for their accounting department. Applicants are required to have a college degree and at least one year of work experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

To increase your employability, you may want to consider building specialized skill sets or gaining work experience. Office assistants with strong communication, customer-service and computer skills may be more in demand in the job market. Additionally, since you will be working closely with others and handling office tasks, strong interpersonal and organizational skills are also important. If you are lacking work experience, you may choose to complete a certificate or degree program to gain administrative training.

Other Careers to Consider

Receptionist

If you decide that you'd prefer to pursue a career other than an office assistant, you might consider becoming a receptionist. According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for receptionists in 2011 was about $27,000. The BLS also reported that they anticipated a 24% job growth for receptionists from 2010-2020, a growth that is considered to be faster-than-average. Much like an office assistant, a high school diploma could be enough education to get you a job. Receptionists complete administrative tasks, such as answering and making telephone calls, as well as customer service. Because many of the available positions for receptionists may be in the healthcare field, you may work nights and weekends to accommodate patients' schedules.

Customer Service Representative

Customer service representatives provide information to customers on behalf of the company that they work for. Working conditions in call centers could be crowded and you might have to deal with irate customers who call in complaints. The BLS reported that, as of 2011, the mean annual salary for customer service representatives was around $33,000. The job growth for this career, much like the job growth for office assistants, is anticipated to grow at an average rate of 15% from 2010-2020. Many customer service representatives receive the training they need to do their job when they are hired and a high school diploma is often sufficient education.

Teller

According to the BLS, the anticipated job growth for tellers from 2010-2020 is expected to be just 1%. The BLS also reported that the mean salary for a teller was approximately $26,000 as of 2011. Tellers are responsible for handling monetary transactions at a bank and because most banks are open on Saturdays, you should be willing to work on the weekend. Minimum education requirements for such a career may include only a high school diploma.

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Argosy University

  • Business Administration (DBA)
  • Management (MS)
  • Bachelor - Business Administration
  • Business Administration (AS)

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George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

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Kaplan University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • BSBA - Investment
  • Associate: Business Admin.
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Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
  • Career Diploma: Administrative Assistant

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Keiser University

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

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Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

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