Office Assistant Duties and Career Options

Office assistants may go by various titles, such as clerical assistants or general office clerks, and the position encompasses a variety of duties. There may be different levels of office assistants, ranging from entry-level to supervisor. The level of employment usually determines the amount of responsibility and the job duties.

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Office Assistant Job Duties

Office assistants' job duties vary, but usually include tasks like typing, filing, taking inventory, keeping records and sorting checks. They may also prepare documents, process mail and answer telephones. Some office assistants perform data entry and payroll tracking. Assistants might also work with salespeople, deal with customer complaints and answer questions about business services. While office assistants may perform many of the same job duties on a daily basis, some responsibilities can change from day to day according to the needs of the employer.

Most office assistant jobs entail using a variety of office equipment, such as fax machines, printers and copiers, as well as computers and business software. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, office assistants and secretaries are increasingly required to continue their education or take courses in technology as new advancements and office procedures evolve (www.bls.gov).

Office assistants' duties and levels of responsibility can be dictated by their work experience. Entry-level assistants may not be expected to make independent decisions and might only follow predefined procedures. Office assistants in supervisory positions, on the other hand, make many decisions. Supervisor duties often include training and evaluating entry-level staff, planning schedules and assigning work for office personnel. Office assistant supervisors could have other responsibilities, like updating office methods and work procedures.

Office Assistant Career Options

Because every business has clerical needs, office assistants can find employment in almost any type of work environment. They can also seek employment in specialized fields that match their interests, such as education, finance, law, medicine, technology and government. Those seeking office assistant positions in some of these fields, particularly legal or medical, may be required to have some college education or certification in that area.

Office assistants in entry-level positions who have strong analytical, people and communications skills often have opportunities of advancing to supervisory roles after gaining some work experience. They may also be promoted to other office or administrative positions with higher levels of responsibility, such as office manager or administrative assistant. Career advancement in this field sometimes requires additional education or training, such as completion of certificate, diploma or degree programs.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted 12% overall employment growth for administrative assistants and secretaries, from 2012-2022. At that time, expansion of jobs for medical secretaries was much higher, at 36%, and growth for legal secretaries was much lower, with an expected decrease of 3%. In 2013, the BLS reported an annual median salary of $32,840 for this occupation, excluding medical, legal and executive secretaries, whose salaries varied.

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