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How to Become a Receptionist

By Lace Brunsden

Published:

Are you looking for a fulfilling and diverse career path that allows you to interact with people and make a positive impact on their experience?

Becoming a receptionist might be the perfect choice for you! In this article, we’ll explore the exciting world of receptionists, the skills you’ll develop, and the various opportunities waiting for you in this rewarding role.

Career Summary

How Much Do Receptionists Make?

Receptionist Salary

Your salary as a receptionist will likely vary a lot. Some of this may be related to your experience. However, the largest contributor to your receptionist salary will be the company that you work for and any specialized duties that you have.

According to Glassdoor, your most likely salary range in the United States is as follows:

  • Entry Salary (US$33k)
  • Median Salary (US$38k)
  • Executive Salary (US$45k)

As per the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average salary across all occupations in the U.S. is estimated at US$ 61,900. When comparing the median receptionist’s salary to this number, we can see the receptionist’s salary is relatively low.

Receptionist Job Description

A receptionist is a front-line administrative professional who plays a crucial role in managing the flow of people and information within an organization or office. Your receptionist duties revolve around providing excellent customer service and creating a positive first impression for visitors, clients, and employees.

Some of the typical tasks that you may be required to perform as a receptionist include greeting visitors, answering and managing calls, managing appointments, handling correspondence, providing information, maintaining the reception area, assisting with administrative tasks, operating office equipment, handling inquiries, keeping records, and resolving minor issues and complaints when possible or escalating them to the appropriate individuals.

Receptionist Career Progression

  • Receptionist: As an entry-level receptionist, you’ll be the welcoming face and voice of the company, responsible for greeting visitors and managing phone calls.
  • Senior Receptionist: You’ll take on additional responsibilities, such as supervising other receptionists, handling more complex inquiries, and coordinating office operations.
  • Front Desk Supervisor: In this role, you’ll lead the reception team, providing training, performance evaluations, and optimizing front desk procedures.
  • Administrative Assistant: Progressing further, you’ll support various departments by managing calendars, organizing meetings, and assisting with administrative tasks beyond the front desk.
  • Office Coordinator: As an office coordinator, you’ll oversee daily operations, manage office supplies, and act as a key point of contact for employees and external partners.
  • Executive Assistant: Moving up, you’ll support top executives, handling sensitive information, coordinating travel arrangements, and managing high-level meetings.
  • Office Manager: As an office manager, you’ll have broader responsibilities, including supervising staff, budgeting, and ensuring the smooth functioning of the entire office.
Receptionist Career Progression

Pros:

  • Interaction with people.
  • First point of contact.
  • Development of transferable skills.
  • Diverse responsibilities.
  • Gateway to career growth.

Cons:

  • Dealing with difficult or irate visitors or callers.
  • Repetitive tasks and handling routine inquiries.
  • Managing a busy front desk with high call volumes and constant interruptions.
  • Limited opportunities for career advancement within the receptionist role itself.
  • Potentially long hours, including working evenings or weekends, depending on the organization’s operating hours.

Receptionist Skills

  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Strong interpersonal abilities.
  • Organizational and time management skills.
  • Proficiency in using office software and equipment.
  • Multitasking and problem-solving capabilities.

Popular Receptionist Specialties

  • Medical Receptionist
  • Legal Receptionist
  • Hotel Receptionist
  • Corporate Receptionist
  • Salon/Spa Receptionist

How to become a Receptionist

Receptionist 5 Steps to Career

Obtain a High School Diploma or GED (General Education Development) Certificate

Why Is a High School Diploma Necessary to Become a Receptionist?

There are a couple of different reasons why it is important to get a high school diploma or something equivalent before you can become a receptionist.

  • Basic Education: A high school diploma ensures that you possess a minimum level of education and foundational knowledge in various subjects like math, English, and computer skills.
  • Communication Skills: High school education helps improve reading, writing, and verbal communication skills, which are essential for effectively interacting with visitors and callers as a receptionist.
  • Professionalism: Completing high school signifies a level of commitment and dedication, which reflects positively on your professionalism and work ethic.
  • Job Competitiveness: Many employers consider a high school diploma as a basic requirement for most entry-level positions, including receptionist roles. Without a diploma, the applicant may be at a disadvantage when competing for jobs.
  • Career Advancement: Even if an entry-level receptionist job does not explicitly require a diploma, it serves as a foundation for your potential career advancement. Many administrative and managerial roles often demand a higher level of education and experience, which can be easier to achieve with a diploma.
  • Legal Requirements: Some states or employers may have legal or regulatory requirements that mandate a high school diploma or equivalent for certain positions, including receptionist roles.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Receptionist?

