Administrative Assistant Job Description (Skills, Duties, Salary, Certification & More)

By Mike Simpson

A company is a lot like the mystical city of Oz. At the top is the CEO, the all-powerful wizard of business if you will. They seemingly have control over everything, steering the organization toward success. (If they’re good of course.) But, if you pull back the curtain, you see a different story.

Now, we’re not saying that a lot of CEOs aren’t incredibly adept, just that they have an army of support and one of the most critical components…is the administrative assistant.

Without administrative assistants, many CEOs and other company leaders would melt like the Wicked Witch of the West after having a cup of water thrown on her. They simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of the demands that circle them like a twister.

When they have a competent and capable administrative assistant by their side on the other hand, that story changes. They can skip along without any undue care as they know someone has their back.

What is an Administrative Assistant?

When some think about administrative assistant duties, they picture the stereotypical secretary of yore. Maybe they answer phones, handle files, and make coffee. They have a sing-song voice and a radiant smile, not unlike Glinda the Good Witch. (Oh you thought the OZ analogy was done?? Nope!)

But, while an administrative assistant can certainly possess the qualities above, that’s an antiquated view on the position. Today’s administrative assistants are battle-hardened, right-hands to CEOs. They make sure that day-to-day tasks are managed with skill, allowing company leaders to focus on other matters.

Plus, they are liaisons between other departments and the CEO. They are the ultimate gatekeeper, ensuring that, like the Emerald City, the CEO’s time is protected.

Essentially, an administrative assistant’s core responsibility is to make life as easy as possible for the CEO. Whether that’s managing a calendar, handling incoming calls, or, yes, even brewing a cup of coffee, they make sure it happens quickly and seamlessly.

What Are an Administrative Assistant’s Duties and Responsibilities?

As with most jobs, administrative assistant duties can vary from one company or position to the next. Every CEO has different needs. Some are influenced by personal preference, while others are impacted by the organization’s industry.

However, there are also some similarities between many of the roles. Here’s a look at the duties and responsibilities you’ll find in a typical administrative assistant job description:

    • Generate reports
    • Prepare presentations
    • Manage paperwork and filing
    • Order supplies and schedule office equipment maintenance
    • Manage calendars
    • Schedule meetings
    • Handle travel arrangements
    • Answer phones and screen/direct calls
    • Take meeting minutes
    • Conduct research
    • Assist visitors
    • Review, organize, and answer emails
    • Maintain contact lists
    • Distribute memos
    • Manage expense reports

Essentially, they handle critical but somewhat mundane tasks to ensure the CEO doesn’t have to spend their time on them. The primary purpose of an administrative assistant is to manage the day-to-day, ensuring company leaders can concentrate on the bigger picture, drive innovation, or keep the company moving in the right direction.

What Skills Do Administrative Assistants Need?

The best administrative assistants are technically adept and socially competent. They have the right mix of brains, heart, and courage, allowing them to navigate complex situations, make the most of the tools they have available, and deliver the needed results.

That means your average administrative assistant has a ton of skills.

Here’s a look at the technical capabilities they have to bring to the table:

    • Computer and telephone system proficiency
    • Office administration
    • Report, memo, invoice, and correspondence creation
    • Inventory management
    • Scheduling and calendar management
    • Booking travel and itinerary generation
    • Research capabilities
    • Filing system creation and maintenance (electronic and physical)
    • Call screening and routing

An administrative assistant also needs a slew of soft skills. Here’s just some of what they need if they are going to excel:

    • Communication (written and verbal) and collaboration
    • Organization
    • Decision-making
    • Time management
    • Emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills
    • Ability to multitask
    • Attention-to-detail
    • Good judgment

It’s also critical that administrative assistants be able to respect confidentiality. They are often privy to details that others shouldn’t have, so discretion is another critical capability.

What Education/Training/Certification is Required?

Technically, administrative assistants don’t have to have a specific kind of education, training, or certification. At times, a high school diploma is enough. However, many administrative assistant job descriptions do list an Associate’s degree as a must-have.

In most cases, a two-year degree puts the CEO’s mind at ease. If you have one, you likely possess many of the core skills they want to find, including communication, organizational, time management, and similar skills. Plus, you probably had to spend time on a computer, did some research, and wrote your fair share of reports.

If you want to be an administrative assistant, it’s helpful to have a degree that relates to the role in some way. For example, one in business or office management could be a great fit. Communications, marketing, public relations, or something along those lines could work, too.

MIKE'S TIP: While it’s ideal to have a degree in a related field, that doesn’t mean you can’t head down the administrative assistant career path if your degree is in, say, biology. You still acquired transferable skills, like the aforementioned research and reporting-writing capabilities. Plus, you can always seek out an opportunity in a company that is in an industry that aligns to your degree, an approach where your degree might actually give you a leg up.

You also have the option of getting certified. There are a few administrative assistant certifications, including the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) and Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE). However, rarely are these job requirements but as usual being certified can elevate you in comparison to your competition.

Administrative Assistant Salary Expectations

If the idea of being an administrative assistant fits, you probably want to know if the pay is going to meet your expectations. Luckily, that’s not hard to figure out.

The median administrative assistant salary is $38,880 a year (or $18.69 per hour). However, not everyone working in the field make that amount. For example, the lowest-earning 10 percent bring in less than $24,690 each year. Typically, those are entry-level workers in areas with lower costs of living, but that isn’t always the case.

On the other side, those in the top 10 percent can bring in over $64,230 annually. That’s a pretty strong salary. But don’t go rushing out to spend that money on a new pair of ruby slippers yet. To get there, you typically have to have a lot of experience or more education, such as a bachelor’s degree.

Source: BLS.gov

It’s also important to note that the demand for administrative assistants is actually falling. Between 2018 and 2028, 276,700 jobs are expected to vanish. However, considering that there are over 3.7 million of these positions across the country, the field isn’t actually disappearing just yet. But the decline could limit your income potential, especially if the supply ends up outpacing demand.

What You Need to Know for Your Job Interview

Have you decided that being an administrative assistant is the right move for you? If so, great! Now all you need to do is nail your administrative assistant interview and snag the position.

Simple, right? Well, yes and no.

Interviews are always a bit challenging. After all, you have to showcase yourself as the perfect candidate and set yourself apart from the competition. Luckily, we have some some great strategies that can help.

One of the best ones is to do a deep dive into the job description itself. There’s a ton of valuable information waiting for you that most job seekers just skip over. As we’ve gone over in this article there are a lot of skills and qualities that are going to be listed on your particular job description that the company is going to be looking for in their perfect candidate. It’s your job to show that you possess those skills and qualities in your job interview!

After you go over your job description, move on to these other powerful strategies: The STAR Method and the Tailoring Method for behavioral interview questions can turn interview answers into engaging success stories, increasing the odds that you’ll impress the hiring manager and show them you’re the perfect fit!

Similarly, by reviewing the top administrative assistant interview questions and rehearsing your responses, you can iron out any wrinkles and increase your confidence.

By dedicating some time and attention to practicing, you increase your odds of shining during your interview. It really is worth the effort.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, administrative assistants are wizards in their own right. They handle so much, ensuring CEOs aren’t distracted by the nuances of the day-to-day. By acquiring and refining the right skills, you can make your mark in the field. Just use the information above as a guide, and maybe you’ll discover that there’s no place you’d rather be.

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Check out our other “job description articles” if you’re exploring career options:

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.