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How to Become an Administrative Assistant

By Ajoke Aminu

Published:

Do you know how to juggle multiple priorities while keeping your cool? Are you a multitasking expert who thrives in fast-paced environments? A career as an administrative assistant might just be the perfect career path for you. This comprehensive guide provides all you need to know about a job as an administrative assistant – from the prerequisites required to jumpstart and excel in the role to the best tips and tricks for succeeding once you land the job. 

Career Summary

Administrative Assistant Salary

Administrative Assistant Salary

Administrative assistants typically earn a median (2021) annual wage of around $39,680, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Entry Salary (US$30k)
  • Median Salary (US$40k)
  • Executive Salary (US$60k)

In 2020, the average annual wage for those working in the U.S. was close to US$69,000 meaning that an Administrative Assistant’s wage is generally lower than the national average.

What does an Administrative Assistant do?

An administrative assistant is a valuable team member who supports businesses and organizations by managing day-to-day tasks.

Working as an administrative assistant requires a wide variety of skills, including time management, communication, and organizational skills. Other skills required of an administrative assistant are:

  • Attention to Detail
  • Problem-Solving
  • Multitasking
  • Prioritization
  • Confidentiality

Administrative Assistant Career Progression

Here is a highlight of administrative assistant roles and general progression:

  • Entry-Level Administrative Assistant: As an Administrative Assistant, your daily tasks may include answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, and organizing paperwork. You will be a crucial member of any team and play a key role in ensuring the smooth operation of the office.
  • Junior Administrative Assistant: As a Junior Administrative Assistant, you will be expected to take on more responsibility and demonstrate a higher level of organizational skills. You may be asked to assist with project management tasks, such as coordinating meetings and creating presentations.
  • Senior Administrative Assistant: They have a higher level of expertise and are responsible for more complex tasks. These can include handling confidential information, supporting high-level executives, managing budgets, supervising junior staff, and playing a crucial role in decision-making processes.
  • Executive Assistant: Executive Assistants provide a variety of support to executives, including but not limited to working on strategic initiatives, analyzing trends and data, preparing reports, and taking charge of administrative duties. They are expected to have experience in managing a wide range of tasks while providing prompt and accurate service to their superiors.
Administrative Assistant Career Progression

Pros:

  • You’re the boss’s right-hand person and first contact for the company and organization.
  • You get to know the ins and outs of the business.
  • You develop strong relationships with co-workers.
  • You have a lot of autonomy in your job, meaning you are able to complete your work without a lot of supervision.
  • You can learn new skills on the job.

Cons:

  • It can be a stressful job due to constant deadlines and high expectations from superiors.
  • The hours can be long, especially for executive assistants managing senior-level executives.
  • Your work may be underappreciated, as many administrative tasks are not visible to the rest of the organization.
  • You may have to deal with difficult clients or customers on a daily basis.

Some popular specialties in the administrative assistant career path include:

  • Legal Administrative Assistant
  • Medical Administrative Assistant
  • Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Virtual Administrative Assistant
  • Project Administrative Assistant
  • Human Resources Administrative Assistant
  • Financial Administrative Assistant
  • Government Administrative Assistant
  • Education Administrative Assistant
  • Nonprofit Administrative Assistant

How to become an Administrative Assistant

Administrative Assistant 5 Steps to Career

Education

As they say, “education is key,” so let’s unlock its importance as an element in your journey to becoming an administrative assistant. A high school diploma or GED may be sufficient to qualify for an administrative assistant position, depending on the type of job you are looking for.

However, to stand out among other applicants, many employers prefer an administrative assistant certification from a relevant program or college course. It shows that you are dedicated to providing quality service and skill sets in the workplace.

Let’s answer some of the key questions about getting an administrative assistant education:

Do I need a degree to become an Administrative Assistant?

You might wonder if you need a degree to make a big splash as a new administrative assistant in the job market. Attention to detail, multitasking, and proficiency in Microsoft Office are just a few of the many administrative assistant skills. But do you need a degree to get your foot in the door? The short answer is no!

Nevertheless, a degree in business administration will certainly get you in the door. If you see that a degree is preferred, don’t despair! Most employers prefer dedicated candidates and if it’s one thing that shows your commitment, it’s learning.  As you start trying to land your dream job, consider the qualifications that will set you apart.

Why is it important to get a degree in Business Administration?

Getting the degree hones your organizational and communication skills and demonstrates your commitment and competency in the field to employers.

In a world where the job market is fiercely competitive, having the right training can give you an edge over other candidates. Whether it’s a high school diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree, obtaining either or all three can be one of the best decisions you make for your future. From communication and organization to technology and problem-solving, a degree in Business Administration can help you develop the essential skills needed to become a successful administrative assistant in any industry.

