How to Become an Administrative Assistant


If you want to become an administrative assistant, this career guide can help you answer some crucial questions that you may be asking:


• Do I need any post-secondary education, such as a certificate, diploma or degree?

• Are the hours and the work environment suitable for my needs?

• What kind of skills will I need to work in this field?

• What kind of companies hire administrative assistants?


Below we've provided in-depth answers for these questions; information that will help you get started on the path to becoming an administrative assistant. We've also included helpful information about this career, such as how much you can expect to earn, and much more!



Educational Requirements for Becoming an Admin Assistant

The educational requirements for becoming an administrative assistant vary from job to job. Some employers do not require any formal post-secondary education, whereas others may require a certificate, diploma or degree in a field related to business administration.


If you plan on becoming a specialist in a certain industry, such as legal, financial or medical administration, then you may require completion of post-secondary coursework, or entire programs, in these areas. 





Experience Needed

Depending on the employer, you may or may not need to have relevant work in this field. The main concern of employers is typically whether or not you have the appropriate skill set required of administrative work, such as the ability to stay organized, the ability to use office software (such as Microsoft Excel) and the ability to type relatively quickly.


Success Tip: If you are thinking of trying to gain work experience as an administrative assistant, either because you may need it to land a great job, or because you want to test the field out, try finding temporary work with a staffing agency. Temporary work (also known as temping) is a great way of getting experience as an administrative assistant. It can also lead to a permanent job with the host employer.



Skills Needed to Be Successful

To become effective in this career field, you will need a certain set of skills related to business administration. Employers will likely want to see proof of these skills reflected on your resume.


Some employers, particularly larger organizations and staffing agencies, may even require you to complete some practical tests related to these skills. Such tests may include those that measure your typing speed and accuracy, and those that measure your competence using office software, such as Microsoft Excel.


Skills you will need to become an effective administration assistant include:


Office equipment skills: Most administrative assistants need to be able to operate various forms of office equipment, such as photocopiers, printers, fax machines, and telephone systems (such as setting up conference calls).


Computer skills: Administrative assistants need the ability to use various forms of office software with ease. Such software may include spreadsheet, word processing, presentation, and e-mail software (such as Microsoft Office). They also need to be able to type at a decent rate, and must have attention to detail and accuracy when doing so.


Organizational skills: Administrative assistants must be able to keep files, folders, and other documents in proper order so. Administrative assistants that are highly efficient don’t waste time looking for e-mails or file folders, they have effective systems of organization.


Communication skills: Administrative assistants often speak on the phone or write memos and emails when communicating with other employees, internal and external customers, and management. When doing so, they must have good spelling, grammar and maintain a professional tone.



Characteristics Needed

Taking enjoyment from your job is the best way to ensure you succeed at it. In order to enjoy performing the duties involved with this profession, you need to possess some key personality traits, including:


• Able to create a positive work environment by being courteous when interacting with others

• Enjoy working with others, yet able to work independently on tasks

• Enjoy the idea of working in an office and using computers

• Enjoy compiling and organizing information

• Enjoy the idea of having job duties that are relatively routine and structured

• Able to follow direction from supervisors and management 





Who Creates Jobs for Administrative Assistants?

Administrative assistant jobs are quite common, and may be found with virtually any kind of organization, of almost any size, within any industry.


Many jobs in this field are on a full-time basis, although part-time jobs are also fairly common, especially within smaller organizations. Some administrative assistants are self-employed and work from home as virtual assistants.


Staffing agencies (also known as temp agencies) are another source for administrative assistant job postings. These jobs are often on a temporary basis, for periods ranging from a few days to several months. Many of these jobs can lead to full-time positions with the host employer if they are pleased with your work, and they have the need for a full-time employee. 



Finding a Job as an Admin Assistant

We've written some helpful tips for helping you find a job in this field, such as where to find jobs, how to prepare for the interview, and how to follow up on your interview. 



Putting it all Together: Steps for Becoming an Administrative Assistant

To sum all of this up, here are the essential steps you’ll need to take to become an administrative assistant:


Step 1 - Check if you’re well suited

Are you interested in a career with little barrier to entry? Are you interested in a fast-paced office job? Can you take direction for your work, and enjoy compiling and organizing information? If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, you’ve already won half the battle.