In general, you do not need a degree to become a receptionist. Instead, having relevant experience, good communication skills, and proficiency in office software and equipment are often more critical factors in securing a receptionist job.

However, some specialized industries or high-end corporate settings might have specific requirements that include an associate’s degree or higher. For example, medical receptionists may benefit from having some medical office training or related certification, while receptionists in legal firms might find a paralegal degree advantageous. These requirements can vary depending on the employer and the complexity of the receptionist role.

Can I Become a Receptionist Through Online Education?

Yes, you can potentially become a receptionist through online education. While many receptionist positions do not require a formal degree, online education, and training can be valuable in developing the skills and knowledge needed for the role.

You can find online courses that specifically focus on receptionist skills, such as communication, customer service, office software proficiency, and administrative tasks. Some organizations offer online certification programs for receptionists or administrative professionals, which can enhance your resume and demonstrate your commitment to the role.

Online courses can help you improve soft skills, such as interpersonal abilities, time management, and problem-solving, which are crucial for a receptionist role. Furthermore, participating in online communities, forums, or professional platforms can connect you with others in the field and provide valuable insights into the receptionist profession.

Develop Essential Receptionist Skills

Becoming a proficient receptionist involves more than just greeting visitors with a smile. To excel in this role, it’s crucial to develop a specific set of skills that go beyond basic communication. You will learn a variety of valuable skills that are applicable not only to the role but also to other areas of your personal and professional life.

Here’s a look at the essential skills every aspiring receptionist should master:

  • Effective Communication: Receptionists are the voice and face of a company. It’s important to convey information clearly, listen actively, and communicate both verbally and in writing in a polite and professional manner. Regularly practice active listening and work on improving your phone etiquette.
  • Organizational Skills: A receptionist juggles multiple tasks at once, from scheduling appointments to managing files or handling deliveries. Staying organized helps ensure that tasks are completed accurately and on time. Consider using tools like calendars, task lists, and organizational apps to help streamline your duties.
  • Technical Proficiency: Familiarize yourself with office software such as Microsoft Office, email platforms, and telecommunication systems. The more adept you are at using technology, the more efficiently you can perform your tasks.
  • Problem-Solving Abilities: Not every day will be straightforward. Unexpected challenges may arise, from dealing with difficult visitors to troubleshooting minor technical issues. Being resourceful and proactive in addressing problems can set you apart.
  • Attention to Detail: Mistakes can be costly in terms of time and reputation. Paying attention to even the smallest details, be it in data entry or relaying messages, ensures accuracy and reduces the chance of errors.
  • Customer Service: Always remember that, as a receptionist, you are representing the company. Be approachable, patient, and ready to assist. Training in customer service can also be beneficial to handle various personalities and situations.
  • Time Management: Prioritizing tasks, managing interruptions, and knowing when to delegate or ask for help are essential for keeping things running smoothly. Allocate specific time blocks for recurring tasks and be ready to adapt when interruptions occur.
  • Multitasking: Receptionists often find themselves answering phones, greeting visitors, and performing administrative tasks simultaneously. While multitasking, it’s vital to ensure that the quality of work remains high.

Gain Relevant Experience

While some receptionist positions may be entry-level and require no prior experience, having prior customer service experience or administrative skills can be beneficial in securing a job. Gaining experience in a receptionist role can involve both direct and indirect avenues.

