What Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Do
Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine clerical and administrative duties.
Although secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry, many are employed in schools, hospitals, and government, legal, and medical offices. Most work full time.
How to Become a Secretary or Administrative Assistant
High school graduates who have experience using computer software applications usually qualify for entry-level positions. Although most secretaries learn their job in several weeks, many legal and medical secretaries require additional training to learn industry-specific terminology. Executive secretaries usually need several years of related work experience.
The median annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants was $39,850 in May 2019.
Overall employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 9 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine clerical and administrative duties. They organize files, prepare documents, schedule appointments, and support other staff.
Secretaries and administrative assistants typically do the following:
- Answer telephones and take messages or transfer calls
- Schedule appointments and update event calendars
- Arrange staff meetings
- Handle incoming and outgoing mail and faxes
- Prepare memos, invoices, or other reports
- Edit documents
- Maintain databases and filing systems, whether electronic or paper
- Perform basic bookkeeping
Secretaries and administrative assistants perform a variety of clerical and administrative duties that are necessary to run an organization efficiently. They use computer software to create spreadsheets; manage databases; and prepare presentations, reports, and documents. They also may negotiate with vendors, buy supplies, and manage stockrooms or corporate libraries. Secretaries and administrative assistants also use videoconferencing, fax, and other office equipment. Specific job duties vary by experience, job title, and specialty.
The following are examples of types of secretaries and administrative assistants:
Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants provide high-level administrative support for an office and for top executives of an organization. They often handle more complex responsibilities, such as reviewing incoming documents, conducting research, and preparing reports. Some also supervise clerical staff.
Legal secretaries perform work requiring knowledge of legal terminology and procedures. They prepare legal documents, such as summonses, complaints, motions, and subpoenas under the supervision of an attorney or a paralegal. They also review legal journals and help with legal research—for example, by verifying quotes and citations in legal briefs.
Medical secretaries transcribe dictation and prepare reports or articles for physicians or medical scientists. They also take simple medical histories of patients, arrange for patients to be hospitalized, or process insurance payments. Medical secretaries need to be familiar with medical terminology and codes, medical records, and hospital or laboratory procedures.
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive form the largest subcategory of secretaries and administrative assistants. They handle an office’s administrative activities in almost every sector of the economy, including schools, government, and private corporations. For example, secretaries in schools are often responsible for handling most of the communications among parents, students, the community, teachers, and school administrators. They schedule appointments, receive visitors, and keep track of students’ records.
Secretaries and administrative assistants held about 3.6 million jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up secretaries and administrative assistants was distributed as follows:
|Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive||2,250,200|
|Medical secretaries and administrative assistants||623,400|
|Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants||593,400|
|Legal secretaries and administrative assistants||171,800|
The largest employers of secretaries and administrative assistants were as follows:
|Healthcare and social assistance||23%|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||15|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||12|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||6|
Secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry.
Most secretaries and administrative assistants work in an office setting. Some administrative assistants may work out of their own homes as virtual assistants.
Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of secretaries and administrative assistants.
For more information about careers in secretarial and administrative work, visit
International Association of Administrative Professionals
For more information about legal secretaries and administrative assistants, visit
For more information about virtual assistants, visit
For a career video on secretaries and administrative assistants, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Secretaries and Administrative Assistants,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm (visited ).