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Differences Between Administrative & Clerical

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You might thing clerical and administrative work in an office is one and the same thing, but they are not. Clerical personnel are entry-level workers, generally, whereas administrative work is typically done by trained secretaries or administrative assistants. Other differences exist between these two types of office work in any field or organization.


Clerical workers in an organization are not always expected to have any formal education prior to accepting a position. Clerical workers can obtain employment with as little as a GED in some organizations, or they may be required to have completed a one-year certificate in office career technologies.

Administrative employees are tasked with more demanding assignments that call for more than clerical rudimentary basics such as answering telephones, typing in data to existing computer programs or filing paperwork. Therefore, administrative workers are required to have some type of formal education that exceeds a high school diploma, generally, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some administrative assistants are required to have more than a one-year certificate or two-year administrative degree, especially if they work with top-level executives; some are required to have a bachelor's degree.


Clerical workers in unskilled jobs can expect to earn at the bottom tier pay scale, approximately $18,440 according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Statistics for this field. Formal education could potentially increase that pay amount. The federal government's pay structure is broken down into seven levels for the clerical worker (GS-1 through GS-7). Depending upon your location and field, this can range from approximately $17,803 for a GS-1, Step 1 clerical position in Georgia to $44,176 for a GS-7, Step 10 in California. Local pay factors into federal jobs, according to the 2010 GS Pay Calculator at FedSmith.

Administrative workers--depending upon the field they enter, and their education and training--can expect a pay range between $22,030 and $45,150, according to the Bureau of Statistics data as of May 2020. Legal secretaries and administrative assistants were some of the highest paid, topping out around $63,110.

Receptionists salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $45,150 ($21.71/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $31,110 ($14.96/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $22,030 ($10.59/hour)

Skill Set

While the U.S. Department of Labor lumps clerical workers in with secretaries and administrative assistants for statistical purposes, the U.S. Office of Personnel differentiates between the two in regards to pay and skill sets, specifically. That federal agency states that clerical work is a one-grade level advancement job, but administrative work is a two-grade progression.

Skill set differences include following predetermined work guides and manuals for clerical functions that are repetitive or simple, such as filing, collecting paperwork or entering basic information into a computer system. Clerical work requires no special subject expertise and is closely scrutinized and monitored by others. Administrative skill sets can include specialized knowledge for more than one field, expertise in data collection, assimilation and reporting or graphing. In addition, administrative skill sets include an ability to work without supervision, in a timely manner, and using good judgment and advance planning capabilities.


Holly Huntington's writing has been published online by eHow.

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