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Administrative Assistant Job Description and Salary

Updated on November 9, 2012

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

Although they’re considered by many to have the lowest positions in corporate offices, administrative assistants boast at least two advantages. First, there’s nowhere to go but up the corporate ladder. Second, they learn all aspects of their chosen industry from the ground. Their job descriptions and salaries vary by the type of employers and company sizes.

What They Do

Often called secretaries, administrative assistants handle the paperwork and clerical tasks needed to keep an organization functioning efficiently and properly. They enter information into and maintain databases, organize paper files, receive and distribute mail, complete internal and external forms, and run errands for office staff. In large companies with many assistants, they may be assigned to perform one task, such as paying bills. They may also specialize in particular fields, such as when they are called legal or medical secretaries. However, in most instances, they are generalists whose duties differ from day to day.


A high school diploma or equivalent is typically all that is needed for this entry-level position. Proficiency in computers, office machines and business procedures is helpful and can be learned in high school, business schools or community colleges. Employers often train new assistants by pairing them with more experienced staff. Formal postsecondary training is only necessary for those in specialized positions, such as in the medical or legal fields. Useful personal qualities include good interpersonal skills for dealing with all types of employees and customers, organizational skills for juggling multiple tasks in one day, and communication skills for reporting on their work progress and preparing reports.


Once administrative assistants gain experience and demonstrate certain skills, they may work at more complex tasks and be given responsibility for projects. They can become supervisors who oversee the work of new assistants or clerks. With some classes or a degree, they can progress to management and become department heads. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sees jobs for assistants increasing at 12 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is close to the 14 percent expected for all workers in the country. Good positions will go to those with extensive computer skills or with a bachelor’s degree.


Although the job descriptions of administrative assistants in classified ads may peg their starting salaries at minimum wage, these workers averaged $33,020 per year, or $15.87 per hour as of May 2011, states the BLS.

  • Elementary and secondary schools were their biggest employers and paid $33,610 yearly, or $16.16 hourly.
  • The best wages came from the Postal Service at a mean annual $54,860, or $26.38 per hour.
  • Legal secretaries averaged $44,310 per year, or $21.30 per hour, while medical secretaries made a mean annual $32,430 annually, or $15.59 hourly.
  • Those who became executive administrative assistants averaged $48,120 per year, or $23.13 per hour.


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Administrative assistants are extremely helpful to company executives. They do so much. They probably know more about the company than some of the executives they assist. It's too bad their salary isn't a little higher for such a worthwhile position.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I began my work career as an "admin". It looks like the job pay has not changed much since back then. It is a behind-the-scenes job that deserves more credit than what is given. Great post and review.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      It takes me anywhere from half an hour to several hours to finish a hub, RichieMogwai. It just depends on the subject matter.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Interesting Alocsin....being a former "administrative assistant" that wound up being Director of Technology for a school district I can certainly see where a 'secretary' can advance. While people may joke about it, it is often a good position to be in. I went from medical, to legal, to school....and have to say I enjoyed and learned in each position!

      Voted this up, useful, and interesting. (Good facts as always.)

    • RichieMogwai profile image

      Richie Mogwai 4 years ago from Vancouver

      I just love reading your hubs, like this one. It's full of useful information and backed up by numerous statistics. I wonder how long it takes you to finish writing one hub? You might want to write a hub on that, after all you're the expert.