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Secretary

Significant Points

Positions in this series exist for the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of others by performing as many office support duties as possible. This includes serving as the principal clerical and administrative support position in the immediate organizational unit in or for which the persons assisted have responsibility, by carrying out and coordinating all the clerical and day-to-day administrative support activities which are typically required to accomplish the work of the organization. The nature and variety of the activities depend on the needs of the organization served.

Nature of the Work

Secretaries perform numerous tasks which are dissimilar in kind, but which have in common the purpose of assisting the work of one or more persons in an organization. Because all of the individual tasks performed by secretaries are related to the work of the people they assist, there are unique opportunities available for secretaries to increase the scope of their position. That is, by using information and insight obtained in performing one task, secretaries can enlarge scope and effectiveness of their performance of others. There is also a special opportunity for secretaries and the people they support to build a mutual working relationship which results in a secretary's acting and speaking for these individuals with an authority not common in other clerical positions.

The duties of a secretary are in some respects similar to those found in many of the specialized clerical series. Nevertheless, the value of these duties frequently cannot be evaluated by reference to the standards for the individual clerical series because the tasks, as performed by the secretary, are part of a broader and more inclusive responsibility which requires that the secretary be aware of virtually everything happening in the entire organization. The typical secretarial position requires a general knowledge of substantive work of the organization under the jurisdiction of the persons assisted and, as the secretary's participation in the management of the organization increases and as the nature and extent of that management effort increases through differences in the work situation, the amount of knowledge required increases accordingly. Positions at the lower grades consist primarily of clerical and procedural duties and, as positions increase in grade, administrative support functions are more predominant. At the higher levels, the secretary applies a very considerable knowledge of the organization, its objectives, and lines of communication.

Typical clerical and procedural duties of positions in this series include:

  • providing telephone and receptionist services;
  • maintaining records of leave and attendance;
  • requisitioning office supplies, repairs on office equipment, and printing services;
  • reserving rooms for meetings;
  • filing material and maintaining office filing systems;
  • receiving and controlling incoming correspondence;
  • reviewing outgoing correspondence, reports, etc., for format, grammar, and punctuation, and removing typographical errors;
  • writing simple or repetitive, non-technical correspondence such as letters of acknowledgment in accordance with a given format;
  • performing typing, stenographic, or transcribing duties;
  • keeping abreast of various procedural requirements, for example, procedures required to process travel vouchers;
  • maintaining information needed for budget purposes.

Administrative support duties typically provided by secretaries include:

  • making extensive travel arrangements;
  • making complete arrangements for large conferences;
  • composing complex, but non-technical correspondence;
  • locating and assembling information for various reports, briefings, conferences, etc.;
  • following up with staff members to insure that various commitments made at conferences and meetings are met;
  • designing and organizing filing systems;
  • planning and arranging the maintenance and preparation of information needed for budget reports;
  • organizing the flow of clerical processes in the office and in subordinate offices.

These are only examples of work performed in this series. For a position to be included in this series, it is not necessary for it to include typing, stenography, or any other single duty. Positions in this series involve the performance and coordination of various duties, rather than performance of any one duty such as the preparation of a particular report or the processing of a particular kind of document.

The nature and extent of assistance provided by the secretary varies. There may be instances where the unit consists of one employee doing substantive work with the secretary working only for that one employee. In some organizations the secretary primarily assists the supervisor of the organization while providing limited assistance to members of the supervisor's staff. In other situations, positions may involve significant assistance to several staff members, usually the senior members in an organization, in addition to the supervisor. In organizations with a small staff, the secretary may assist all members. Because the nature of the work in this series involves, in varying degrees, all of the administrative and clerical functions of an office, secretaries provide some amount of assistance to everyone in the organization served. However, in all such cases the secretary serves as the principal clerk or administrative assistant to the head of the organizational unit. Therefore, there typically is no more than one secretary role possible in each organizational unit. The most common exception, of course, is where both a chief and a deputy each might have a bona-fide secretary position. Finally, it should be noted that a sole clerk is not necessarily a secretary; there must be a comprehensive range of clerical or administrative support duties to be performed.

