Pros and Cons of Becoming an Office Manager
Office managers function as the traffic directors of offices by planning and coordinating projects and services within an office environment, as well as directing and supervising fellow employees in carrying out those plans. Review the pros and cons below to see if becoming an office manager might be right for you.
|Pros of an Office Manager Career|
|Reasonable job growth (12% growth predicted between 2012 and 2022 for all administrative service managers)*|
|Fairly high wages (2014 median annual salary was about $84,000 for all administrative service managers)*|
|Relatively low education requirements (associate's degree for most jobs)*|
|Good job prospects (especially for entry-level jobs)*|
|Cons of an Office Manager Career|
|Long work hours (nearly half work more than 40 hours per week)*|
|Overtime is often uncompensated (due to salary-based work)*|
|Required to oversee personnel (including hiring and firing)*|
|Strong competition for a limited number of higher level positions*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
The specific duties of an office manager vary widely depending on the size and type of employer. Office managers in large companies often have a broader range of duties and higher degree of responsibility than those working for smaller companies. All office managers are responsible for directing and coordinating the administrative services in an office. This often includes hiring and firing personnel, setting goals and guidelines for a department, evaluating processes, managing budgets and overseeing office operations.
Office managers are usually salaried - rather than hourly paid - employees, so any overtime hours are largely uncompensated. Overtime is also a frequent occurrence, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting nearly half of all office managers regularly working more than 40 hours per week. Office managers must also be analytical problem solvers, as they are required to resolve issues efficiently and effectively.
Job Prospects and Salary Information
Job growth among office managers is expected to be reasonable, about average for most occupations. The BLS predicted administrative service manager job growth could be about 12% between 2012 and 2022. Competition is expected to be toughest for high-level office management jobs with high profile companies; however, job opportunities should be good for office managers with broad-based skills who set their sights on smaller companies and lower-level jobs.
Regardless of the type of company, office managers earn respectable salaries. The BLS reported the 2014 median annual wage for administrative service managers was about $84,000. The middle 50% of office managers that year earned between $62,000 and $113,000.
Career Skills and Requirements
Education requirements for office managers range from a high school diploma to an MBA, but most employers seek candidates with associate's degrees. Large or high-profile companies might require office managers to hold a bachelor's degree, but an associate's degree in office management or administrative office skills is the industry standard. These programs are available at community colleges as well as traditional colleges and universities, and they generally take approximately two years to complete.
In addition to an associate's degree, office managers must have strong technology skills and familiarity with common office machines and computer software. They must also be analytical and decisive, with good leadership and communication skills. The best office managers have strong attention to detail and are flexible and able to manage several tasks simultaneously.
Job Postings from Real Employers
When seeking an office manager, most employers look for self-starters who are strong communicators with experience in office work. Familiarity with common workplace software, such as Microsoft Office applications, and knowledge of accounting procedures are other often-preferred qualifications. Below are some actual job postings from employers in March 2012:
- A company in California seeks an office manager to help with clerical duties, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, staff management and other office tasks. This position requires at least five years of supervisory office experience, good communication skills, knowledge of Microsoft Office and QuickBooks and a high school diploma, although an associate's degree is preferred.
- A Texas auto dealership needs an office manager with management experience, familiarity with Microsoft Office and skills in accounting. The office manager will review all transactions for accuracy and work with department managers to identify opportunities to increase profits.
- A Nebraska company is looking for an office manager to supervise staff, coordinate special projects, handle payroll and billing and complete other office duties. The ideal candidate will have previous office and staff management experience, proficiency with Microsoft Office software and willingness to work 45 to 50 hours per week.
- A retail store in Arkansas requires an office manager to handle all duties associated with efficient operation and to assist the general manager as needed. Excellent knowledge of Microsoft Office software is essential, as are strong customer service skills, attention to detail and an understanding of standard office procedures.
How to Maximize Your Skills
Because an associate's degree is considered the industry standard, earning a bachelor's degree in business or an MBA can give you an edge over competitors when seeking a job, especially with large or high-profile companies where competition is tough. You can also maximize your skills through practical office experience at non-management levels, giving you a better understanding of how an office functions best. Finally, you can develop technology skills with common business machines and software programs. Special focus should be placed on the Microsoft Office group of applications, as proficiency with this nearly universal office software can make you a more attractive job candidate for an office manager position.
In addition to furthering your education, check out the Association of Professional Office Managers (APOM), which offers certification options that can increase your marketability as an office manager. Through their website, APOM has a certification course in office management for members. They also facilitate third-party training and certification in areas such as Microsoft Office applications, productivity techniques, business fundamentals, situational leadership and other beneficial skill sets.
Alternative Career Paths
If you don't have the qualifications needed to be an office manager but would still like to work in an office environment, consider becoming an administrative assistant. Administrative assistants perform clerical duties, operate office machines, manage information, handle scheduling, conduct research, plan projects and maintain filing systems. They must have a high school diploma for most positions, although some jobs require vocational training. Administrative assistants generally work a standard 40-hour week and must have good communication and typing skills. The BLS predicted average growth in this field, with an 12% increase between 2010 and 2020, and the best job opportunities available to those with extensive software skills. In 2011, the BLS reported the median annual wage for administrative assistants was about $32,000.
On the other hand, if you hate the thought of being tied down to an office and don't mind earning a bachelor's degree, you might make a wonderful property manager. Property managers handle the logistics of running a property, including overseeing income properties and rent collection and making sure taxes, insurance, mortgage and maintenance bills are paid. Nearly half of all property managers are self-employed, and many spend most of their time out in the field, according to the BLS. Some states require property managers to be licensed, but licensing requirements vary from state to state. Job growth in this field is expected to be average, with the BLS predicting only 6% growth between 2010 and 2020. College graduates and property managers with health care and elder care experience will likely have the easiest time finding jobs. The BLS reports that property managers made a median annual wage of about $53,000 in 2011.