What Does An Administrative Assistant Do?

"I would like to work right after high school so I’m looking at possible jobs that only require a high school diploma. One of these is that of an administrative assistant. I would like to know more about the duties of someone who is in this profession. What does an administrative assistant do?"

asked by Mary S. from Ocean City, New Jersey

Administrative assistants or secretaries are an integral member of any organization because they handle clerical and administrative tasks that keep the company operating efficiently. They work in various settings—from small and large corporations to hospitals to law firms to schools to government agencies. They are usually responsible for structuring someone’s day, typically that of the manager or executive, so that the latter can focus their attention on the more important task of running the company.

In general, the job of administrative assistants involves organizing files, answering calls, scheduling and providing overall support to other members of the staff. They answer the company’s general phone lines or that of the direct line of their boss. They are in charge of scheduling their boss’s appointments so that they won’t miss important meetings. Secretaries also arrange internal meetings between staff members and their boss when important issues need to be discussed.

Administrative assistants may also be asked to draft routine memos and other reports. They ensure that these are accurate before they give this to their superior for signing. Any incoming and outgoing mails and messages are also handled by administrative assistants.

A large chunk of the job of administrative assistants is in keeping files and systems organized and in order. Traditionally, judicious secretaries kept track of documents and reports with the use of large filing cabinets. Now, their job is made easier. They can keep files and documents in computers or filing systems in the cloud. Thus, knowing how to operate computer equipment and software is a crucial skill for today’s administrative assistants.

In small companies, secretaries may also handle basic bookkeeping duties. They may also be tasked with purchasing supplies and equipment for the company and negotiate with suppliers and vendors. Some secretaries may be tasked with managing the firm’s stockrooms and libraries as well.

There are different kinds of administrative assistants and their responsibilities may vary depending on their job description. For instance executive secretaries or executive administrative assistants do more than answer the company’s phones. They are given more serious responsibilities, such as doing research, preparing extensive reports and ensuring that documents are error-free.

By providing top-level administrative support, they may also be tasked with overseeing members of the executive’s clerical staff. Legal secretaries, on the other hand, work under attorneys or paralegals and help them prepare legal documents like subpoenas, complaints and motions. Medical secretaries, meanwhile, work in healthcare settings. They transcribe doctor’s reports, obtain simple medical histories, arrange patients for hospitalization and process payments for insurance.

The advent of the Internet has also spawned a new category of administrative assistants called virtual assistants. Unlike other secretaries who work in the company, virtual assistants perform their work from their home office, usually on a contract basis.

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