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Receptionist Career Guide

What is a receptionist?

A receptionist is a key component in any office setting. Typically positioned at the front desk or the main entry of an organization, they serve as the first point of contact between the company and external parties. This role is indispensable in providing a welcoming environment and professional tone for clients, customers, vendors, and other visitors. They set the stage for everyone’s experience with the organization and enhance its image. Some may also assist internal staff in handling key organizational tasks.

Duties and responsibilities

A receptionist’s responsibilities vary, but generally, they engage in administrative tasks. They’re expected to greet and direct visitors, as well as handle incoming calls and convey messages. Replying to emails, sorting mail, and providing basic information about the company to visitors are also expected of them. In addition, they may also handle scheduling requirements such as booking meetings and appointments, maintaining conference rooms, and organizing travel arrangements. Privacy and confidentiality often come into play, especially when ensuring the security of visitor logs and employee directories.

Work environment

The working environment of a receptionist significantly depends upon the nature and sector of the organization. Offices, hotels, hospitals, educational institutions, government agencies, and other entities typically employ these individuals. Most typically work in comfortable, well-lit settings with computers, telephones, and other office equipment. They’re often situated at a front desk or reception area where they can interact with visitors and staff members. These environments can sometimes become busy and filled with distractions, requiring them to multitask and remain composed under pressure.

Typical work hours

As for typical work hours, receptionists usually follow a normal full-time work schedule, averaging around 40 hours per week. Some organizations might require them to work in shifts if they operate beyond typical business hours. For instance, hotels and hospitals may need receptionists round-the-clock, necessitating different shifts throughout the day and night. However, in standard office environments, they are often called upon to work during regular business hours, typically from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.

How to become a receptionist

This career guide section outlines how to become a receptionist, including a combination of key skills, appropriate education, and relevant work experience.

Step 1: Complete high school education

A minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to become a receptionist. Some generally helpful subjects include English, communication, and business studies. These can help develop communication skills, organizational abilities, and an understanding of the basics of professional business operations.

Step 2: Enhance computer literacy

Individuals in this role often work with computer systems to manage appointments, data, and communications. Therefore, becoming proficient in computer applications such as Microsoft Office Suite and understanding how to use email and internet browsers efficiently is necessary. It might be beneficial to complete relevant computer training courses.

Step 3: Develop interpersonal skills

As the point of first contact for clients or customers, they must possess excellent interpersonal skills. This includes being friendly, welcoming, and tolerant and handling difficult situations or individuals with poise. Any activities or experiences that allow you to interact with diverse groups can help develop these skills.

Step 4: Gain experience in customer service

Customer service experience is highly valued for this position. This could be gained through part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer work. Any role that involves customer interaction, managing phones, or organizing schedules can provide valuable experience and make you more attractive to potential employers.

Step 5: Apply for receptionist positions

After acquiring the necessary skills and experience, you can begin applying for jobs. Customize your resume and cover letter for each application, highlighting your skills, experience, and suitability for the role. Remember to tap into your professional network during the job hunt, as references and personal connections can be beneficial in securing a position.

Step 6: Consider specialized training or certification

While it’s not typically required, obtaining a certification, like the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP), can distinguish you in the job market. This type of specialized training, often offered by community colleges or career training institutes, demonstrates your commitment to the profession and may provide additional skills and knowledge, increasing your chances of being hired.

How much do receptionists make?

Receptionist salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. These roles often have a wage range influenced by front office responsibilities, communication skills, and customer service ability.

Highest paying industries

  • Financial Investments and Related Activities – $53,650
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing – $49,980
  • Natural Gas Distribution – $47,530
  • Cable and Other Subscription Programming – $46,210
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries – $45,900

Highest paying states

  • Massachusetts – $49,140
  • New Jersey – $47,720
  • Washington – $45,680
  • Connecticut – $45,300
  • Alaska – $44,760

Browse receptionist salary data by market

Types of receptionists

This career guide section highlights the various career types and areas of specialization for receptionists. Below, we explore the unique attributes and responsibilities of each job title.

