According to the 2010-11 edition of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, administrative assistance ranks among occupations with the largest number of job openings in the country.

This should be music to the ears of individuals looking for stable and lucrative careers in this recession-marred job market.

What sounds even better for aspirants of this profession is the fact that increasingly, administrative assistants are being entrusted with manager-level responsibilities. This means their role has not only become more evolved, but also more challenging and exciting over a period of time.

So, what is administrative assistance?

Administrative assistance refers to a cluster of administrative and clerical tasks that are performed for smooth functioning of an organization. Among the duties performed by administrative assistants or secretaries are:

  • Planning and scheduling meetings
  • Arranging and fixing appointments
  • Handling office paperwork
  • Maintaining electronic files/records
  • Managing projects
  • Distributing information
  • Making travel arrangements
  • Preparing for official guests
  • Basic accounting and bookkeeping

Administrative assistants may also be responsible for handling internal and external communication, maintaining corporate website, interfacing with vendors as well as clients, and coordinating support services like housekeeping, food, parking, etc. to keep things running smoothly in an office.

Clearly, the scope of work that an administrative assistant can potentially do is vast and to perform these tasks, he/she should be familiar with different types of software applications like MS Office, QuickBooks, PageMaker, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.

Admin assistants should also have good tying speed; excellent written and oral communication skills in addition to good customer service, interpersonal and organizational skills. The ability to manage time and multi-task also form part of the qualities expected in an administrative assistant.

How to become an administrative assistant?

Although high school graduates may be able to access entry-level secretarial positions provided they demonstrate the basic office skills required for the job, it’s probably a good idea in the long-run to go through some kind of post-secondary administrative assistant training.
Such administrative assistant training programs are run by vocational schools and community colleges and are usually a good stepping stone to a career in this field. These training programs can be of varying length depending on the school offering them.

Some administrative assistant courses are delivered online and are completely self-paced. A Vocational administrative assistance course typically trains students in MS Office applications, business correspondence, office procedures, computer fundamentals, etc.

Some employers prefer to hire college graduates for the role of secretaries, especially if the position requires them to work with the top honchos of a company. A business program is a good choice of degree for individuals interested in acquiring these high profile secretarial roles.

Once your administrative assistant training is over, you should aim for a certification to prove your proficiency for the job. Certifications are available from organizations like the International Association of Administrative Professionals.

Increasingly, there has been a trend towards hiring virtual administrative assistants. Employers, especially smaller businesses that cannot afford to have a lot of permanent staff on their payroll, hire these professionals to perform administrative tasks for them from home.

The duties of virtual admin assistants are essentially similar to their real world counterparts with the additional flexibility to work from a home office. This opens up some very exciting possibilities for people looking for genuine telecommuting jobs!

Author's Bio: 

Nancy is a 35-year old stay at home mom of two. She worked as a medical assistant for five years before taking a break to be with her children. Her experience as a medical assistant gave her valuable insights in to the medical billing and coding industry, which she likes to share with others through her writing. Medical billing and coding programs often find mention in her writings. Her expertise in Medical billing and coding training stems from her extensive research on the subject.

Her other interests include gardening and baking. She stays in Cleveland, OH with her husband and two daughters.