Home / Career Guides / How to Become a Secretary

How to Become a Secretary

Secretaries are often working at the front desk taking care of the company’s administrative tasks, including supporting customers and colleagues and scheduling appointments and meetings. Secretaries are known for their strong communication skills and natural ability to connect with others. They’re dependable and eager to come to work each day to learn and serve their customers. 

Secretaries typically have a similar schedule each day depending on how busy the office is. Secretaries are typically the first point of contact for their company’s clients, so it’s important that they remain friendly and professional in order to leave a good first impression. Do you love working with people and interacting with others daily? Do you find simple, yet repetitive tasks exciting? If so, then a job as a secretary may be the best decision for your career path.

Sample job description

Experienced secretaries play a critical role in the daily operations of our company. There are a variety of administrative roles and responsibilities that come along with this position. Our secretary will be assigned to take care of visitors as they enter the building by greeting them and directing them to the appropriate departments or people. They will also schedule future appointments and meetings for clients, colleagues, and supervisors. Typical duties will also include making photocopies and filing important documents. It is important for secretaries to stay organized to ensure the company can run smoothly. You should have previous experience taking care of basic administrative tasks for a company and have the necessary communication and time management skills that will help you succeed with us.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Welcome guests and direct them to their final destination
  • Answer the phones and respond to various emails asking about meetings and appointments
  • Assist supervisors and colleagues with small projects and tasks
  • Maintain and keep a record of the company’s schedule
  • Schedule meetings and appointments 
  • Record inventory and order office supplies
  • Copy and file important company documents
  • Organize and take messages for other staff members
  • Take and record customer payments 
  • Keep up-to-date records on the company’s customers i.e. contact information
  • Take minutes at board meetings

Education and experience

  • High school diploma/GED
  • Bachelor’s degree in business administration for certain industries
  • At least one year of related secretarial experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Ability to work independently
  • Exceptional communication skills (written and verbal)
  • Optimistic and friendly attitude
  • Good time management skills
  • Professional discretion 
  • Attention to detail and accuracy
  • Solid computer programming skills
  • Organized and neat
  • Experience with data processing and bookkeeping

Preferred qualifications

  • 2+ years of administrative experience 
  • Ability to speak a foreign language
  • Ability to multitask
  • Proficient typing skills
  • Good problem solver
  • Calm and patient
  • Ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment

Typical work environment

Secretaries are typically found at the front desk of an office waiting to greet customers to guide them to their appointments or meetings. Secretaries are the backbones of the office and carry great responsibility as they schedule important meetings, keep effective records and administration, and make sure customers are happy. They are found in nearly every industry, including healthcare, education, and law. Secretaries are either found alone completing their various administrative tasks or surrounded by customers that are eager to be helped.

Typical hours

Most secretaries are expected to work 35 to 40 hours per week. However, a part-time position is not unheard of.

Available certifications

There are different certifications that institutions offer that can help secretaries better succeed at their job, including:

  • Certified Professional Secretary (CPS). A certified professional secretary is a professional secretary who has met certain educational, training, and examination requirements set by the International Administration for Administrative Professionals (IAAP). This certification was designed to recognize secretaries that have taken the extra steps to increase their knowledge and skills to better perform at their jobs.
  • Microsoft Office Specialist: Expert (Office 365). Many employers find it beneficial for their employees to understand the basics of Microsoft programs. The Microsoft Office Specialist certification allows people to get the most out of Office 365 by learning to easily navigate through programs and use the special features. Earning this certificate will demonstrate to employers that you possess advanced skills in these key office programs.
  • Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE). This certificate is great to earn for anyone looking for a job that requires administrative duties. The PACE certification will help students strengthen their management, computer and technology, and interpersonal communication skills. Earning this certification won’t only make someone a better secretary, it will provide credibility and confidence to their future employers that you know how to complete various tasks while dealing with customers in a professional manner.

Career path

To become a secretary, applicants will first need to earn their high school diploma or complete the GED. After high school, gaining experience in administration will be beneficial when applying to different secretary positions.

Depending on the company, the employer may require a more advanced degree in business administration, especially if you’re a corporate or legal secretary. However, previous experience in a related field is typically all you need to succeed as a secretary.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 43-6000

2020 Employment3,363,900
Projected Employment in 20303,137,600
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 7% decrease
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift226,200 decrease

With the increase of technology, businesses find it easier and faster to record and document important information on their own. These technological advances have allowed managers to perform the tasks that were previously completed by secretaries, reducing the overall need for secretaries in the workplace. Larger companies used to have several secretaries for each manager, however, now most managers need one secretary at most to complete the various administrative tasks. 

The good news is that there is a projected employment growth for some fields, like medical secretaries due to the increasingly growing healthcare industry. The baby boomer generation will require more medical attention as they age and the population continues to grow, so medical secretaries are needed to handle the various administrative tasks that come along with billing patients and insurance processing of Medicare and other claims.