Administrative Assistant

The Job and What's Involved

An administrative assistant/administrator is responsible for providing administrative support for an office or department.

There are various types of administrative assistants working in areas such as finance, human resources (HR) and marketing. Their role varies depending on the business function they are supporting, and the size of the organisation for which they work.

An administrative assistant's responsibilities may include:

  • Dealing with internal and external correspondence, including distributing and franking post.
  • Word processing letters, memos, agendas, presentations and reports.
  • Monitoring stationery supplies and reordering when necessary.
  • The maintenance of office equipment, such as printers, computers, scanners and photocopiers.
  • Answering the telephone and providing switchboard cover.
  • Setting up and maintaining filing systems.
  • Updating databases.
  • Looking after visitors.
  • Taking minutes at meetings.
  • Overseeing the upkeep of the building.
  • Photocopying documentation.
  • Basic IT support.
  • Looking after a reception area.

Administrative assistants/administrators normally work between 37 and 40 hours a week, from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.

There may be part-time and job share opportunities. Temping jobs are common and often lead to permanent employment. Depending on the nature of the work, it may be possible to work from home.

The role is office-based, and administrators spend a considerable amount of time sitting at workstations, working on computers. Smart casual or business dress is normally expected.

Starting salaries are around £13,000 to £18,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Nearly 4.5 million people are employed within business administration. This accounts for approximately 13 per cent of the UK workforce. There are jobs throughout the UK, in both the private and public sector. This includes local and central government, the financial sector, construction, retail and the media.

Employment trends are stable and long-term prospects are good. There continues to be a number of job opportunities at entry level.

Vacancies are advertised in the local and national press, and through recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry requirements, although employers are likely to ask for four or five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths, or equivalent. Work experience in an office environment is useful.

An increasing number of candidates continue their education to A level/H grade or degree level before looking for work.

Degree courses usually last three or four years full time. Entry requirements may vary, so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities.

An Apprenticeship in Business Administration is also available. The Council for Administration (CfA) has further details.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually on the job under the supervision of experienced colleagues. Some organisations provide in-house and external courses to develop skills. Areas covered may include word processing software, customer service standards and the use of database applications.

There are NVQ's/SVQ's in Business Administration at Levels 1 to 5.

Administration assistants may also study for a Foundation degree in business administration. Flexible study options are available and courses can be taken on a full-time, part-time or distance-learning basis. A typical full-time Foundation degree takes two years.

Students who have completed a Foundation degree may be able to progress on to the final year of a related honours degree course. Further information can be obtained from the CfA.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An administrative assistant should:

  • Have good interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Be able to work to tight deadlines.
  • Be able to manage several projects at any one time and prioritise their workload.
  • Work well with personnel from all levels.
  • Be a team player.
  • Be flexible and adaptable.
  • Be able to use their initiative.
  • Be able to work with numbers.
  • Have technical skills and be computer literate.
  • Have an understanding of health and safety at work.

Your Long Term Prospects

An administrative assistant's skills are highly transferable, and opportunities for progression include:

Taking responsibility for a small administration team.
Moving into general management.
Moving to work for a larger organisation.
Specialising, for example in marketing or HR.

Qualifications usually increase the chances of promotion.

Get Further Information

Council for Administration (CfA),
6 Graphite Square, Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5EE
Tel: 020 7091 9620
Websites: www.cfa.uk.com and www.breakinto.biz

ifs School of Finance, ifs House, 4-9 Burgate Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2XJ
Tel: 01227 818 680
Website: www.ifslearning.ac.uk

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