What is an Administrative Assistant?

Many of the same tasks as a secretary are performed an administrative assistant, including typing, filing, answering phones, and taking notes at meetings. He or she may also be in charge of an office’s logistics, collaborate with supervisors on important projects, and supervise secretaries. Although no formal education is required for this job, executive assistants and those in specialized fields may require additional training.


Administrative assistant responsibilities often extend beyond secretarial duties to include ordering supplies, handling mail and paperwork that comes in and out of the office, and coordinating people’s schedules. In many cases, he or she serves as a public information source and, as such, serves as the company’s “face.” Some senior assistants are also in charge of junior assistants or secretaries, and they may be required to make performance reports or presentations on a regular basis. Many people in this position also assist in the training of new employees, especially if they will be performing administrative duties. A practical knowledge of how to work with a variety of office equipment is also required of an administrative assistant.

Set of abilities

Because they are often responsible for multiple people’s schedules and may oversee the progress of several projects at once, people in this position must be extremely detail-oriented and able to multitask. They should also be good with people, as the job necessitates a lot of interaction with coworkers and clients. Because the administrative assistant is likely to know which documents are important and which can be discarded, which e-mails can be handled at the office level and which must be forwarded to upper management, and how to work up the chain of command to get things done, being able to make judgment calls and work independently is also an important part of the job. Administrative assistants must also be articulate, proficient in writing, and technologically savvy, as they are frequently required to answer mail, proofread documents, and work with databases.


Administrative assistants can specialize in a particular department of a company, such as human resources or information technology, though this is more common in larger companies. Executive administrative assistants only work with a company’s upper management. They could be in charge of a group of people or only work with one. In either case, in addition to the regular administrative duties, the assistant is responsible for controlling access to the executives, making travel and conference arrangements, and interacting with vendors, executives from other companies, and board members. In general, the higher the executive’s position, the more skills and experience the assistant requires.

Administrative assistants can also specialize in specific fields such as medicine or law. He or she performs tasks specific to that field in addition to the normal duties associated with this position. A legal assistant, for example, may conduct legal research and assist in the preparation of briefings, whereas a medical assistant is likely to be familiar with insurance billing and lab procedures. Virtual administrative assistants are people who work from home and do their work over the phone and the Internet.


In many cases, a person with a high school diploma and some business and computer skills can begin working in this field. She must know the vocabulary specific to specialized positions, such as those in a medical or legal office. When it comes to getting hired or promoted, a certificate from a training program, an associate’s degree, or certification from a recognized organization can all help.