Work assigned to secretary positions may range from very routine and procedural duties, such as providing receptionist, phone, and typing services, to very responsible work, such as developing information for use in large, complex, and critical conferences. Generally, a secretary can provide assistance in the more procedural aspects of general office work for several staff members without difficulty. There is no hard, fast rule as to the number of people a secretary can serve. However, the number of people to whom a secretary can provide higher level, more responsible assistance, is limited because of the demands such duties place on the secretary in terms of awareness of the activities, views, programs, and commitments of the person assisted. It is also unreasonable to expect a secretary to provide clerical support, e.g., typing, to a large number of people and at the same time provide higher level administrative support. The presence of high volume, routine business will almost invariably preclude performance of the higher level work.

Secretary (Typing), GS-0318-03

Serves as the principal clerical assistant in an office, performing various clerical tasks in accordance with established procedures.

  • Maintains established office files and records. Obtains data requested by other employees in the unit.
  • Receives and refers visitors and telephone calls. Distributes mail and messages, recording the receipt, suspense, and completion dates as appropriate.
  • Types narrative and tabular material from rough draft or revised typed draft. Types memoranda, reports, view graphs, and similar material in accordance with established guidelines for review by originators. Corrects grammatical and spelling errors in drafts.
Secretary (Typing), GS-0318-04

Duties:

Performs various clerical support and typing duties for the chief of a regional supply division and the staff.

  • Receives and files correspondence, records, and reports. Maintains file plans and checks subordinate unit files for proper disposition. Receives and files changes to regulatory publications.
  • Maintains employee record cards for personnel within the division.
  • Receives incoming correspondence, screening material prior to distribution for suspense dates, establishing controls, and following up for division chief.
  • Receives visitors and phone calls to the division office, ascertaining the nature of requests and directing callers to appropriate staff, or personally providing the information desired when routine or procedural matters of the office are involved.
  • Types from voice recordings dictated by the division chief, the assistant division chief, and others in the organization. Types correspondence, reports, and similar material.
  • Reviews correspondence prepared for the division chief. Checks for spelling, typographical errors, conformance to formats and procedural requirements.
  • Requisitions office supplies, equipment, and publications, and performs similar office maintenance duties.
  • Schedules appointments and makes arrangements for time, participants, and location of meetings in accordance with instructions from the supervisor.
Secretary (Stenography), GS-0318-05

This position is located in the Systems Engineering Branch, an organization which provides guidance, control, and direction to avionic system and subsystem efforts, and which defines requirements for equipment developments to satisfy future subsystem needs.

The incumbent participates actively in the management of the Systems Engineering Branch office by performing routine administrative and miscellaneous clerical work. Based on a good working knowledge of the organization and substantive programs under the supervisor's control, the incumbent resolves problems associated with the administrative and clerical work of the office. Within this basic structure the incumbent performs the following duties:

  • Receives calls, greets visitors, and directs to staff members only those contacts needing their attention or action. Takes care of routing matters, and on the basis of knowledge of the programs or operations, refers other inquiries to appropriate personnel. Incumbent personally responds to routine and nontechnical requests for information such as status of reports, duty status of engineers and technicians, suspense date for matters requiring compliance, and similar information readily available from the files. Places both local and long distance calls for personnel. Maintains Branch Chief's calendar and schedules appointments based on knowledge of Branch Chief's interest and commitments.
  • Composes correspondence on administrative support or clerical functions of the office. Composes routine correspondence on other subjects as outlined in regulations and procedures or specifically requested by Branch Chief. Reads outgoing correspondence for procedural and grammatical accuracy.
  • Receives and reviews classified and unclassified mail for the Branch. Determines which items should be brought to the attention of the Branch Chief as opposed to those that should be sent directly to other appropriate personnel for action. Reviews outgoing mail for attachments, dates, signature, complete addresses, and destinations. Maintains suspense records on all correspondence and action documents and follows up to ensure a timely reply or action.
  • Takes and transcribes dictation of correspondence, reports, and telephone conversations involving both technical and specialized terminology. Notes are often typed in final form without rough draft, reviewed for proper arrangement and grammar, and compiled in final form. Types an intermediate draft when requested. Uses reference sources such as technical dictionaries and assures proper arrangement, grammatical accuracy, and spelling of the final copy.
  • Prepares in final form all types of documentation and forms incident to branch personnel administration and office management. Prepares travel requests and all associated actions and documentation. Assembles, prepares, and submits branch reports of staff time charges, and maintains personnel time cards.
  • Reads directives and instructional material pertaining to administrative practices and clerical procedures in order to be aware of new, revised, or amended procedures for such matters as preparation and processing of correspondence, engineering reports, and forms; filing; mail procedures; preparation of travel vouchers; and security procedures.
  • From rough draft, notes, or oral instructions, types correspondence, forms, reports, and specifications including a wide variety of technical terminology. Responsible for proper spelling, grammar, format, and arrangement of material.
  • Performs periodic inventory of classified documents within the Branch. Arranges for the destruction of classified material.
  • Provides guidance and assistance on applicable procedures, instructions, and regulations to other clerical personnel assigned to the Branch.
Secretary (Stenography), GS-0318-06

