Administrative assistants perform clerical and organizational tasks in support of the businesses they work for. An assistant's duties and the person or people the assistant works for vary depending on administrative experience and the nature of the business, but competence in basic office skills is necessary for any position.
While it's important that administrative assistants learn at least basic office skills, many assistants specialize to handle specific types of business or tasks. For example, a legal secretary or assistant learns the additional necessary job skills for handling legal tasks. Some assistants specialize in corporate travel, medical assistance and working with executive leaders.
What Are Basic Office Skills?
Administrative assistants should have basic office skills before applying for a job. They should know how to type, use a computer, and write and speak well. Administrative assistants need to know how to file paper documents, make and take phone calls, schedule meetings and make travel arrangements. It's also helpful to understand transcription and business communications.
Other basic administrative assistant skills include data entry, customer service, handling email correspondence and assisting clients. Additionally, it's helpful to know how to do research using the internet and other methods, update social media accounts, and create and maintain spreadsheets.
Different companies have different requirements, but all administrative assistants should know how to use common applications and programs such as Google Docs, Dropbox and Microsoft Office.
Those seeking a specialized administrative profession should also understand what the basic job skills requirements are for their chosen specialties.
Educational Requirements for Administrative Assistants
Although there are administrative assistant opportunities available for entry-level high school graduates, most businesses require a degree from a college or trade school specializing in business administration.
For those seeking a specialized career, as a medical or legal assistant, for example, additional coursework is necessary to learn the basic terminology and computer programs associated with their career path. Most businesses won't hire specialized assistants without the appropriate degree for that specialty.
Many business schools provide a 2-year associate or 4-year bachelor's program for administrative assistants.
Opportunities for Advancement
A career as an administrative assistant offers many opportunities for advancement. An administrative assistant who works in a general office pool, for example, can be promoted to the executive suite to assist a CEO or vice president.
Experienced administrative assistants may rise to managerial and supervisory roles. Some find themselves managing a secretarial team, while others become department or office managers.
Other opportunities can mean a completely different type of position. A marketing assistant can rise through the ranks to become a creative director, and a legal assistant can become a paralegal. For many, a job as an administrative assistant is a stepping stone to gain entry to higher-level opportunities.