Step 2 - Get an education

Many employers (although not all) will want to see that you’ve earned a certificate or an associate’s degree in business administration, or a similar field. This will also serve as excellent preparation for the work you will be doing. 


Step 3 - Get experience

Instead of getting an education in business administration (or in addition to it), you could try your luck at getting an entry-level office job, such as in a secretarial capacity. From there, you can try to work your way up into an admin assistant role by demonstrating initiative and competence in your work. 


Step 4 - Find a job

With education and/or experience in hand, you should now be qualified for administrative assistant jobs. Look for jobs that interest you, and apply!





Details of the Career: Job Description

Although specific job duties for administrative assistants vary by experience, job title, and area of specialty, they are responsible for performing general clerical and administrative duties that help an office run efficiently.


Administrative assistants perform duties such as using computer software to create spreadsheets, manage databases, and prepare presentations, reports, and various documents. They also typically operate videoconferencing, fax, photocopying and other office equipment.


Depending on the scope of responsibility yin their job, administrative assistants may also be responsible for negotiating with vendors, buying supplies and equipment, and managing stockrooms. 



General Job Duties

• Prepare or process invoices, reports, memos, financial statements and other documents using various computer applications

• Answer telephones and greet office visitors

• Record and transcribe minutes of meetings

• Open, sort and distribute letters, faxes and e-mails

• Order office supplies and equipment as needed

• Make travel and accommodation arrangements

• Perform basic bookkeeping and bank account reconciliation duties



Earnings: Typical Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as an administrative assistant can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education

• Your level of experience

• The specific responsibilities of your job

• The region in which you will work


Earnings in Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Administrative Assistant occupational group earn an average salary level of $52,068 per year.


Earnings in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Secretaries and Administrative Assistants occupational group is $35,330 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries in this group are below $21,910, and the top 10% are above $57,750 per year.



Career Advancement Opportunities in This Field

There is room for growth in this profession. Those who demonstrate initiative and competence in their work may advance into a variety of roles.


For example, in larger organizations, admin assistants can be promoted to administrative officer or supervisor, and in smaller organizations, they may be promoted to roles such as office manager.


With additional training and education, they may also move into specialized fields, such as legal or medical administration.


Additional education and training may also help administrative assistants move into roles of greater responsibility in other operational departments of an organization. Such departments may include finance, accounting, human resources, marketing, information technology, and many others.  



Administrative Assistant Jobs

Our job board below has "Administrative Assistant" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.





Typical Work Environment

Working Hours

Most full-time jobs for administrative assistants involve working between 35-40 hours per week, from Monday to Friday. Temporary and part-time work is generally pretty widely available.


Part-time work may take place during the daytime, evenings or weekends. Overtime may be available for administrative assistants, depending on the needs of the employer.


Work Setting

Administrative assistants most often work in office environments. Some may also work from home, as virtual assistants. They don’t often have to travel for work, although it may be required of them from time to time, depending on the needs of the employer.


Working Conditions

Administrative assistants spend a good amount of their time working in front of a computer in order to record and file data using office software, to schedule meetings, and to write e-mails. They may also spend time manually filing paper files, speaking to co-workers on the phone in order to provide internal customer service, and they attend meetings of various frequency with co-workers and management. 



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Administrative Assistant, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Accounting Clerk

Administrative Director


Executive Assistant

Legal Assistant



References for this Career Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this career guide:


• “Occupational Profile: Administrative Assistant.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved August 13, 2016.

• “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Secretaries and Administrative Assistants.” (May, 2015). United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 13, 2016.

• “Job Profiles: Administrative Assistant” (n.d.). National Careers Service. Retrieved August 13, 2016.



Scholarships for Relevant Areas of Study

Looking for Canadian or American scholarships to help you on your way to becoming an administrative assistant? We’ve got you covered! Here's how to find the best-suited scholarships:


• On, our scholarship listings are sorted by major

• The “Relevant Majors” section below shows what majors apply to this career

• Scholarships for becoming an administrative assistant can be found on our Business Administration Scholarships page.



Relevant Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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