The incumbent assists the Director and Deputy Director of the Aerospace Power Division of a propulsion laboratory. The incumbent:

  • Receives all visitors and telephone calls to the Director or Deputy Director. Ascertains nature of call or business of visitors and determines appropriate action. Refers important business and high ranking visitors to Director or Deputy Director; when that is not practical, takes messages for their attention or makes later appointments for visitors. Refers business requiring engineering or scientifically qualified response to the appropriate branch or technical area within the organization. The incumbent is authorized to give out administrative and readily available scientific information to callers upon determination of their right to receive it.
  • Keeps the Director's calendar and schedules appointments and meetings upon own initiative based upon personal knowledge of Director's workload and current issues of importance. Reminds supervisor of appointments and briefs supervisor on the matters to be considered before the scheduled meeting. On own initiative reschedules appointments when it becomes apparent that supervisor will not be able to meet previous schedules.
  • Responds to requests for information concerning Division functions. Personally prepares responses on schedule from source material. Anticipates need for information and systematically prepares material so that it is immediately available for supervisor's needs. In the absence of the Division Director or Deputy Director, in cases that would normally receive their personal attention, assumes responsibility for ensuring that requests for action or information are made known to responsible Division personnel or laboratory staff personnel who can satisfy the request. Follows up on required actions and informs the Director of their status. When the Division Director is absent but accessible, decides whether important or emergency matters should be brought to the Director's attention.
  • Arranges for conferences, including such matters as location, schedule, agenda, and attendance list. Assembles background material for the Director.
  • Reads incoming correspondence, publications, regulations, and directives which may affect the Division. Determines those that can be acted upon personally and takes necessary action. When necessary, uses initiative to obtain clarification of instructions from originating offices or appropriate focal points. Determines which are of importance or interest to the Division Director or Deputy and refers them accordingly. In other cases, prepares on own initiative, a digest of content for assistance of Division Director or the Deputy. Determines those that affect subordinate echelons of the Division and, on own initiative, ensures that chiefs of these organizations are informed. Assists them and their secretaries in interpreting instructions and in establishing action required of them. Briefs Division Director on such activity, its results, and status.
  • Maintains control records on incoming correspondence and action documents and follows up on work in process to insure timely reply or action.
  • Reviews documents prepared for signature of or requiring coordination by the Division Director for conformance with regulations, grammar, format, and special policies of the Division. Returns such communications to originator for correction when not in conformance with known policies, or when correspondence regulations have not been followed. Advises and instructs subordinate offices through discussions with author or stenographer to obtain higher degree of compliance with general Division policies and correspondence regulations.
  • Assists supervisor's subordinates in the procedural aspects of expediting the work of the office, including distributing the workload of clerical help to take care of fluctuating workload; explaining report requirements and arranging for submission of data to be assembled by the incumbent into general reports; and informing and instructing stenographic and clerical personnel concerning procedures for preparation of correspondence.
  • Signs routine correspondence of a non-technical nature in supervisor's name or in own name.
  • Makes necessary arrangements for travel, arranging schedules of visits, making reservations, notifying organizations and officials to be visited, and submitting travel vouchers and reports.
  • Takes personal, telephone, or conference dictation. As senior stenographer in the Division, is called upon to take dictation at those conferences which are the most complex or involve matters of extreme priority due to policy or rank of personnel attending, or involve issues where great discretion is required.
  • Stimulates submission of technical items for topical reports, news releases, and briefings. Independently corrects and edits these items for submission to the staff office designated as the laboratory collection point.
  • Serves as Office Security Advisor for the Division. Conducts quarterly security meetings and circulates security directives pertinent to the security procedures of the Division.
Secretary (Stenography), GS-0318-07

The incumbent provides assistance to a Chief of Staff who directs one of two divisions in a large hospital. The Division is divided into 17 professional services, some of which are further subdivided. The incumbent:

