Administrative assistant is a blanket term for any professional that oversees the day-to-day operational and clerical duties of an office. Depending on their place of employment, an administrative assistant might be responsible for any number of duties, including those once reserved for management. There are as many types of administrative assistants as there are professional offices. This is the main reason why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more job openings for administrative assistants, especially those versed in technology, than for almost all other professionals.
Administrative assistants were once popularly known as secretaries, and the basic duties of the job has remained essentially unchanged since its inception. The main responsibility of an administrative assistant is to perform or organize the administrative activities of an office in order to keep the business running smoothly and efficiently. This includes duties such as scheduling meetings, coordinating mail delivery, answering phones, managing databases, creating spreadsheets, and generating reports. Administrative assistants must also have a good working knowledge of common office equipment, such as fax machines, copy machines, scanners, and like. A professional administrative assistant should be able to multitask proficiently and expect to perform several of the above duties at once.
An administrative assistant is essentially responsible for organizing and disseminating relevant information within an office, although the nature of that information changes based on the place of employment. For example, an administrative assistant employed by a hospital (known as a medical administrative assistant) will perform different duties than an administrative assistant employed by a school.
The Impact of Technology
The modern office is more reliant on technology than ever before. The advent of technology in day-to-day operations has altered the duties of administrative assistant. Whereas secretaries in the past would be expected to master transcription and dictation, technology has erased the need for those skills while creating demand for computer-based expertise in administrative assistants.
Technology has also blurred the line between management and administration, which means that administrative assistants are now responsible for duties once reserved solely for upper-management professionals. These duties including working with vendors, purchasing and examining equipment, managing databases, and retrieving data. Technology makes it possible for administrative assistants to generate reports and spreadsheets quickly and easily, using desktop publishing software.
As mentioned above, the specific duties of an administrative assistant change based on their place of employment, as well as their expertise. Although all administrative assistants will be usually responsible for performing clerical duties, certain professionals may have more or less contact with the general operational aspdcts of an office than others.
Specific types of administrative assistant include:
Executive Administrative Assistant – Performs duties directly related to a top-level executive. Their responsibilities are less clerical and more concerned with information management, such as overseeing memos, reports, and submissions.
Legal Administrative Assistant – Performs duties related to the legal field, such as preparing motions, responses, subpoenas, and other correspondence. This position requires specialized knowledge of the law, as well as terminology and procedures related to the profession.
Medical Administrative Assistant – Performs duties related to the medical field. Like a legal administrative assistant, a medical administrative assistant must be skilled in medical terminology and procedures in order to work effectively.
Virtual Administrative Assistant – Also known as a freelance administrative assistant, their duties are almost identical to the general clerical responsibilities of an administrative assistant, except that they are performed in a home office rather than in a workplace.