How to Become an Administrative Assistant
Administrative Assistant Careers & Degrees

An administrative assistant is the driving force of a business.

They make sure things stay on the right track, and are the ones to smooth things over when they go awry.

This role can be a hectic one, you’ll need to have a very broad skills base, as well as the ability to multi-task.

You’ll be the person responsible for making sure the I’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.

Working as an administrative assistant is a challenging role in itself, it can also be a doorway into many other exciting careers.

Successful administrative assistants are good problem solvers.

They know how to think on their feet and come up with solutions that are sometimes a bit outside the square.

If you’re a creative person who can think laterally, you’ll make an excellent administrative assistant.

Interpersonal skills are important too, you will need to be able to get on well with your colleagues and supervisors, as well as clientele that you communicate with.

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Education Requirements to Become an Administrative Assistant

While there are no formal requirements to become an administrative assistant, there are several different pathways you could take to become employed in this role.

If you have some good work experience in other industries, you may be able to gain a job without any education.

Also, if you have just finished high school, you may gain an entry-level role or some work as an intern.

It’s also possible to get a job as a secretary or working in a mailroom, and then be promoted to administrative assistant.

Most administrative assistants do have some kind of post-secondary education.

You can take a specialized diploma or certificate program either at a community college or business school.

During this time you’ll develop word processing and customer service skills, learn some basic accounting, as well as how businesses are structured.

Another option is to gain a specialist certificate as a legal or medical secretary.

With this extra qualification, you may find it easier to get work and will earn a higher salary.

If you’re not quite sure what kind of area you want to work in yet, you can always revisit this later and do some further training later in your career.

Employers will hold a college degree in high regard.

If you have completed a degree with a focus on the humanities then this will help you, as will any subjects in business or accounting.

Administrative Assistant Job Description

Administrative assistants can be found working in almost every industry.

Some will deal exclusively with clients and customers, others may work entirely behind the scenes.

Here are some of the tasks you might find yourself completing in a day.

  • Greeting clients
  • Answering calls, faxes, and emails
  • Data entry
  • Completing letters and forms
  • Organizing ingoing and outgoing mail
  • Bookkeeping
  • Customer service
  • Appointment setting and diary management

Depending on the industry you are employed in, these tasks could be quite varied.

Working in this kind of role is a good introduction to different types of work.

Administrative Assistant Salary and Career Path

Most administrative assistants start in entry-level positions, with time and experience they can move on to more complex roles.

Some move on to become office managers, personal assistants, and other senior positions.

Many go on to work within the industries they are employed in.

Some complete further study to become bookkeepers and accountants.

If you’re not sure what kind of administrative role you would like to be doing, look for an all-rounder job in a big company.

This will allow you to learn all different kinds of work, as well as have plenty of opportunities to move into more focused roles later on.

Building up a good range of different skills early on in your administrative career is important, you never know when you might need to use them.

According to BLS.gov, an administrative assistant’s median salary is around $30,000 per year.

Over time with some further training, and promotion to a senior role such as a personal assistant or office manager, you could expect to earn $50,000 a year or higher.

Gone are the days where secretaries completed mundane office work, today’s administrators are switched on and highly skilled workers who are helping to drive business.

If you are looking for a job that will offer you security, variety, and plenty of scope for advancement, then working as an administrative assistant could be perfect for you.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$39,180
$24K
$30K
$39K
$47K
$57K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$36,190
Alaska$43,190
Arizona$37,040
Arkansas$31,180
California$44,880
Colorado$39,890
Connecticut$48,320
Delaware$40,440
District of Columbia$51,010
Florida$36,070
Georgia$34,580
Hawaii$43,060
Idaho$33,920
Illinois$39,440
Indiana$34,490
Iowa$36,690
Kansas$34,260
Kentucky$34,410
Louisiana$32,670
Maine$38,330
Maryland$42,150
Massachusetts$47,870
Michigan$38,740
Minnesota$41,540
Mississippi$32,540
Missouri$36,210
Montana$33,750
Nebraska$35,270
Nevada$40,480
New Hampshire$38,570
New Jersey$43,440
New Mexico$35,250
New York$42,490
North Carolina$37,620
North Dakota$38,070
Ohio$37,030
Oklahoma$32,650
Oregon$41,240
Pennsylvania$37,540
Rhode Island$44,270
South Carolina$36,770
South Dakota$30,210
Tennessee$36,900
Texas$36,160
Utah$36,580
Vermont$38,500
Virginia$41,060
Washington$44,340
West Virginia$32,990
Wisconsin$37,870
Wyoming$39,660
Guam$33,220
Puerto Rico$22,680
Virgin Islands$36,340

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $51,010.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $51,010
Connecticut - $48,320
Massachusetts - $47,870
California - $44,880
Washington - $44,340
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, OCC Code 43-6014, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is an administrative assistant?

An administrative assistant can also be called a secretary or an administrative clerk, though the term ‘assistant’ is more modern and will soon fully replace the others.

Administrative assistants organize, plan, control and coordinate all administrative procedures, documentation, and activities.

In a nutshell, an administrative assistant is the right hand; someone who supports individuals by setting up appointments, managing their schedules, etc.

The main responsibilities of the specialist include handling all incoming and outgoing emails, phone calls, etc.; creating and maintaining administrative records; filing and organizing all the documents; interacting with third parties and so on.

Many administrative assistants work in legal and medical offices, government agencies, schools, and hospitals, though such specialists can be found in nearly every field.

QuestionHow much do administrative assistants make?

On average, administrative assistants earn around $27.000 per year in the United States.

However, depending on the level of education and experience, the salary of a specialist can range from $23.500 to about $38.500 annually.

The wage would certainly depend on the sector or the individual that the administrative assistant decides to work for.

Entry-level assistants can expect to earn a little more than $11 per hour, while top-level administrative assistants can make over $18 hourly.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become an administrative assistant?

It is not necessary to have a degree, in case you want to become an administrative assistant.

A certificate or a diploma might be enough for some industries and those can cost you anywhere from $600 to over $25.000.

The programs at the pricier end provide more specific knowledge, while the cheapest options are intensive courses that can be completed in a few months or even less.

An associate’s degree will cost around $3.000-$3.500 per year, while a bachelor’s degree will cost you between $35.000 and $115.000 to complete.

Accommodation, books, and supplies should be paid for separately.

QuestionWhat is the demand for administrative assistants?

Between 2016 and 2026, the administrative assistant job market is expected to decrease by 6.5%.

There will still be some employment opportunities in the field, however, the assistants in some industries will get replaced by machines in the near future.

The industry is mainly concentrated in three states – New York, California, and Texas.

QuestionHow long does it take to become an administrative assistant?

Some administrative assistant courses might take you a few months or even less to complete.

There are industries that are ready to hire high school graduates without a degree, in case the candidates have acquired basic English, computer, and office skills.

Medical or legal administrative assistants, for example, have to know industry-specific terms (some community colleges and technical schools offer such instructions).

You can always acquire a degree in business administration.

An associate’s degree will take you 2 years to complete, while a bachelor’s degree will require 4 years.

Some administrative assistants earn a degree in psychology or communication.

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