  • Screens calls and visitors to the Chief of Staff's office, referring to staff members and forwarding to the Chief only those calls or visitors requiring the Chief's attention. Schedules appointments and makes commitments for the Chief to attend meetings, luncheons, etc., without prior approval. Personally handles many requests for information and resolves or assists in resolving a variety of complaints made by patients and their families.
  • On visits made to the Division by the Hospital Director and Assistant Hospital Director, assists them in placing telephone calls, receives visiting dignitaries, and performs other duties as requested by them.
  • Reads all incoming correspondence, determining proper action, at times preparing answers before referring to the Chief of Staff. Reviews outgoing correspondence and reports prepared by professional services under the auspices of the Chief of Staff, ensuring proper format, mathematical correctness, correct grammatical content, and ascertaining that all necessary coordination of facts has been completed and is in accordance with established policy.
  • Takes and transcribes all dictation for the Chief of Staff. Takes and transcribes minutes of the weekly Hospital Medical Executive Committee meetings, coordinating information and preparing folders of material to be discussed for each member of the committee. Dictation taken in the office of the Chief of Staff and at meetings is often confidential and frequently includes medical terminology.
  • Prepares authorization for fee-basis medical services performed on patients, insuring that requests are properly executed and justified, and that the service requested cannot be performed on the station. Coordinates with the Travel Unit to ensure that patients encounter no inconvenience. Prepares authorizations for payment after services have been rendered and submits them to Fiscal office for payment. Maintains records and the budget allotted to the Chief of Staff's office for this purpose. Handles requests for fee-basis laboratory work which come through the Chief of Staff for approval.
  • Assists in preparing necessary forms for consultant and attending physicians' visits for this division. Assists in monthly preparation of time cards for the consultant and attending staff, determining payments and maintaining visit statistics and records for cost centers for easy reference for reports. Responsible for budget accounts allotted to the Chief of Staff's office.
  • Explains to service chiefs non-technical policies and procedures promulgated by the Chief of Staff or Hospital Director's office after obtaining clarification from source. Makes recommendations and decisions in establishing priorities among actions on administrative matters requested by the various professional services.
  • Maintains time cards for the Chief of Staff and other offices of the division. Receives time cards of the professional service chiefs for signature in the Chief of Staff's office.
  • Prepares worksheet and types Chief of Staff's evaluations on proficiency ratings of professional service chiefs under the jurisdiction of the Chief of Staff.
  • Dispatches minutes of the Hospital Medical Executive Committee, Research and Education Committee, staff appointments, and other pertinent material to hospital's Deans' Committee members prior to their monthly meetings.
  • Instructs and assists the various secretaries in the professional service offices on procedural matters such as the correct procedures to follow in preparing correspondence.
  • Prepares correspondence for the signature of the Chief of Staff and maintains records and files for same. Prepares and distributes monthly, the list of staff physicians, residents, and interns on duty at this division. Coordinates and prepares the monthly Admitting Officer of the Day schedule. Maintains a schedule of activities, conferences, and meetings held in the Hospital Director's conference room at this division. Sets up conferences for the Chief of Staff's Office, establishing mutual times, etc. Upon request, writes reports of contact made with Central Office.
  • Makes airline and hotel reservations for trips taken by the Chief of Staff, coordinating travel, types itinerary, etc.
Secretary (Stenography), GS-0318-08

The incumbent provides clerical and administrative assistance to the Commanding Officer of an aero propulsion laboratory. The incumbent:

