Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Summary

secretaries and administrative assistants image
Secretaries and administrative assistants provide clerical and organizational support.
Quick Facts: Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
2015 Median Pay $36,500 per year
$17.55 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2014 3,976,800
Job Outlook, 2014-24 3% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 118,800

What Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Do

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

Work Environment

Although secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry, many are employed in schools, hospitals, governments, and legal and medical offices. Most work full time.

How to Become a Secretary or Administrative Assistant

High school graduates who have experience using computer software applications 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.

Pay

The median annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants was $36,500 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Many job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Those with work experience, particularly experience using computer software applications to do word processing and create spreadsheets, should have the best job prospects.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for secretaries and administrative assistants.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of secretaries and administrative assistants with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about secretaries and administrative assistants by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

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.

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 is 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 4 million jobs in 2014 and worked in nearly every industry.

Many secretaries and administrative assistants work in schools, hospitals, governments, and legal and medical offices.

Employment in the detailed occupations of the secretaries and administrative assistants group in 2014 was distributed as follows:

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except
legal, medical, and executive 
2,457,000
Executive secretaries and executive
administrative assistants 
776,600
Medical secretaries  527,600
Legal secretaries  215,500

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work in an office setting. Some administrative assistants, who are also known as virtual assistants, typically work out of their own homes. 

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 support managers.

High school graduates who have experience using computer software applications, such as word processing and spreadsheets, 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. Many secretaries and administrative assistants advance to higher level administrative positions.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certification can demonstrate competency to employers.

The International Association of Administrative Professionals offers the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) certification. Candidates must have a minimum of 2 to 4 years of administrative work experience, depending on their level of education, and pass an examination.

Legal secretaries have several certification options. For example, those with 1 year of general office experience, or who have completed an approved training course, can acquire the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) certification through a testing process administered by NALS (previously known as National Association of Legal Secretaries). NALS also offers the Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) certification, considered to be an advanced certification for legal support professionals.

The Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) certification is conferred by Legal Secretaries International in areas such as intellectual property, criminal law, civil litigation, probate, and business law. Candidates typically need to have 5 years of legal experience and pass an examination to become certified.

Advancement

Secretaries and administrative assistants generally advance to other administrative positions with more responsibilities, such as office supervisor, office manager, or executive secretary.

With additional training, many legal secretaries become paralegals or legal assistants.

Important Qualities

Integrity. Many secretaries and administrative assistants are trusted to handle sensitive information. For example, medical secretaries collect patient data that is required, by law, to be kept confidential in order to protect patient privacy.

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 2015

Secretaries and administrative assistants

$36,500

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Office and administrative support occupations

$33,200

 

The median annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants was $36,500 in May 2015. 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 $22,390, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,640.

Median annual wages for secretaries and administrative assistants in May 2015 were as follows:

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants $53,370
Legal secretaries 43,200
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive 33,910
Medical secretaries 33,040

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Secretaries and administrative assistants

3%

Office and administrative support occupations

2%

 

Overall employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.

Employment of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive, the largest occupation in this profile by far, is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. In some organizations, technology is expected to substitute some functions that secretaries used to do and enable other staff to prepare their own documents without the assistance of secretaries.

Employment of medical secretaries is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of medical secretaries will depend on growth of the healthcare industry. The number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. In addition, aging baby boomers will demand more medical services as they become eligible for Social Security and Medicare. As a result of these effects, medical secretaries will be needed to handle administrative tasks related to billing and insurance processing.

Employment of executive secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 6 percent from 2014 to 2024. This is largely because many executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants can support more than one manager in an organization. In addition, many managers now perform work that was previously done by their executive secretaries. For example, they often type their own correspondence or schedule their own travel and meetings.

Employment of legal secretaries, the smallest occupation in this profile, is projected to decline 4 percent from 2014 to 2024. In legal firms, paralegals and legal assistants use technology that enable them to perform work previously done by legal secretaries, such as preparing and filing documents.

Job Prospects

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

Those with a combination of related work experience and experience using computer software applications to perform word processing and create spreadsheets should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for secretaries and administrative assistants, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Secretaries and administrative assistants

43-6000 3,976,800 4,095,600 3 118,800 [XLSX]

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

43-6011 776,600 732,000 -6 -44,600 [XLSX]

Legal secretaries

43-6012 215,500 206,700 -4 -8,900 [XLSX]

Medical secretaries

43-6013 527,600 635,800 21 108,200 [XLSX]

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

43-6014 2,457,000 2,521,100 3 64,000 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of secretaries and administrative assistants.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks produce financial records for organizations. They record financial transactions, update statements, and check financial records for accuracy.

Some college, no degree $37,250
Court reporters

Court Reporters

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings. Some court reporters provide captioning for television and real-time translation for deaf or hard-of-hearing people at public events, in business meetings, or in classrooms.

Postsecondary nondegree award $49,500
General office clerks

General Office Clerks

General office clerks perform a variety of clerical tasks, including answering telephones, typing documents, and filing records.

High school diploma or equivalent $29,580
Information clerks

Information Clerks

Information clerks perform routine clerical duties such as maintaining records, collecting data, and providing information to customers.

See How to Become One $32,050
Medical records and health information technicians

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical records and health information technicians, commonly referred to as health information technicians, organize and manage health information data. They ensure that the information maintains its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper files and electronic systems. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories.

Postsecondary nondegree award $37,110
Medical transcriptionists

Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists, sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare workers make and convert them into written reports. They may also review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.

Postsecondary nondegree award $34,890
Paralegals and legal assistants

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.

Associate's degree $48,810
Receptionists

Receptionists

Receptionists perform administrative tasks, such as answering phones, receiving visitors, and providing general information about their organization to the public and customers.

High school diploma or equivalent $27,300

Contacts for More Information About this section

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

Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals

International Association of Administrative Professionals

For more information about legal secretaries and administrative assistants, visit

Legal Secretaries International Inc

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

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Secretaries and Administrative Assistants,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm (visited August 28, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.