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What Is an Administrative Assistant? A Complete Guide

July 29, 2021

The role of an administrative assistant is important for organisations that have a lot of administrative work to fulfil and need some additional help to do it. They make these daily tasks more productive by managing them through efficient time management and multitasking capabilities. Working as an administrative assistant may be a lucrative career path to pursue if you're a person who enjoys helping others and wants variety in their work. In this article, we discuss what is an administrative assistant, how to become one and review frequently asked questions about the profession, like their average salary and advancement opportunities.

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What is an administrative assistant and what do they do?

An administrative assistant, sometimes referred to as an administrative specialist, assistant administrator or administrative coordinator, is a professional who supports top officials in a company or organisation, helping to improve their productivity and complete essential tasks in a timely manner. These professionals help to ensure that interactions between the various departments and groups of an organisation are positive and operate at peak efficiency. They perform a wide range of duties and may assistant several people simultaneously. Their tasks can vary depending on their employer and industry.

Consider the following tasks in this admin assistant duties and responsibilities list:

  • Creating reports
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Ordering supplies
  • Setting up travel arrangements
  • Booking flights, hotels, cars and restaurant reservations
  • Screening and routing phone calls
  • Transcribing meeting minutes
  • Creating presentations
  • Conducting research
  • Anticipating the needs of their clients
  • Greeting and helping visitors

How to become an administrative assistant in 5 steps

Follow these five steps to help you become an administrative assistant:

1. Choose your preferred industry

Administrative assistants work in a variety of industries, which can sometimes determine the type of tasks they need to complete. An administrative assistant working for a large IT company might have different responsibilities than someone working for a university. It is important that you compare the job roles to assess which ones more closely align with your career goals and endeavours. You might also want to consider what advancement opportunities are available depending on the industry you choose as well, as this can vary.

2. Undergo a traineeship

While it's not an explicit requirement for you to undergo a traineeship program, it can be a lucrative opportunity to gain new skills, knowledge and capabilities. Consider that some employers have the discretion to set traineeship as a prerequisite for them to consider you as a viable candidate. Traineeship programs can last anywhere between two months and two years, so it's important to review the job description to see if that's a requirement or contact the recruiter directly if possible.

3. Obtain your qualifications

Like the traineeship, formal qualifications are not a general requirement to work as an assistant administrator, but obtaining one may improve your chances of getting hired for a position. Certifications or university degrees help to show an employer your commitment to the profession and that you firmly understand the duties of assistant administrators. Some of the most beneficial qualifications should focus on subjects like business administration, finance, legal services, information technology and business management.

4. Network with administration professionals

An important element to working as an administrative assistant is networking with highly skilled professionals in the field. These are people who have extensive training and often times have years of experience working as assistant administrators. By forming a connection with them, they may be more willing to assist you in finding new job opportunities or giving you meaningful advice about the profession. If you're working to get formal qualifications through a university or traineeship program, consult with your mentors, counselors and professors for help as well.

5. Prepare and apply for entry-level jobs

One way to prepare for entry-level administrative assistant jobs is to create a resume. Your resume should illustrate your capabilities and why you are an ideal candidate for the role. Make certain to align the content of your resume to the employer's job description to show that you possess many of the skills and experiences they are looking for in a candidate.

Related: Guide: How To Get a Job

Important skills for administrative assistants

Administrative assistants need to have a well-rounded skill set to perform their job properly. This means being able to complete their personal work efficiently and knowing how to manage their time properly so they can assist others in completing theirs as well.

The following are some of the most essential skills for working as an administrative assistant:

Management skills

Administrative assistant need management skills because this helps them to prioritise their work so they can optimise their duties and get all their tasks done in a timely manner. Knowing how to create a schedule or plan for each day and being able to adapt to changes in that plan are essential for these professionals. Depending on their job rank, they may also need to manage other employees and have all their daily responsibilities organised.

Read more: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Interpersonal skills

Administrative assistants frequently work with other people, making interpersonal skills important to have. By forming a deep interpersonal relationship with their boss or manager, they are more likely to gain their trust. This can help to provide the assistant administrator with greater autonomy to get their work done with little supervision and it might also put them in a position to make critical decisions on behalf of their manager. This skill is also necessary when they interact with other employees and important clients.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Computer skills

Administrative assistants need this skill because they regularly use computers in their work. They may need to create a report or book travel arrangements for their boss. Having computer skills helps them to do this easily and with little disruption to their overall workflow. Most employers also expect a certain level of computer competency from applicants, so this skill is highly valuable and can help make to make you a more qualified candidate for an open position.

Frequently asked questions about administrative assistants

Here are some FAQs about administrative assistants:

What is the average salary for an administrative assistant?

The average salary for an administrative assistant can vary based on several factors, like your work experience, educational background, achieved certifications and geographical location. According to Indeed, the national average salary for an administrative assistant is $59,987 per year. As you gain more experience and experience, you may be able to negotiate for a higher wage or salary.

The following cities provide the highest paying salaries for administrative assistants:

What is an administrative assistant's work environment?

Administrative assistants can work in a wide range of job industries, like healthcare, education, corporate, science and government. These professionals primarily work independently in an office setting, though they may need to move around frequently to speak with their colleagues or to complete any projects that they can't complete on a computer. Administrative assistants typically work a 40 hours per week, though there are part-time administrative assistants who work less. However, they may have to work additional hours to meet deadlines or to make an impromptu adjustment to their duties. Some administrative assistants work virtually from home as well.

What are the advancement opportunities for an administrative assistant?

There are several advancement opportunities for administrative assistants, many of which can depend on your current career level and years of experience. An entry level administrative assistant could advance to a senior administrative assistant position, which comes with greater responsibilities and management duties. From there, you might look to work as a departmental administrative position, which is someone who serves as the administrative representative for an entire department of people is the primary person of contact. You could rise to executive assistant and support a high-ranking or executive-level employee. Getting promoted to office manager is also a plausible advancement opportunity.

What is the difference between an administrative assistant and a secretary?

The primary differences between an administrative assistant and a secretary are their duties and responsibilities. Secretaries only perform clerical work. This could include tasks like typing documents, performing data entry, correcting appointments and answering incoming phone calls. In comparison, an administrative assistant has more flexibility in their work and can make autonomous decisions and judgements to the benefit of their client. They may perform more advanced duties based on their clients' personal preferences or business needs.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing.

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