  • Receives all visitors and telephone calls to the Commander. Determines nature of call or business of visitors. If business requires the attention of engineering or scientifically qualified personnel, decides whether the importance of business, rank, or position of visitor is such as to require personal attention of the Laboratory Commander, or if the visitor should be referred to the appropriate division concerned with the engineering or scientific subject. Incumbent is authorized to give out administrative and scientific information to callers upon determination of their right to receive it. When calls involve matters on which the Commander will require background information, tactfully postpones the conversation, obtains the required information, and presents the information when informing the Commander of the pending call.
  • Controls the Commander's activities schedule and reminds the Commander of appointments. On own initiative and discretion, establishes priorities, sets up, reschedules, or refuses appointments, accepts or declines invitations to meetings, and arranges for representation by a subordinate official when that is desirable.
  • Serves as buffer and acts as liaison between the Commander and the Division and Staff personnel by providing accurate, timely advice on procedures, reports, requirements, and other matters necessary to implement the Commander's policies, directives, and instructions. Informs them of the Commander's views on current issues and programs and schedules briefings by members of the staff for the Commander.
  • Reviews correspondence and documents prepared for signature of or requiring coordination by the Commander for conformance with regulations, grammar, format, and special policies of the Laboratory. On own initiative, returns such communications to the originator for correction when not in conformance with known policies or correspondence regulations. Gives advice and instructions to subordinate offices through discussions with author or stenographer to obtain higher degree of compliance with general laboratory policies and correspondence regulations.
  • In the absence of the Commander, the incumbent assumes responsibility for ensuring that requests for action or information, which would normally receive the Commander's attention, are made known to responsible division or laboratory staff personnel who can satisfy the request. Monitors resulting activities for the purpose of briefing the Commander. Decides whether important or emergency matters should be brought to the Commander's attention when the Commander is absent, but accessible.
  • Reads incoming publications, regulations, and directives which may be important to the activities of the Commander or members of the staff. Refers those of importance or interest to the Commander.
  • Receives requests from other organizations within the agency for information concerning programs under the Commander's control. From available background data, assembles requested information or follows up to see that subordinates in the Laboratory submit required answers within the specified time.
  • Composes correspondence on own initiative, based on a knowledge of Commander's views and desires. Typical subjects include administrative matters, letters of acknowledgment, general office and laboratory policies, acceptance of invitations, and cancellation of conferences. Signs correspondence for the Commander in the Commander's absence when technical or policy content has previously been cleared. Prepares regular and special records such as attendance, leave, degree of use of filing space, and amount of classified material present in the offices. Prepares similar paper work to ease the flow of work through the office and provides the Commander with current information in readily accessible form.
  • Makes all necessary arrangements for travel, arranging schedule of visits, making transportation and hotel reservations, notifying organizations and officials to be visited, keeping in touch with the Commander en route, writing thank-you letters after the Commander's return, and submitting travel vouchers and reports.
  • Takes and transcribes dictation. Such dictation includes engineering and scientific terminology in such fields as physics, aeronautics, and electronics. Transcribes dictation into letters, endorsements, messages, office instructions, and reports, with responsibility for sentence structure, grammar, and spelling. Writes resumes of conferences and gives copies to participants who are expected to take action as result of conferences. On own initiative, follows up on projects resulting from conferences to insure that schedules are met and reports progress to the Commander.
Secretary (Stenography), GS-0318-09

The incumbent assists the Director of a hospital which includes two divisions with a total of over 1,000 beds and is affiliated with two schools of medicine.

  • The incumbent acts as office manager for the Director's office and ensures that the practices and procedures used by secretaries in subordinate offices are consistent with those of the Director's office. On own initiative, recommends changes in administrative policies. Devises and installs office procedures and practices to be used by secretaries in subordinate offices. Prepares agenda for and conducts periodic secretarial training sessions for all secretaries to department heads. The agenda include training in all phases of secretarial work such as correspondence, telephone procedures, publications, directives, reports, and public relations responsibilities.
  • The incumbent responds to inquiries and administrative problems brought to the Director by members of the staff and officials of the agency's central office, State and local governments, other hospitals and organizations, other Federal agencies, and congressional staff. Notifies the appropriate staff officials of the need for information or recommendations, and either prepares the response or follows up to ensure a timely response by others.
  • The incumbent exercises exclusive control over the Director's appointments, with complete authority for commitments of time. Screens all calls and visitors, answering most questions and completing most business involving established policy or routine matters without referring people to the Director.
  • The incumbent receives all correspondence for the Director; replies to mail not requiring the Director's attention; routes matters requiring action by hospital department heads; and follows up to ensure that actions are completed. Screens all correspondence prepared for the Director's signature for clarity, completeness of reply, and grammatical and procedural correctness. Returns inadequate submissions for retyping or recomposition. Signs correspondence and certain procedural authorizations in the name of the Director when previous instructions have covered the matter. Screens all publications, directives, and periodicals, and brings those of significance to the Director's attention. In the absence of the Director, maintains a file of correspondence and events of which the Director should know, and, upon the Director's return, brings such matters to the Director's attention. As Classified Information Officer for the hospital, is responsible for the receipt, control, logging, safekeeping, and necessary action on all classified material received in the hospital.
  • Arranges conferences for the Director, and, at the request of central office officials, for meetings to be held locally. This includes preparing an agendum, notifying participants, and arranging luncheons and similar matters. Develops background information and composes drafts of introduction and talks to be presented at various meetings by the Director. Attends and records the minutes of meetings which are later summarized and distributed. Checks to ensure that commitments made at the meetings are met and keeps the Director informed.
  • Oversees the work of one clerk-stenographer. Takes and transcribes dictation from the Director.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Word processing, writing, and communication skills are essential for all secretaries and administrative assistants. Employers increasingly require extensive knowledge of computer software applications, such as desktop publishing, project management, spreadsheets, and database management.

