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What is An Administrative Assistant?
An administrative assistant is defined as a trained professional hired by an individual or organization to help manage the day-to-day functions of an office. Administrative assistants work in every conceivable industry from pharmaceuticals to telecommunications. While some may work out of their home office virtual assistant, most administrative assistants work in an office.
The title administrative assistant is often used interchangeably with the titles of office manager, receptionist, secretary, executive assistant, office clerk, and administrative specialist. However, job duties between administrative assistants can vary widely from one organization to another.
Generally, an administrative assistant will support the operations and daily administrative duties to help make an office run smoothly. Assistants perform a number of key business tasks across every industry. Administrative work can be general office or specialized in fields such as the medical or legal fields.
What Does an Administrative Assistant Do?
A recent survey performed by the U.S. Department of Labor of administrative assistants helped to reveal their day to day activities. While not all-encompassing, the most popular job duties of an administrative assistant include the following items:
- Utilizing software to communicate, manage data, produce presentations, and create spreadsheets
- Managing office supplies
- Maintaining office records: digitally and manually
- Answering phone calls, taking messages, and managing electronic communications
- Producing memos and corporate communications
- Running errands and managing events
- Filing documents and scheduling appointments
- Properly completing forms in accordance with company policy and procedures
Types of Administrative Assistants
Medical Administrative Assistant
In the medical field, healthcare administrators and hospitals both require the specialized skills of an office administrator to properly function. Medical administrative assistants perform a number of office-related tasks within a healthcare environment. Examples include filing, billing, insurance processing, medical coding, and similar tasks.
A personal assistant (PA) is an individual hired to assist a person or group of people. PA's will perform many of the same duties as an executive administrative assistant. Personal assistants will help manage both business-related duties and personal activities. It's common to have personal assistants help with dry cleaning, meals, grocery shopping, and running errands.
Data Entry Clerk
A clerk or data entry clerk is a professional that transforms data from one form to another. While the job duties may be quite similar to a traditional office assistant, a clerk will be focused on computer-based tasks. Data entry clerks typically manage data sets, input key data into CMS systems, digitize reports, and archive data for future use.
Virtual assistants are often referred to as a VA. VA's can be focused on administrative duties similar to an office manager or bend towards technical or social duties. The common denominator that distinguishes a VA from other administrative assistants is their physical location. A virtual assistant will generally work from their home office to support the business activities required.
Executive Administrative Assistant
An executive administrative assistant is typically a highly qualified, office specialist. Executive assistants provide administrative help to a designated individual or group of executives. Assistants at this level will provide support to an executive vice president, CEO, or general manager. Given the sensitive nature of information, executive assistants focus on high-level business tasks and advanced job duties.
An accounting assistant is required to perform many of the same duties of an administrative assistant but in an abbreviated manner. The scope of the job is winnowed down to allow them to work on accounting tasks. Accounting assistants are a combination between a bookkeeper and administrative assistant.
Administrative Assistant Training Requirements
A training program for administrative assistants provide students with key skills and abilities. The business knowledge and communication skills acquired is necessary to adeptly operate in an office environment. Administrative training will vary by school and industry. For example training classes will fluctuate for specialized administrative assistant roles in industries such as: dental, technology, medical, legal, executive, accounting, and government entities.
Administrative assistant training programs will involve courses in computers, filing, organization, research, report composition and more. The primary focus of such programs is the familiarization with systems commonly in use in large offices and how to manage the flow of information while meeting set deadlines.
Such courses are available through community colleges or private career schools and result in a diploma, certificate or associate degree. The typical length for these programs is between one and two years, depending on the resulting document of completion. A curriculum in administrative assistance may include:
- English for Business
- Bookkeeping & Accounting
- Database Management
- Scheduling & Purchasing
- Business Writing
How Long are Administrative Assistant Training Programs?
Training programs for administrative assistants will vary by school and industry. However, you can expect certificate programs and diploma programs to be a year or less. On the other hand, an associate's degree for administrative work can take approximately twenty-four months to complete of full-time study.
Additional administrative assistant training modules include online programs and post-baccalaureate certificates. Online administrative assistant training can be as short as a few weeks up to a few months to complete. Meanwhile, a post-baccalaureate certificate is a specialized certification offered by colleges and associations to help existing professionals upskill.
Administrative Assistant Certificate
Certificate programs for administrative assistant may be a viable choice for students and working office managers. While not a requirement, employers prefer to hire qualified, trained administrative assistants with a recognized certificate. An administrative assistant certificate helps illustrate to employers you dedication to learning, growing, and investing in your future.
Accredited colleges offer an array of certificate programs for prospective students. Locating schools offering such certificates is an easy as searching below. Alternatively, you may consider a Certificate of Administrative Professionals (CAP). The CAP examination is administered by the IAAP. The text can be taken after meeting all education and work experience requirements. Currently the test is offered twice a year and booking a spot early is recommended.
Like other professionals, an administrative assistant may be required to complete continuing education. The continuing education credits may be related to a professional certificate or employer requirement. In either case, you should anticipate investing in your education perpetually.
Employment & Administrative Assistant Jobs
A career as an administrative assistant does not necessarily require a post secondary education, though immediate entry into such a position rather than through promotion is facilitated by such an education. Additionally, individuals who have pursued such an education are more likely to be hired due to the extra skills and knowledge reducing the need for training for a given office.
Individuals working as administrative assistants will often be responsible for the writing of reports, reviewing of documents, preparation of materials, setting meetings, managing information through physical and digital filing systems as well as meeting the needs of executives as they arise.
Individuals may find promotion over time, resulting in office management or executive administration of other assistants. Such promotions are a result of demonstrated competency combined with work experience. Individuals in this field should have strong skills in organization, writing, computers as well as be sociable and have interpersonal skills.
Administrative Assistant Salary
The average salary for an administrative assistant is approximately $35,000 a year, with increases available through annual salary bumps and promotion. Individuals working in larger companies or having a larger number of responsibilities tend to earn more as well.
Job growth for administrative assistants is expected to remain steady over the decade due to new jobs opening, others closing, and some requiring replacement due to promotion or retirement. Individuals interested in administrative assistance may also be interested in medical executive assistant, customer service support, paralegal studies, or data entry technology.
Additional Resources for Administrative Assistants
National and regional associations for administrative assistants are typically great resources for current and future professionals in the field. Examples include the following three organizations: American Society of Administrative Professional (ASAP), International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), and Association of Administrative Professionals (AAP).