Office Professional Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of working as an office professional? Get real job descriptions and salary information to see if becoming an office professional is right for you.
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Becoming an Office Professional: Pros and Cons

Office professionals, or office clerks, help an office operate effectively on a daily basis. Consider the following pros and cons to decide if a career as an office professional is for you.

Pros of Working as an Office Professional
Temporary, part-time and full-time office openings are available*
Minimal education requirements for entry-level office professionals*
Advancement opportunities are common with additional education*
Office procedures are typically taught to new employees*

Cons of Working as an Office Professional
Employment in offices can be impacted by the economy*
Government offices, one of the biggest employment sectors for office professionals, are expected to hire fewer office professionals in the 2012-2022 decade*
Income is below the standard average ($30,820 in 2014, as compared with the $47,230 annual mean wage for all occupations combined)*
Day-to-day job duties can change, so flexibility is needed*

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

Career Information

Job Description

Office professionals are prepared to handle a variety of office related tasks. Your superiors normally assign tasks such as working at a computer and entering data, making copies of a document, proofreading papers, delivering items and mailing letters. Many office professionals have to handle multiple tasks at the same time. For example, as phone calls and e-mails come in, you might have to answer them while still filing. If a superior requires you to complete a specific errand, you may need to drop what you're doing to take care of the new task immediately.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2014 that general office clerks made about $14.82 an hour, which translates to an average annual income of about $30,820 for full-time employment. Office employees in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Colorado, Connecticut and New Hampshire reported the highest average wages. The postal service was the top paying employer for office clerks; however, the BLS projected that there would be a 28% decline in postal service office clerk jobs in the period 2012 to 2022. Office clerks in the 90th percentile for salary reported earning $46,890.

Training Requirements

Education and Training

A high school diploma or GED is typically the minimum requirement for office jobs; postsecondary education isn't necessary, although it can help you find employment if you're inexperienced. Administrative assistant educational programs are available as certificates, diplomas or associate degrees at some postsecondary schools. Other business and office-related majors are acceptable as well. You'll want to take coursework in word processing and office practices.

After being hired, a new office professional normally receives on-the-job training. The length of the training process can vary; all offices operate differently, so you'll need to learn the procedures your employer follows.

What Employers Are Looking for in Office Professionals

Previous office experience is always preferred by employers. If you haven't worked in an office yet, you'll want to demonstrate to an employer that you have the necessary skills to succeed. Practicing with commonly used programs, such as Microsoft Office, and working on your interpersonal communication skills can help you develop the traits many employers are looking for in office professionals. Below are some examples of qualities sought by employers, as described in job postings from April 2012.

  • A St. Louis healthcare company needed a high school graduate with one year of experience and a proficiency with reports, analyses and Microsoft Office.
  • A Massachusetts auto sales company needed a part-time clerk with two years of experience and expertise in Microsoft Word and Excel to help with documents, incoming phone calls and data entry.
  • In Seattle, a firm of financial advisers was seeking an office clerk who typed 6000 keystrokes per hour (kph) or at least 45 words per minute (wpm), and who could work with Microsoft Excel, Word and Outlook.

How to Stand Out as an Office Professional

Since computer skills are highly desirable among office professionals, you can obtain specialized certifications that demonstrate your advanced proficiency. Microsoft offers certifications for Word, PowerPoint, Access, SharePoint, Outlook, OneNote and Excel. All of these certifications count towards a master certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist. When deciding on what certifications to pursue, keep in mind that these programs are updated every so often. As a result, there are separate certifications for Microsoft Excel 2007 and Microsoft Excel 2010, for instance. Each of these certifications requires you to pass an examination to demonstrate your knowledge of the product.

Other Career Choices

If you like the office environment, but you're looking for a different set of work duties; you may want to look into being an information clerk. In this career, you would find and prepare information records for co-workers and clients. You would make sure proper procedures are followed to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands. Although the average salary of $27,000 for information clerks overall was slightly lower than the average for office clerks, several types of workers in this category averaged $35,000 and above. For instance, eligibility clerks who process applications for government programs averaged about $40,000 in May of 2011; job growth was also strongest for this type of information clerk, with a 17% increase in the number of jobs expected by the BLS over the 2010-2020 decade. Clerks who worked for human resource departments earned about $37,000 on average.

Another related career that requires only a high school diploma and on-the-job training is that of customer service representative. These workers use their communication skills to focus on the needs of a customer by resolving issues or processing an order or a request. Computer proficiency, phone skills and the ability to process paperwork will be needed for this line of work. Average earnings for customer service representatives were about $33,000 in May of 2011, and the predicted 15% job growth for 2010-2020 was similar to the outlook for office clerks.

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Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

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Kaplan University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • BSBA - Investment
  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt

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Colorado Technical University

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

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Virginia College

  • Associate's - Business Admin
  • Diploma Program - Business Administration

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Penn Foster

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

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Northcentral University

  • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
  • MBA - Strategic Management

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University of Delaware

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

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Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

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