Education and training. High school graduates who have basic office skills may qualify for entry-level secretarial positions. They can acquire these skills in various ways. Training ranges from high school vocational education programs that teach office skills and typing to 1-year and 2-year programs in office administration offered by business and vocational-technical schools, and community colleges. Many temporary placement agencies also provide formal training in computer and office skills. Most medical and legal secretaries must go through specialized training programs that teach them the language of the industry. Virtual assistant training programs are available at many community colleges in transcription, bookkeeping, website design, project management, and computer technology. There are also online training and coaching programs.

Employers of executive secretaries increasingly are seeking candidates with a college degree, as these secretaries work closely with top executives. A degree related to the business or industry in which a person is seeking employment may provide the jobseeker with an advantage in the application process.

Most secretaries and administrative assistants, once hired, tend to acquire more advanced skills through on-the-job instruction by other employees or by equipment and software vendors. Others may attend classes or participate in online education to learn how to operate new office technologies, such as information storage systems, scanners, or new updated software packages. As office automation continues to evolve, retraining and continuing education will remain integral parts of secretarial jobs.

Other qualifications. Secretaries and administrative assistants should be proficient in typing and good at spelling, punctuation, grammar, and oral communication. Employers also look for good customer service and interpersonal skills because secretaries and administrative assistants must be tactful in their dealings with people. Discretion, good judgment, organizational or management ability, initiative, and the ability to work independently are especially important for higher-level administrative positions. Changes in the office environment have increased the demand for secretaries and administrative assistants who are adaptable and versatile.

Certification and advancement. Testing and certification for proficiency in office skills are available through organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals; National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS), Inc.; Legal Secretaries International, Inc; and International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). As secretaries and administrative assistants gain experience, they can earn several different designations. Prominent designations include the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP), which can be earned by meeting certain experience or educational requirements and passing an examination. Similarly, those with 1 year of experience in the legal field, or who have concluded an approved training course and who want to be certified as a legal support professional, can acquire the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) designation through a testing process administered by NALS. NALS offers two additional designations: Professional Legal Secretary (PLS), considered an advanced certification for legal support professionals, and a designation for proficiency as a paralegal. Legal Secretaries International confers the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) designation in areas such as intellectual property, criminal law, civil litigation, probate, and business law to those who have 5 years of legal experience and pass an examination. In some instances, certain requirements may be waived. There is currently no set standard of certification for virtual assistants. A number of certifications exist which involve passing a written test covering areas of core competencies and business ethics. The IVAA has three certifications available: Certified Virtual Assistant, Ethics Checked Virtual Assistant; and the Real Estate Virtual Assistant.

Secretaries and administrative assistants generally advance by being promoted to other administrative positions with more responsibilities. Qualified administrative assistants who broaden their knowledge of a company's operations and enhance their skills may be promoted to senior or executive secretary or administrative assistant, clerical supervisor, or office manager. Secretaries with word processing or data entry experience can advance to jobs as word processing or data entry trainers, supervisors, or managers within their own firms or in a secretarial, word processing, or data entry service bureau. Secretarial and administrative support experience also can lead to jobs such as instructor or sales representative with manufacturers of software or computer equipment. With additional training, many legal secretaries become paralegals.

Employment

Secretaries and administrative assistants held about 4.3 million jobs in 2008, ranking it among the largest occupations in the U.S. economy. The following tabulation shows the distribution of employment by secretarial specialty:

Secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive 2,020,000
Executive secretaries and administrative assistants 1,594,400
Medical secretaries 471,100
Legal secretaries 262,600

Secretaries and administrative assistants are employed in organizations of every type. Around 90 percent are employed in service-providing industries, ranging from education and healthcare to government and retail trade. Most of the rest work for firms engaged in manufacturing or construction.

Job Outlook

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as the average. Secretaries and administrative assistants will have among the largest number of job openings due to growth and the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave this occupation. Opportunities should be best for applicants with extensive knowledge of computer software applications.