Here are some steps and strategies to consider:

  • Internships or Traineeships: Many companies offer internships or trainee programs for administrative roles. These programs can give you hands-on experience and familiarize you with the daily responsibilities of a receptionist.
  • Temporary or Part-time Jobs: Some businesses, especially smaller ones, might hire temporary or part-time receptionists. These positions can provide you with direct experience without a long-term commitment.
  • Volunteer: Non-profit organizations, community centers, hospitals, schools, and events often need volunteers to handle front desk or administrative tasks. Volunteering can give you practical experience and demonstrate your commitment and work ethic to future employers.
  • Job Shadowing: If you know someone who works as a receptionist or in a similar role, ask if you can shadow them for a day or a few hours. This allows you to observe the role in action and ask questions.
  • Freelance or Virtual Assistant Work: With the rise of remote work, there’s a growing demand for virtual assistants. This role can expose you to tasks similar to a receptionist, such as scheduling, customer service, and data entry.
  • On-Campus Jobs (for students): Many educational institutions offer on-campus jobs that involve administrative tasks or customer service. Roles in student centers, libraries, or administrative offices can be particularly relevant.
  • Retail or Customer Service Jobs: While not identical to receptionist roles, jobs in retail or customer service can help you develop transferable skills such as handling customer inquiries, managing complaints, and multitasking.
  • Simulations and Role-playing: If you take any courses or training, see if they offer simulations or role-playing exercises that mimic a day in the life of a receptionist. This can give you a sense of the job and help you practice handling typical scenarios.

Common Procedures and Systems You May Encounter as a Recpetionist:

  • Phone System: You’ll learn how to operate the office phone system, transfer calls, take messages, and set up voicemails.
  • Appointment Scheduling: You will learn the process of scheduling appointments, managing calendars, and coordinating with staff and clients.
  • Visitor Check-in Procedures: You will get familiar with protocols for checking in visitors, issuing visitor badges, and ensuring security measures.
  • Email and Communication Platforms: You’ll use email and other communication platforms to correspond with clients, colleagues, and vendors.
  • Office Equipment: You will operate standard office equipment such as printers, copiers, fax machines, and scanners.
  • Customer Service Protocols: You’ll learn how to handle inquiries, complaints, and customer interactions with professionalism and courtesy.
  • Data Entry and Record Keeping: You will input and update information in databases and maintain accurate records.
  • Office Security Procedures: You will adhere to office security measures, including access control and confidentiality guidelines.
  • Mail Handling: You will learn how to sort and distribute incoming mail and packages.
  • Office Software: You will become proficient in using software applications like Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Google Workspace, or industry-specific software.
  • Booking and Reservation Systems: Depending on the industry, you might need to use booking or reservation systems to manage appointments or event bookings.
  • Language or Translation Tools: In multilingual settings, learning how to use translation tools or language support services for communication.

What Is the Work-Life Balance of a Receptionist?

The work-life balance for a receptionist can vary depending on the specific job and the organization’s policies. Generally, receptionists work standard full-time hours, which is typically 40 hours per week. Some receptionist positions may also offer part-time or flexible scheduling options.

Here are some factors that can influence the work-life balance for a receptionist:

  • Office Hours: Most receptionists work during regular office hours, which typically fall within weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm. This can provide you with predictable working hours and weekends off.
  • Overtime and Shifts: In certain industries like healthcare or hospitality, you might work in shifts or weekends, which could affect your work-life balance differently.
  • Busy Periods: Workload can vary, with busy periods during peak times or special events. This might require some flexibility during busy times.
  • Flexibility: Some employers may offer flexible working arrangements, allowing you to adjust your schedules to accommodate personal needs.
  • Workload: The workload of a receptionist can vary depending on the size of the organization and the volume of visitors or calls.

Continue Learning and Growing

Stay proactive in learning new skills, attending workshops, and seeking opportunities for career growth within the company or through additional certifications.

Beneficial Certificates for a Receptionist

These certifications can demonstrate your commitment to the role and your dedication to professional development.

Some of the certificates you may consider as a receptionist include:

  • Certified Administrative Professional (CAP): Offered by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), this certification validates your expertise in administrative tasks and office management.
  • Customer Service Certification: Several organizations offer customer service certifications, which can showcase your ability to deliver exceptional service to clients and visitors.
  • Medical Office Receptionist Certification: If you work or plan to work in a medical setting, certain organizations provide certifications specifically for medical office receptionists, demonstrating your knowledge of medical terminology and procedures.
  • Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS): Earning MOS certifications in programs like Word, Excel, or PowerPoint can showcase your proficiency in using these essential office software tools.
  • Notary Public: Depending on the state you work in, becoming a notary public can add credibility to your role and allow you to perform notarial acts, such as verifying signatures on documents.
  • Professional Receptionist Certificate: Some vocational schools and online platforms offer professional receptionist certificate programs, focusing on receptionist-specific skills and competencies.
  • Front Desk Specialist Certification: Certain organizations provide certifications specifically for front desk professionals, validating your expertise in managing front desk operations.

