Bureau of Labor Statistics

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

secretaries and administrative assistants image
Secretaries and administrative assistants provide clerical and organizational support.
Quick Facts: Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
2020 Median Pay $40,990 per year
$19.71 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, 2019 3,638,800
Job Outlook, 2019-29 -9% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2019-29 -327,400

Summary

What Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Do

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine clerical and administrative duties.

Work Environment

Although secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry, many are employed in schools, hospitals, and government, 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 $40,990 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

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

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

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

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

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

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Secretaries and administrative assistants

$40,990

Office and administrative support occupations

$38,720

 

The median annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants was $40,990 in May 2020. 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 $26,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,510.

Median annual wages for secretaries and administrative assistants in May 2020 were as follows:

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants $63,110
Legal secretaries and administrative assistants 48,980
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive 38,850
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants 37,350

In May 2020, 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 $46,990
Government 45,320
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 42,160
Educational services; state, local, and private 41,110
Healthcare and social assistance 38,060

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.

Job Outlook

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

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

Occupational Title

Secretaries and administrative assistants

SOC Code43-6000
Employment, 20193,638,800
Projected Employment, 20293,311,400
Percent Change, 2019-29-9
Numeric Change, 2019-29-327,400
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

SOC Code43-6011
Employment, 2019593,400
Projected Employment, 2029472,400
Percent Change, 2019-29-20
Numeric Change, 2019-29-121,100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Legal secretaries and administrative assistants

SOC Code43-6012
Employment, 2019171,800
Projected Employment, 2029133,800
Percent Change, 2019-29-22
Numeric Change, 2019-29-38,000
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Medical secretaries and administrative assistants

SOC Code43-6013
Employment, 2019623,400
Projected Employment, 2029682,700
Percent Change, 2019-2910
Numeric Change, 2019-2959,300
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

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

SOC Code43-6014
Employment, 20192,250,200
Projected Employment, 20292,022,600
Percent Change, 2019-29-10
Numeric Change, 2019-29-227,500
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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

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 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks produce financial records for organizations and check financial records for accuracy.

Some college, no degree $42,410
Court reporters Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings. Simultaneous captioners provide similar transcriptions for television or for presentations in other settings, such as press conferences and business meetings, for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Postsecondary nondegree award $61,660
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 $35,330
Information clerks Information Clerks

Information clerks perform routine clerical duties, maintain records, collect data, and provide information to customers.

See How to Become One $36,920
Medical records and health information technicians Medical Records and Health Information Specialists

Medical records and health information specialists organize, manage, and code health information data.

Postsecondary nondegree award $44,090
Medical transcriptionists Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare workers make and convert them into written reports.

Postsecondary nondegree award $35,270
Paralegals and legal assistants Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants perform a variety of tasks to support lawyers

Associate's degree $52,920
Receptionists Receptionists

Receptionists do tasks such as answering phones, receiving visitors, and providing information about their organization to the public.

High school diploma or equivalent $31,110
Financial clerks Financial Clerks

Financial clerks do administrative work, help customers, and carry out transactions that involve money.

High school diploma or equivalent $41,520
Travel agents Travel Agents

Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and entertainment activities to individuals and groups planning trips.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,350

Contacts for More Info

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 and Administrative Assistants

Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

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

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Secretaries and Administrative Assistants,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm (visited July 07, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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