Essentially, the role of an administrative assistant is multifaceted and requires a variety of specialized skills. So, not only will getting a degree broaden your understanding of the field, but it can also lead to higher earning potential and career advancement.

While there are universities that are well-known for their business programs, they also offer courses or concentrations in areas related to office administration or executive assistance. It’s important to research specific programs and courses within these institutions to find the ones that align with your career goals in administrative assisting.

Additionally, consider factors such as location, reputation, faculty expertise, and opportunities for internships or practical experience when choosing a university.

Some associate degrees that can help you land an administrative assistant interview or role include:

  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Business Law
  • Business Management
  • Human Resources
  • Office Management.

So, why wait? Invest in your future as an administrative assistant by obtaining a degree and unlocking a world of opportunities and success.

How long does it take to get a degree in Business Administration?

Generally, obtaining a certificate or an associate’s degree in Business Administration can take a few months to a couple of years. This degree can be obtained by finishing 15 credits per semester within a duration of eight semesters over four years.

Furthermore, the timeline for achieving proficiency in administrative assistant skills may vary depending on several factors, including one’s educational enrollment status (full-time or part-time) and the existence of transfer credits. However, it is essential to emphasize that individuals with the appropriate administrative assistant skills and a determined attitude can effectively establish themselves as indispensable assets in any office.

How much does it cost to study Business Administration at university?

A university degree is not an absolute prerequisite for entering this profession. Nevertheless, undertaking courses or pursuing a degree can equip you with valuable administrative assistant skills and knowledge to greatly enhance your performance in this role. Now, you might be wondering about the financial investment in studying administrative assistant programs at a university.

Prices can vary depending on the institution and program, but the average cost ranges from USD$35,000 to USD$76,000. It is essential to note that while a formal education is advantageous, it is not the sole means of acquiring administrative assistant certification.

Many professionals opt for more affordable online training or even commence their careers as receptionists or office clerks, gradually ascending through practical experience and on-the-job training. Regardless of the path you choose, developing strong communication, organization, and computer skills will be pivotal to your success as an administrative assistant.

Therefore, do not allow the cost of tuition to dissuade you from pursuing your aspiration of becoming an administrative assistant. While there are few scholarship opportunities for studying administrative assistance, it’s advisable to search locally and internationally regardless. You can still position yourself for a rewarding career in this field by conducting thorough research and implementing prudent financial planning.

Can I become an Administrative Assistant through online education?

Yes, you can become an administrative assistant through online education. When it comes to entry-level administrative assistants, employers generally seek candidates who possess certain educational qualifications and skills certifications, like a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate. Further, with a focused and practical curriculum, a diploma program can give you the skills and knowledge you need to thrive in this role, demonstrating a foundational level of education and knowledge.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become an Administrative Assistant?

Delve into a vast ocean of resources, including online courses, blogs, podcasts, and webinars, to expand your knowledge. Discover unconventional but reliable sources such as Administrative Professional Today, offering articles, tips, and best practices for office management, tech tools, and career development. Also, join OfficeNinjas, an elite online community and resource hub, to access articles, guides, and a supportive community of experienced professionals. Finally, explore ASAP, the American Society of Administrative Professionals, for cutting-edge education, comprehensive training, and invaluable resources to excel in the dynamic business world.

Practical Experience

Practical experience is the second element that must be considered while pursuing the goal of becoming an administrative assistant. One way to gain the necessary skills is through on-the-job training and internships at various organizations and corporations.

In addition, many companies offer certification programs for administrative assistants as well as other activities and seminars that can further enhance your skill set.

What are internship opportunities for an Administrative Assistant?

Internships provide valuable opportunities to gain practical experience and apply the skills relevant to your chosen career path. Interestingly, certain internships may not require a formal administrative assistant certification to secure a position.

Not only do these programs provide on-the-job training, but they also allow you to develop essential skills such as communication, time management, and problem-solving, all while gaining hands-on experience in the administrative field.

Here are some common internship opportunities for aspiring administrative assistants:

Corporate Internships & Government Agencies

Many large companies offer specialized programs within their administrative departments, exposing you to several tasks that will sharpen your skills. Some administrative assistant skills you’ll learn include; calendar management, meeting coordination, correspondence handling, and providing general support in office operations.

Likewise, local, state, and federal government agencies provide valuable internship positions within their administrative offices. These internships offer hands-on experience in various aspects of administrative work, including document filing, phone handling, appointment scheduling, and supporting administrative staff.

