The term, “administrative assistant” is a broad classification for clerical and secretarial work. In plain English, administrative assistants perform a wide range of office tasks and can sometimes be referred to as secretaries or receptionists. These tasks might include: filing papers, shipping and receiving mail and packages, data entry using a computer, scheduling of appointments, reception, running errands related to an office’s operations, interacting with supply vendors for office materials such as janitorial, beverage and supplies, supporting meetings and meals, and much more.
This type of role is different from an executive assistant who might support one or more executives at a company and handle that executive’s schedule, communications and other business-related logistics such as travel. While executive assistants and administrative assistants share many of the same responsibilities, it’s important to make this distinction between the two.
How many people are employed as an administrative assistant and how much do they earn?
Administrative assistants work in just about every industry — from small business to large corporations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were nearly 4,000,000 people in the U.S. employed as a secretary or administrative assistant across all industries in 2016. The BLS reports a median salary of about $38,000. But take note, that includes everyone employed in this occupation, including those who have worked for 30 or more years. Your actual salary will depend on many factors such as where you live, the industry within you work, your specific job duties, how long you have been working, and more.
How to become and administrative assistant
There are a few different strategies for becoming a great administrative assistant and landing the job you desire. One strategy is to learn the skills administrative assistants need to succeed across various roles by obtaining a college degree. These skills include computer usage, phone etiquette, internet use for booking travel and scheduling meetings, professionalism, written communication, organization and planning.
At a school like the Institute of Medical and Business Careers (IMBC) in Pittsburgh, PA, you can earn your administrative assistant associate degree. Such a credential may help you find employment opportunities because it will demonstrate to potential employers that you have mastered certain administrative assistant skills, as well as obtained a college degree from an accredited institution.
At an ABHES-accredited college like IMBC, you’ll also learn how to type with a goal of 40 words per minute (WPM), and take courses in legal terminology, customer relationship management and Microsoft Office.
An associate degree can typically be completed in about two years or less, depending on how many courses you take at a time. Some college programs can be taken part time or only during part of a day or week, allowing you to continue working while you pursue your education. After you obtain your degree, most good colleges will have a career center to help you find and apply for relevant jobs. They can even help you prepare your résumé and prepare for an interview.