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Secretary / Receptionist / Executive Assistant


How to Become a Secretary or Receptionist
Secretary and Receptionist Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Secretary
Secretary Salary
Influential Professionals in this Field
Leading Organizations in this Field
Top Cities for Secretary / Receptionist Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Secretary or Receptionist

Secretaries/Receptionists/Executive Assistants make up 4.2 million people in the work force, and 1,940,000 of these people are secretaries (this number does not include medical and legal secretaries). Another 1,618,000 are executive assistants, and the rest are medical/legal secretaries.

When applying for a secretarial position, applicants may find that only a high school diploma is required. However, a college degree may come in very handy and in most situations will help capture a higher pay rate.

Many community colleges offer an administration degree or something similar. Those who seek to secure this type of degree will strengthen their skills in accounting, keyboarding, computers, transcription, grammar, English, records management, and office procedures. Some degree programs may even require students to complete an internship. Depending on one's career goals, courses in a foreign language may also prove useful during the job hunt.

Those who wish to venture into the legal or medical industry will need special training and will need more than a two-year degree. Depending on one's career ambitions, one may also wish to become certified by one of four different certification programs,.

The first two certification programs available include the Certified Professional Secretary and the Certified Administrative Professional. Both certifications can be obtained by meeting education and experience requirements. Legal secretaries can also be certified by the National Association of Legal Secretaries. The certifications that are available to this group of individuals include the Professional Legal Secretary and Certified Legal Secretary Specialist.

What does a Secretary do?

Secretarial positions have been around for many years. Initially the job responsibilities required mainly answering phones and creating letters. However, with the invention of word processing and the computer, creating and typing letters has become vastly quicker and easier. Thus, more responsibilities were added to the secretarial position.

The role of secretary or executive assistant has a wide range of responsibilities, and at the entry level, job responsibilities may only include preparing letters, documents, and answering phones. Of course, as one's skills improve, job responsibilities may include fluency in foreign languages, superb typing skills, managing budgets, maintaining websites, and arranging travel.

At the highest level of the secretarial job spectrum are the most responsibilities. Once here, employees may be required to complete continuing education requirements and to uphold a certain persona that fits that of the company.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Secretary?

One of the most essential skills that a secretary needs is knowledge of the procedures and techniques of the appropriate business industry. This means if a person is to work within the medical industry, they must have a working knowledge of how things/procedures work within the industry as this can be vastly different from business operations of another industry. Regardless of the industry, all secretaries or executive assistants must have an excellent knowledge of spelling, punctuation, computer operations, and the ability to maintain relationships with co-workers and anyone outside of the organization. Excellent communication skills are a must since secretaries often take phone messages and serve as the go-between for their office and other organizations.

Other requirements may vary depending on the specific job and industry. This may include public relations, business English, fluency in foreign languages, etc. Of course, as technology grows, the skills that are necessary will change. For example, with the dawn of computers, email, and word processing, many professionals began to handle their own correspondences and leave other tasks to the secretary. This, of course, is when secretaries began taking on more difficult tasks such as coordinating events, planning budgets, etc. Secretaries also have to learn how to use copiers, fax machines, PDAs, and other devices. The position will only continue to evolution as new technology appears, and one needs to be willing as well as able to adapt.

However, while all of the above skills can be taught, interpersonal skills cannot. It is imperative that secretaries or executive assistants have tact and the ability to work with co-workers and those outside the organizations in order to solve problems and plan events.

How much do Secretaries or Receptionists make?

A secretary's salary can vary greatly and has a direct correlation to the level in which one is at within their career. Entry-level positions can start around $23,000 per year while those with some experience can be paid anywhere from $30,000 to $46,000 per year. However, only about ten percent of all secretaries make over $56,000 per year.


Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Don Bretthauer is the current Executive Director of the International Association of Administrative Professionals. He oversees nearly 600 chapters in 35 regional divisions and chapters in 66 countries. He continually strives to help set acceptable and achievable standards within the administrative professional field and works hard to expand the administrative professional's role in the work force.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The International Association of Administration Professionals is a leading organization for secretaries. Initially the organization was founded in 1942 and was named the National Secretaries Association. However, as the role of the secretary changed, so did the name of the organization. The organization was founded to set standards within the administration professional's field and to provide continuing education, training, programs, and publications to its members. Today, the organization is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, and has a total of over 40,000 members. Many of its members work in Fortune 500 companies, but there are also members from small and medium sized organizations. These organizations include non-profits, local, state, and national governments as well as private businesses.

What are the top cities for Secretary / Receptionist jobs?

Larger cities are often a source for the most secretarial jobs due to the high number of companies and businesses that flock to these metropolitan areas. In the United States the top ten cities are New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose.

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