Medical receptionist

Working at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, medical receptionists play an essential role in supporting patient care. They manage tasks like scheduling patient appointments, managing patient records, and coordinating with healthcare providers. Familiarity with medical terms and a professional approach to patient privacy are important skills for this role.

Legal receptionist

In law firms and legal departments, these professionals handle such responsibilities as managing appointments for attorneys, receiving clients, maintaining legal files, and directing calls. Given the confidential nature of legal work, discretion and confidentiality are paramount skills for a legal receptionist.

Corporate receptionist

Found within businesses across industries, a corporate receptionist is the first point of contact for clients and visitors. They perform tasks such as fielding telephone calls, maintaining security by issuing visitor badges, and sorting and distributing mail. Strong communication skills and organizational abilities are key to this role.

Hotel receptionist

A hotel receptionist, often the first face guests see at a hotel, primarily handles guest check-ins and check-outs. Their additional responsibilities include managing room bookings, answering guest inquiries, and coordinating with housekeeping and other hotel departments. An engaging personality and exceptional customer service skills are vital traits for these receptionists.

Virtual receptionist

A relatively new type of receptionist, virtual receptionists mostly work from home or remote locations. Utilizing modern technology, they manage calls, appointments, and customer inquiries like traditional receptionists. Embracing flexibility, these professionals are often employed by businesses that operate in multiple time zones or 24/7 service environments.

Top skills for receptionists

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a receptionist. To ensure effective functioning in this role, they must have excellent communication, multitasking abilities, organizational skills, and a pleasant demeanor.

Superb communication skills

Being the initial point of contact for a company, they must possess excellent verbal and written communication skills. These abilities allow them to effectively interact with clients, staff members, visitors, and external service providers, thus promoting a positive perception of the organization.

Capability to multitask

Their role often involves managing multiple tasks simultaneously, such as answering phone calls, scheduling meetings, and attending to visitors. Handling tasks efficiently without compromising service quality is important for success in this role.

Excellent organizational abilities

Considering the vast scope of their responsibilities, they must be excellent organizers. This involves keeping track of appointments, maintaining databases, and ensuring smooth-flowing office operations at all times.

Pleasant demeanor

A welcoming and positive attitude can go a long way while dealing with visitors and callers. Having a friendly nature sets the right tone for further interactions and reflects well on the company, making it a primary trait required for a receptionist.

Proficiency in using office equipment and software

In today’s technologically advanced workplaces, they must be proficient in using common office equipment like telephones, fax machines, and printers. Additionally, knowledge of office software like Microsoft Office, email clients, and scheduling tools is essential.

Receptionist career path

As an entry-level position, working as a receptionist often serves as a stepping stone for many career paths within an organization. The skills one develops while interacting with diverse visitors and managing administrative tasks transfer to multiple fields, enabling a transition to more specialized roles in customer service, sales, executive assisting, or office administration.

Promotion from receptionist to office administrator or manager is a common advancement within smaller organizations, requiring proven skills in organization, management, and interacting with all levels of personnel. In larger organizations, one might shift into roles within human resources, event coordination, or marketing, with experience handling people and information being highly transferable.

In some industries, such as healthcare or law, they may choose to specialize and become medical secretaries or legal assistants, leveraging their experience in front-desk operations to understand industry-specific processes and terminologies. Gaining additional qualifications or certifications while functioning in the role can hasten this progression.

The environment for receptionists is continually evolving, driven by ongoing advancements and integrations of technology. For instance, the traditional approach involving paper-based recording systems and face-to-face appointments has become dated. Today, automated online booking systems and computerized record-keeping are becoming increasingly prevalent, which require these individuals to be technologically savvy.

Notably, customer service has always been at the heart of this role. With the rise of online reviews and instant feedback via social media, there’s been an increased focus on delivering a positive customer or patient experience right from the first interaction. They now play a pivotal role in shaping the public perception of the organization which they represent.

One of the significant trends in this field pertains to the adoption of remote working models. Telecommuting or operating from a home-based office has become a viable alternative for receptionists. This trend has made it possible to carry out virtual administrative tasks.