Further, you can explore corporate administrative assistant internships by utilizing popular online platforms like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. These platforms offer robust search and filtering capabilities, allowing you to narrow your internship search based on specific criteria such as industry, company size, location, and required qualifications.

Other alternatives for finding administrative assistant internships in both corporate and government sectors are Company Career Websites, Government Agency Websites, College and University Career Centers, USAJOBS, Networking/referrals, Professional Associations, Government Job Fairs, and Campus Recruitment Events. Stay proactive in your search, customize your application materials, and consistently follow up with potential internship opportunities.

Nonprofit Organizations

Several nonprofits like the American Red Cross, United Way, or Habitat for Humanity offer internship programs that provide opportunities for individuals to develop essential skills such as data entry, event organization, database management, and general office support. In addition to also find administrative assistant internships online by utilizing specialized nonprofit platforms such as Chegg Internships, Global Experiences, The Intern Group, InternMatch, and more.

Educational Institutions:

Colleges, universities, and schools frequently offer internship programs within their administrative offices, presenting valuable opportunities for aspiring administrative assistants. These internships allow interns to engage in a range of administrative tasks, including student record management, event coordination, office communication, and providing support to faculty and staff.

Healthcare Facilities

Hospitals, clinics, and healthcare organizations often provide internship opportunities within their administrative departments, allowing interns to acquire valuable experience in various facets of healthcare administration. These internships enable individuals to develop skills in medical record management, appointment scheduling, patient registration, and other general administrative tasks specific to the healthcare field.

If you are interested in pursuing an internship in healthcare administration, consider the following sources for finding such opportunities:

  • Hospital and Healthcare Organization Websites
  • College and University Career Centers
  • Networking and referrals
  • Professional Associations
  • Online Job Platforms
  • Healthcare Career Fairs and Events

Keep that search engine fired up and maintain that internship-seeking mojo. And hey, when you’re applying, make sure to sprinkle in your infectious enthusiasm for healthcare administration. Show off your know-how in the healthcare sector and any experiences that make you a perfect fit for the role. Get ready to rock those applications!

Small Businesses

Interning at a small business offers a valuable opportunity to gain well-rounded administrative experience. As an intern, you can expect to be involved in a wide range of tasks that contribute to the seamless functioning of the business. These tasks may include customer support, data entry, bookkeeping, scheduling, and other administrative responsibilities.

If you are interested in pursuing an internship at a small business, here are some avenues to explore:

  • Local Business Directories: Explore local business directories or chamber of commerce websites specific to your area. These resources often provide information about small businesses in your community and may list internship opportunities. Visit the websites or contact the businesses directly to inquire about internships in their administrative departments.
  • Local Community Organizations: Engage with local community organizations, such as entrepreneurship centers or business development associations. These organizations may have information about small businesses in need of administrative interns or may offer internship programs themselves.

What Skills will I learn as an Administrative Assistant?

If you’re considering a career as an administrative assistant, you’re in for a treat! Not only will you be an essential part of a team, but you’ll also gain valuable skills to carry with you throughout your career.

Becoming an administrative assistant requires a blend of technical and interpersonal skills, such as:

  • Communication Skills: Effective verbal and written communication is crucial in administrative roles. Work on improving your professional and courteous communication in person and through various forms of written correspondence.
  • Technical skills: This includes proficiency in software such as word processing programs, spreadsheets, and presentation software is essential. Familiarize yourself with email management, internet research, and basic troubleshooting.
  • Organization and Time Management: Develop strong organizational skills to manage tasks, appointments, and deadlines efficiently. Compelling time management techniques will help you prioritize work and meet deadlines consistently.
  • Record Keeping and Data Management: Learn how to maintain accurate records, create and manage databases, and handle sensitive information securely.
  • Calendar Management: Master the art of scheduling and coordinating appointments, meetings, and events. Familiarize yourself with calendar software and tools for efficient time planning.
  • Customer Service: Develop excellent customer service skills to handle inquiries, assist clients, and ensure a positive experience for all stakeholders.
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: Enhance your ability to analyze situations, identify solutions, and make informed decisions. Develop critical thinking skills to address challenges effectively.
  • Multitasking: Build your ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously while maintaining attention to detail and meeting deadlines.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility: Cultivate a mindset of adaptability and flexibility to easily handle unexpected changes, shifting priorities, and new challenges.
  • Confidentiality and Ethics: Understand the importance of confidentiality in handling sensitive information. Uphold ethical standards and demonstrate integrity in your work.
  • Office Equipment and Technology: Familiarize yourself with various office equipment such as printers, scanners, and fax machines. Stay updated on the latest office technology trends and tools.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Develop strong interpersonal skills to work effectively with colleagues, supervisors, and clients. Cultivate professionalism, teamwork, and the ability to build positive relationships.
  • Attention to Detail: Pay close attention to details in tasks such as proofreading documents, data entry, and managing records. Accuracy is key to maintaining high-quality work.
  • Initiative and Proactivity: Take initiative in identifying opportunities for improvement, suggesting solutions, and taking on additional responsibilities. Be proactive in anticipating needs and resolving issues.
  • Flexibility to Learn and Grow: Embrace a growth mindset and be open to learning new skills and technologies as administrative roles evolve.