Employment change. Employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is expected to increase by 11 percent, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations, between 2008 and 2018. Projected employment varies by occupational specialty. Above average employment growth in the healthcare and social assistance industry should lead to much faster than the average growth for medical secretaries, while moderate growth in legal services is projected to lead to faster than average growth in employment of legal secretaries. Employment of executive secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations. Growing industries—such as construction; educational services; healthcare and social assistance; and professional, scientific, and technical services—will continue to generate the most new jobs. Slower than average growth is expected for secretaries, except legal, medical, or executive, who account for about 46 percent of all secretaries and administrative assistants.

Increasing office automation and organizational restructuring will continue to make secretaries and administrative assistants more productive in coming years. Computers, e-mail, scanners, and voice message systems will allow secretaries and administrative assistants to accomplish more in the same amount of time. The use of automated equipment is also changing the distribution of work in many offices. In some cases, traditional secretarial duties as typing, filing, photocopying, and bookkeeping are being done by clerks in other departments or by the professionals themselves. For example, professionals and managers increasingly do their own word processing and data entry, and handle much of their own correspondence. In some law and medical offices, paralegals and medical assistants are assuming some tasks formerly done by secretaries. Also, many small and medium-sized organizations are outsourcing key administrative functions, such as data entry, bookkeeping, and Internet research, to virtual assistants.

Developments in office technology are certain to continue. However, many secretarial and administrative duties are of a personal, interactive nature and, therefore, are not easily automated. Responsibilities such as planning conferences, working with clients, and instructing staff require tact and communication skills. Because technology cannot substitute for these personal skills, secretaries and administrative assistants will continue to play a key role in most organizations.

As paralegals and medical assistants assume more of the duties traditionally assigned to secretaries, offices will continue to replace the traditional arrangement of one secretary per manager with secretaries and administrative assistants who support the work of systems, departments, or units. This approach means that secretaries and administrative assistants will assume added responsibilities and will be seen as valuable members of a team.

Job prospects. In addition to jobs created from growth, numerous job opportunities will arise from the need to replace secretaries and administrative assistants who transfer to other occupations, including exceptionally skilled executive secretaries and administrative assistants who often move into professional occupations. Job opportunities should be best for applicants with extensive knowledge of computer software applications, with experience as a secretary or administrative assistant, or with advanced communication and computer skills. Applicants with a bachelor's degree will be in great demand to act more as managerial assistants and to perform more complex tasks.

Earnings

Median annual wages of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive, were $29,050 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $23,160 and $36,020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $43,240. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive in May 2008 were:

Local government $32,610
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 31,530
General medical and surgical hospitals 30,960
Elementary and secondary schools 29,850
Employment services 28,340

Median annual wages of executive secretaries and administrative assistants were $40,030 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $32,410 and $50,280. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,070. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of executive secretaries and administrative assistants in May 2008 were:

Management of companies and enterprises $45,190
Local government 41,880
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 39,220
State government 35,540
Employment services 33,820

Median annual wages of legal secretaries were $39,860 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,870 and $50,930. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,290. Medical secretaries earned median annual wages of $29,680 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $24,530 and $36,090. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $42,660.

Virtual assistants set their own rate structure and billing terms based on the type of work, skill level, cost of living in their area, experience, and personal financial needs. Those who bill using an hourly rate can range anywhere from $25 to $100 per hour. Some also bill on a per page or project rate.

Related Occupations

Workers in a number of other occupations also type, record information, and process paperwork. Among them are:

Sources of Additional Information

State employment offices provide information about job openings for secretaries and administrative assistants.

For information on the latest trends in the profession, career development advice, and the CPS or CAP designations, contact:

  • International Association of Administrative Professionals, P.O. Box 20404, Kansas City, MO 64195-0404. Internet: http://www.iaap-hq.org
  • Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals, 900 South Washington St., Suite G-13, Falls Church, VA 22046. Internet: http://www.theaeap.com

Information on the CLSS designation can be obtained from:

Information on the ALS, PLS, and paralegal certifications is available from:

  • National Association of Legal Secretaries, Inc., 8159 East 41st. St., Tulsa, OK 74145. Internet: http://www.nals.org

Information on virtual assistant certification can be obtained from:

  • International Virtual Assistants Association, 561 Keystone Ave., Suite 309, Reno, NV 89503. Internet: http://www.ivaa.org

Sources:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
  • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

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