Employment projections for receptionists

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of receptionists is projected to see little or no change through 2031. The need for customer service in all industries has driven the demand for receptionists.

Receptionist career tips

Understand your industry

One of the critical characteristics of a successful receptionist is in-depth knowledge about the industry in which they are employed, allowing them to handle inquiries and requests in an informed manner. Whether you are an education, hospitality, medical receptionist, or any other industry-specific receptionist, always keeping updated with industry trends and news can provide a significant advantage.

Master technical skills

Most roles involve utilizing a range of software tools for various tasks such as scheduling appointments, handling correspondence, and managing databases. Mastering these technical skills can enhance your proficiency and make you more attractive to employers. Regularly update and upskill yourself regarding the latest office tools and technology.

Continual improvement through professional development

Career progression may involve taking on greater responsibilities, moving into a management role, or specializing within a specific industry. You can facilitate this progression by investing in continual professional development. For example, you could pursue:

  • Certification programs in office administration
  • Short courses in customer service or professional communication
  • Advanced IT skills training

Build a professional network

Developing a network of other professionals who can provide advice, share opportunities, and offer support can substantially boost your career. Join professional associations specific to receptionists and administrative professionals to widen your network. Some of these include:

  • American Society of Administrative Professionals (ASAP)
  • International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP)
  • National Receptionists Association (NRA)

Adapt to various situations

A receptionist often faces unpredictable events and requests daily. From unexpected visitors to changes in appointments or meetings, the ability to remain calm and handle changes confidently determines your success in this role. Work on strategies to stay flexible and develop your problem-solving skills to navigate these scenarios best.

Where the receptionist jobs are

Top employers

  • Hilton Hotels
  • Marriott International
  • Intercontinental Hotels Group
  • Hyatt Hotels
  • Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Top states

  • California
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Nevada

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • SimplyHired


What qualities should a good receptionist possess?

Good receptionists are often friendly, organized, and excellent communicators. They must multitask effectively, manage their time well, provide exceptional customer service, and work well under pressure. Being amiable and helpful can make guests feel welcomed and valued.

What kind of challenges can a receptionist expect to face?

Receptionists may have to deal with unsatisfied customers, schedule conflicts, multitasking during peak hours, and managing complex administrative tasks. They might also have to handle difficult situations like customer complaints or handling sensitive information.

What kind of tasks does a receptionist typically have to handle on a day-to-day basis?

Typical tasks for receptionists include greeting visitors, answering phone calls, managing bookings and appointments, sorting mail, assisting with administrative tasks, and potentially handling basic bookkeeping or financial tasks for the business.

Are there specific software programs a receptionist should be familiar with?

Receptionists are usually expected to be proficient in Microsoft Office Suite, including Word, Excel, and Outlook. They might also need to have experience with booking systems, phone systems, or other specialized software, depending on the industry they work in.

What level of education should a potential receptionist have to be considered?

While a high school diploma is commonly accepted, some employers may prefer receptionists with an associate or bachelor’s degree, especially in relevant fields such as administration or communication. However, employment in this role is frequently based on experience and skill level rather than education.

Do receptionist roles typically provide on-the-job training?

Yes, most receptionist roles provide on-the-job training. This can include how to use specific software or systems, customer service training, and learning the company’s or industry’s inner workings. This training helps them perform their role more effectively.

Is receptionist a full-time or part-time role?

Receptionist roles can be either full-time or part-time, depending on the employer’s needs. Some businesses require them to be present during all business hours, while others might only need someone for a portion of the day or week.

Can a receptionist role be performed remotely?

While traditionally a role performed on-site, technological advancements have begun to allow some receptionist duties to be assumed remotely. Virtual receptionists can manage calls and appointments and perform administrative tasks remotely. However, this often depends on the employer’s specific needs.

What are receptionist’s potential career advancement opportunities?

Starting as a receptionist can lead to various opportunities for growth. They can move into administrative assistant, executive assistant, or office manager roles with further experience. They may also choose to specialize in areas such as human resources or finance.