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Job Outlook: -7% (Decline)

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What Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Do About this section

Secretaries and administrative assistants
Secretaries and administrative assistants create and maintain filing systems.

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine clerical and administrative duties. They organize files, prepare documents, schedule appointments, and support other staff.

Duties

Secretaries and administrative assistants typically do the following:

  • Answer telephones and take messages or transfer calls
  • Schedule appointments and update event calendars
  • Arrange staff meetings
  • Handle incoming and outgoing mail and faxes
  • Prepare memos, invoices, or other reports
  • Edit documents
  • Maintain databases and filing systems, whether electronic or paper
  • Perform basic bookkeeping

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform a variety of clerical and administrative duties that are necessary to run an organization efficiently. They use computer software to create spreadsheets; manage databases; and prepare presentations, reports, and documents. They also may negotiate with vendors, buy supplies, and manage stockrooms or corporate libraries. Secretaries and administrative assistants also use videoconferencing, fax, and other office equipment. Specific job duties vary by experience, job title, and specialty.

The following are examples of types of secretaries and administrative assistants: 

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants provide high-level administrative support for an office and for top executives of an organization. They often handle more complex responsibilities, such as reviewing incoming documents, conducting research, and preparing reports. Some also supervise clerical staff.

Legal secretaries perform work requiring knowledge of legal terminology and procedures. They prepare legal documents, such as summonses, complaints, motions, and subpoenas under the supervision of an attorney or a paralegal. They also review legal journals and help with legal research—for example, by verifying quotes and citations in legal briefs.

Medical secretaries transcribe dictation and prepare reports or articles for physicians or medical scientists. They also take simple medical histories of patients, arrange for patients to be hospitalized, or process insurance payments. Medical secretaries need to be familiar with medical terminology and codes, medical records, and hospital or laboratory procedures.

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive form the largest subcategory of secretaries and administrative assistants. They handle an office’s administrative activities in almost every sector of the economy, including schools, government, and private corporations. For example, secretaries in schools are often responsible for handling most of the communications among parents, students, the community, teachers, and school administrators. They schedule appointments, receive visitors, and keep track of students’ records.

Work Environment About this section

Secretaries and administrative assistants
Secretaries and administrative assistants work in offices.

Secretaries and administrative assistants held about 3.6 million jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up secretaries and administrative assistants was distributed as follows:

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive 2,250,200
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants 623,400
Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants 593,400
Legal secretaries and administrative assistants 171,800

The largest employers of secretaries and administrative assistants were as follows:

Healthcare and social assistance 23%
Educational services; state, local, and private 15
Professional, scientific, and technical services 12
Government 8
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 6

Secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry.

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work in an office setting. Some administrative assistants may work out of their own homes as virtual assistants.

Work Schedules

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.

How to Become a Secretary or Administrative Assistant About this section

Secretaries and administrative assistants
Secretaries and administrative assistants may seek training in word processing, spreadsheet, and database software.

High school graduates who have experience using computer software applications, such as word processing and spreadsheet programs, usually qualify for entry-level positions. Although most secretaries learn their job in several weeks, many legal and medical secretaries require additional training to learn industry-specific terminology. Executive secretaries usually need several years of related work experience.

Education

High school graduates can take courses in word processing and office procedures at technical schools or community colleges. Some temporary placement agencies also provide training in word processing, spreadsheet, and database software.

Some medical and legal secretaries learn industry-specific terminology and practices by attending courses offered at community colleges or technical schools. For executive secretary positions, employers increasingly prefer to hire those who have taken some college courses or have a bachelor’s degree.

Training

Secretaries and administrative assistants typically learn their skills through short-term on-the-job training, usually lasting a few weeks. During this time they learn about administrative procedures, including how to prepare documents. Medical and legal secretaries’ training may last several months as they learn industry-specific terminology and practices.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Executive secretaries can gain experience by working in administrative positions that have less challenging responsibilities, such as secretaries and general office clerks.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants often prioritize tasks and make decisions on their employers’ behalf, so good judgment is essential.

Interpersonal skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants interact with clients, customers, or staff. They should communicate effectively and be courteous when interacting with others to create a positive work environment and client experience.

Organizational skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants keep files, folders, and schedules in proper order so an office can run efficiently.

Writing skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants write memos and emails when communicating with managers, employees, and customers. Therefore, they must have good grammar, ensure accuracy, and maintain a professional tone.

Pay About this section

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Median annual wages, May 2019

Secretaries and administrative assistants

$39,850

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Office and administrative support occupations

$37,580

 

The median annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants was $39,850 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,510.

Median annual wages for secretaries and administrative assistants in May 2019 were as follows:

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants $60,890
Legal secretaries and administrative assistants 47,300
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive 37,690
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants 36,580

In May 2019, the median annual wages for secretaries and administrative assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $45,100
Government 43,900
Educational services; state, local, and private 40,450
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 40,300
Healthcare and social assistance 37,240

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Office and administrative support occupations

-5%

Secretaries and administrative assistants

-9%

 

Overall employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 9 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Technology enables staff in many organizations to prepare their own documents without the help of secretaries. Additionally, many executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants support more than one manager in an organization, and many managers now do tasks that were previously done by these workers. In legal firms, paralegals and legal assistants use technology that enables them to perform tasks, such as preparing and filing documents, that were previously done by legal secretaries.

Employment growth is projected for medical secretaries, primarily due to the growth of the healthcare industry. For example, baby boomers will require more medical services as they age. Medical secretaries will be needed to handle administrative tasks related to billing and insurance processing of Medicare and other claims.

Job Prospects

Most job openings are expected to come from the need to replace secretaries and administrative assistants who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for secretaries and administrative assistants, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Secretaries and administrative assistants

43-6000 3,638,800 3,311,400 -9 -327,400 Get data

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

43-6011 593,400 472,400 -20 -121,100 Get data

Legal secretaries and administrative assistants

43-6012 171,800 133,800 -22 -38,000 Get data

Medical secretaries and administrative assistants

43-6013 623,400 682,700 10 59,300 Get data

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive

43-6014 2,250,200 2,022,600 -10 -227,500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers in secretarial and administrative work, visit

International Association of Administrative Professionals

For more information about legal secretaries and administrative assistants, visit

NALS

For more information about virtual assistants, visit

International Virtual Assistants Association

CareerOneStop

For a career video on secretaries and administrative assistants, visit

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

O*NET

Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants

Legal Secretaries

Medical Secretaries

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive

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