Best Aspects of Working as an Administrative Assistant

Asides the impressive experience and skills that comes with being an administrative assistant, there are even more amazing perks. Being an administrative assistant means being a jack-of-all-trades; you must be organized, communicative, and adaptable.

By developing these skills, you become an asset to any organization you work for. Thus, consider becoming an administrative assistant if you’re looking for a job that will challenge and help you grow.

Other advantages include:

  • Job security
  • Constant learning, which leads to personal and professional growth
  • Transferrable skills
  • Versatility and team collaboration
  • Exposure to different areas of the business/corporate world
  • Opportunity to impact and support

Worst Aspects of Working as an Administrative Assistant

However, while there are many benefits to working as an administrative assistant, there are also some drawbacks. For one, the job can be quite demanding and require a lot of multitasking. It can also be quite monotonous sometimes, with tasks that need to be done but often don’t have any real significance.

Additionally, depending on the type of administrative assistant role you’re in, you may be required to work long hours and/or travel a lot.

Other disadvantages are:

  • Routine and Predictability
  • Emotional Labor
  • Limited Career Advancement
  • Restricted Decision-Making Authority

What is the Work-Life Balance of an Administrative Assistant?

The work-life balance of an administrative assistant can range from great to not-so-great. It all depends on your job type, the company you work for, and your personal commitments. Some roles may require longer hours or travel, making finding a good balance between work and home life difficult.

On the other hand, some administrative assistant roles offer flexible hours and the chance to work remotely, which can be great for achieving a healthy balance. Ultimately, finding an arrangement that works for your professional and personal life is up to you. If you need more direction, you can broaden your knowledge with tips on maintaining a work-life balance.

What’s the Career Outlook for Administrative Assistant?

As more businesses expand their operations, the need for skilled administrative assistants to provide support will increase. Job seekers in this field should be prepared to showcase their skills and qualifications when asked administrative assistant interview questions, as competition for the thousands of available roles remains active.

Despite a projected decline of 8% in overall employment for secretaries and administrative assistants from 2021 to 2031, there is still optimism in the job market. Over the next decade, approximately 354,000 job openings for secretaries and administrative assistants are expected yearly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This indicates that there will continue to be opportunities for individuals pursuing careers in this field, providing steady employment prospects. Therefore, job seekers must stay proactive, enhance their skills, and effectively prepare themselves for administrative assistant interview questions to stand out in a competitive job market.

Administrative Assistant Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of an Administrative Assistant?

The beauty of this profession lies in its versatility. Administrative assistants are in demand in various industries, including healthcare, finance, and legal sectors. Not to mention, there are various specializations within the realm of administrative work. You can be a receptionist, executive assistant, or office manager.

And the best part? The administrative assistant skills are highly transferable, so the door to switching industries is always open! This dynamic role can lead to different specializations, such as Executive Assistant, Office Manager, HR Assistant, and Project Coordinator.

Should I become an Administrative Assistant?

Deciding to become an administrative assistant is no small feat. It requires careful consideration and an understanding of the skills and traits necessary for success in the role. After reading through this article and learning about the key points to consider, it’s important to take a personal inventory of your interests, skills, and long-term goals.

Are you detail-oriented, organized, and able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously? Do you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment?

Asking yourself these questions and conducting internal due diligence will help you determine if the role is a good fit for you. And if you decide that it is, be sure to familiarize yourself with common administrative assistant interview questions and prepare your answers in advance. As they say, proper preparation prevents poor performance!The duties of an administrative assistant can vary depending on the industry and job role. Generally, this position involves helping with office operations by organizing files, managing records, making travel arrangements, responding to emails and voicemails, scheduling meetings and appointments, preparing reports, conducting research, ordering supplies, providing customer service support, typing documents, and transcribing notes.You usually need a high school diploma or equivalent to become an administrative assistant. Most employers also prefer candidates with prior experience in office administration or customer service roles. Additional qualifications may include certifications in office software, such as Microsoft Office.“Administrative assistant” and “secretary” are often used interchangeably. However, some organizations may refer to the position as an executive assistant or office manager. 

Careers Related to Administrative Assistant


Ajoke Aminu

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