What’s the Career Outlook for Receptionists?

There seems to be a fairly neutral outlook for the receptionist career path in the United States. According to the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics, there is projected to be a 0% growth of employment in the industry between 2021 and 2031.

However, this does not mean that there are no job opportunities available in the field. Instead, most of the openings will be from retiring existing workers or career changes and promotion of those workers.

Receptionist Popular Career Specialties

Job Opportunities of a Receptionist

As a receptionist, you can explore various job opportunities and specializations based on the industry, organization size, and your interests. While the core responsibilities of a receptionist remain consistent across different sectors, certain specializations can offer unique challenges and opportunities for career growth.

Here are some job opportunities and specializations you may find as a receptionist:

  • Hotel Front Desk Receptionist: In the hospitality industry, you’ll be responsible for guest check-ins, and reservations, and providing information about hotel amenities.
  • Corporate Receptionist: Working in a corporate setting, you may handle visitor check-ins, coordinate meetings, and assist with administrative tasks for executives and employees.
  • Salon/Spa Receptionist: In a beauty or wellness establishment, you’ll manage appointment bookings, greet customers, and handle retail sales.
  • Medical Receptionist: You will work in a medical setting, such as a doctor’s office or clinic, which involves scheduling appointments, handling patient inquiries, and managing medical records.
  • Legal Receptionist: In a law firm or legal office, you may handle client interactions, schedule appointments, and manage administrative tasks specific to the legal field.
  • Educational Institution Receptionist: In schools or universities, you’ll assist with student inquiries, manage schedules, and provide administrative support.
  • Government Office Receptionist: Working in a government agency involves assisting the public, managing inquiries, and supporting office operations.
  • Event Venue Receptionist: Working in event management, you’ll handle inquiries and event bookings, coordinate logistics, and assist clients.
  • Multilingual Receptionist: If you are fluent in multiple languages, you may find opportunities to work in international organizations or companies with diverse clientele.

Top Industries Hiring Receptionists

Receptionists are needed in a wide range of industries and organizations where they serve as front-line administrative professionals. Virtually any company or institution that receives visitors or communicates with clients and customers can hire receptionists.

Here’s a breakdown of industries that hire receptionists and examples of companies within each:

Hospitality and Tourism:
  • Hotels
  • Resorts
  • Travel Agencies
  • Cruise Lines
Beauty and Wellness:
  • Spas
  • Hair and Beauty Salons
  • Fitness Centers
Healthcare:
  • Hospitals
  • Dental Clinics
  • Specialist Medical Offices
  • Physical Therapy Centers
Corporate/Business:
  • Tech Companies
  • Financial Institutions
  • Law Firms
  • Insurance Companies
Real Estate:
  • Property Management Firms
  • Real Estate Agencies
Education:
  • Universities
  • Community Colleges
  • Private and Public Schools
  • Training and Coaching Centers
Government:
  • Municipal Offices (e.g., city or town halls)
  • State and Federal Government Offices
  • Embassies and Consulates

Should I become a Receptionist?

Becoming a receptionist can be a fulfilling and rewarding career choice, offering a gateway to various industries and opportunities for personal and professional growth. As front-line administrative professionals, receptionists play a vital role in creating a positive first impression for visitors and callers, providing exceptional customer service, and supporting the smooth functioning of an organization.

Through this role, you can develop essential skills such as communication, organization, and customer service, which are valuable in many other professions as well.

Before deciding to become a receptionist, consider your strengths, interests, and career goals. If you enjoy interacting with people, possess strong organizational abilities, and seek a role with diverse responsibilities, a receptionist position might be an excellent fit for you. Additionally, receptionists have the opportunity to explore various specializations in different industries, allowing you to find a niche that aligns with your passions and aspirations.

While the role of a receptionist can be demanding at times, with its fair share of challenges, it can also be a stepping stone to further career advancement. Receptionists who excel in their roles often gain recognition and opportunities to move into administrative or managerial positions within the organization.

Careers Related to Receptionist


Lace Brunsden

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