Engineering administrative assistants work in engineering offices and perform a wide range of administrative support duties. They may be employed in various engineering fields, such as architectural, mechanical, biomedical or electrical. Unlike general administrative workers, engineering administrative assistants may have a technical component to their duties as well, so a basic understanding of engineering or science is usually helpful.
Like most administrative assistants, engineering administrative assistants often oversee all administrative activities in support of engineers or engineering departments as they work on construction and other projects. They may schedule meetings and organize engineers’ calendars. They answer phones and direct calls to the proper party or take a message. They may respond to routine inquires and correspondence and send email, faxes and mail. They also create reports, spreadsheets and presentations. However, engineering administrative assistants may also be responsible for overseeing the organization’s technical library and conducting research for articles and papers. Engineering administrative assistants may also assist with the public bidding process for construction projects by gathering necessary bidding documents; arranging money transfers and refunds and recording bids once bidding has opened. They may help compile procedure manuals, which could include editing technical drawings and other diagrams.
Some engineering administrative assistant positions require only a high school diploma or certificate from a vocational school. However, many employers prefer candidates who have an associate or even a bachelor's degree. Engineering administrative assistants may also receive on-the-job training in advanced office and computer skills. Employers may provide the training directly or arrange for software vendors to teach courses in new products. In addition to basic office software, some engineering administrative assistants may require knowledge of computer-aided design software and other drafting programs.
Engineering administrative assistants work in offices. Like any job that requires a great deal of desk work and time working on computers, they may experience back and neck pain, eyestrain and hand and wrist issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome. In some cases, engineering administrative assistants may be required to travel to construction sites and hard-hat areas. Most engineering administrative assistants work standard 40-hour weeks but part-time schedules may also be available.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages for administrative assistants, including engineering administrative assistants, was $40,030 as of May 2008. The highest 10 percent earned more than $62,070, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,030. The middle 50 percent earned between $32,410 and $50,280.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for administrative assistants, including engineering administrative assistants, should increase by 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is about as fast a rate as the average for all occupations. The scientific, technical and engineering field is expected to expand, which means opportunities should be especially good for engineering administrative assistants. Openings will also result from experienced engineering administrative assistants retiring or leaving the field. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related scientific field and advanced computer skills should enjoy the best prospects.