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The role of administrative assistants is to support the professional staff so they can perform their duties effectively. Whether in government, business, or nonprofit organizations, admins keep the office humming by taking care of essentials such as paperwork and computer records. They typically also perform some administrative duties, but the specific tasks depend on the level of the job and type of office.
Administrative assistants perform duties such as arranging meetings, scheduling appointments, keeping the office calendar, answering telephones and editing correspondence. They maintain office files and databases and create computer spreadsheets and presentations. Often their responsibilities also include purchasing supplies and managing the supply room.
Their customer service duties include receiving office visitors and seeing that they get the assistance they need.
The other work of administrative assistants often depends on the particular industry. In legal offices, admins help prepare legal documents, while in medical offices they bill insurance companies. In school offices, maintaining student records and communicating with parents are among their duties.
The level and job title determine how much responsibility falls to an administrative assistant. Entry-level admins focus on clerical functions and basic computer tasks, but senior admins with advanced computer skills typically take on administrative duties, including supervising clerical staff and training new hires. Administrative assistants to executives may also do research, write reports, take minutes at meetings, supervise other admins and make travel arrangements.
Knowledge and Skills
Organizational ability is essential because the admin's primary job is to maintain office records and keep track of meetings and appointments. Admins must also be able to communicate well in English orally and in writing and perform Internet research. The job requires proficiency with office equipment, including computers, photocopiers, telephone systems, faxes and videoconferencing equipment.
Depending on the position and industry, admins need proficiency with various computer programs, such as email, accounting, database, spreadsheet and word processing software.
Qualifying for the Job
Administrative assistants need a minimum of a high school diploma that includes classes in office practices and computer software. Additional training in English and computer skills is helpful, and many admins have taken some technical school or college classes or have an associate degree. Employers also usually train new hires in their office procedures and the vocabulary of the particular business -- for example, legal vocabulary.
Admins can achieve voluntary certification from the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Certification requires from two to four years of experience, depending on an admin's education, and applicants must also pass an exam.
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