Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They 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 One: 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.

Salary: The median annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants is $39,850.

Job Outlook: Employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 9 percent over the next ten years. Most job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

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

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a secretary or administrative assistant with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Secretary Jobs

  • Cert Nurse Asst/Unit Secretary - Med/Surg(Pedi/Adult) - PRN - CHRISTUS Health - Kingsville, TX

    This is a dual role position which functions as a Certified Nurse Assistant and a Unit Secretary . This position serves as an important link in the communication chain ensuring information is ...

  • Cert Nurse Asst/Unit Secretary - ICU - CHRISTUS Health - Corpus Christi, TX

    This is a dual role position which functions as a Certified Nurse Assistant and a Unit Secretary .This position serves as an important link in the communication chain ensuring information is ...

  • Secretary - Catawissa Water Authority - Catawissa, PA

    Catawissa Water Authority is accepting applications until 2:00 PM, Thursday, October 1, 2020 for a full time experienced Secretary / Bookkeeper, including all aspects of payroll management. Includes ...

See all Secretary jobs

Top 3 Administrative Assistant Jobs

  • Administrative Assistant - Service Corporation International - Whittier, CA

    Provide administrative support to the Sales Counselors and Sales Management Team so that work is completed efficiently and accurately. Support counselors and Sales Management Team with property ...

  • Administrative Assistant II - Service Corporation International - Whittier, CA

    Provide administrative and clerical support to the Vice President of Asian Marketing and Operations ... Minimum of five years experience as an Office Manager or Executive Assistant * A.A. degree, or ...

  • Administrative Assistant - Race Department - Mammoth Mountain - Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, LLC - Bishop, CA

    Description Assists the Race Dept. Office Manager with US Ski & Snowboard/FIS sanctioned events race administration duties. Manages USASA event details. Helps coordinate the volunteer program. Works ...

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What Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Do[About this section] [To Top]

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

Duties of Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

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 for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants[About this section] [To Top]

Secretaries and administrative assistants hold about 3.6 million jobs. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up secretaries and administrative assistants is distributed as follows:

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive 2,250,200
Medical secretaries 623,400
Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants 593,400
Legal secretaries 171,800

The largest employers of secretaries and administrative assistants are 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.

Secretary and Administrative Assistant Work Schedules

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.

How to Become a Secretary or Administrative Assistant[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants near you!

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.

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Education for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

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.

Secretary and Administrative Assistant 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 for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Executive secretaries can gain experience by working in administrative positions that have less challenging responsibilities, such as secretaries and general office clerks.

Important Qualities for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

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.

Secretary and Administrative Assistant Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants is $39,850. 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 $25,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,510.

Median annual wages for secretaries and administrative assistants are as follows:

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants $60,890
Legal secretaries $47,300
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive $37,690
Medical secretaries $36,580

The median annual wages for secretaries and administrative assistants in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $45,100
Government $43,900
Educational services; state, local, and private $40,450
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations $40,300
Healthcare and social assistance $37,240

Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.

Job Outlook for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 9 percent over the next ten years.

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.

See all administrative jobs.

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 for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

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
Occupational Title Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29
Percent Numeric
Secretaries and administrative assistants 3,638,800 3,311,400 -9 -327,400
  Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants 593,400 472,400 -20 -121,100
  Legal secretaries and administrative assistants 171,800 133,800 -22 -38,000
  Medical secretaries and administrative assistants 623,400 682,700 10 59,300
  Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive 2,250,200 2,022,600 -10 -227,500


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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