If you’re looking for a career that is in demand, where employers are hiring even in this tough economy, consider becoming an administrative assistant. Administrative assistants are always needed in every industry: health care, law offices, small and large businesses and nonprofits. Most organizations need an administrative assistant, some need many of them in fact.
One of the largest occupations in the country
According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, secretaries and administrative assistants held more than 4.2 million jobs in 2006, ranking it among the largest occupations in the U.S. economy. Executive secretaries and administrative assistants held 1.6 million jobs in 2006. Medical secretaries held 408,00 jobs and legal secretaries held 275,000 jobs.
Far from a dead end job
For those with a college degree the thought of choosing an administrative assistant career track might not be palatable because of the stigma attached to the work. We’ve all heard the phrase “He/she is only a secretary.” However times have changed. Blanche Ettinger, Ed.D writes in Opportunities in Administrative Careers that with the introduction of technology into the office setting, support personnel are now primary technology users who are often asked to train others on new software techniques and to troubleshoot any computer problems. Today administrative assistants are in cutting edge positions acquiring needed skills before anyone else. Ettinger, who has worked as a secretary, is a professor in the Business Department at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York.
Also according to both Ettinger and The Occupational Outlook Handbook, administrative assistants now have duties that were once the responsibility of managers such as creating spreadsheets and presentations. Conversely managers are doing work that was once relegated to support staff. For example a manger will simply send an email instead of dictating a letter to a secretary.
Not ‘women’s work’ anymore
Another myth about the the administrative assistant career track is that it’s meant solely for females. Now that companies have started to alter job titles-deleting the word “secretary”-Ettinger notes that more men are embracing this line of work. “As for males entering the administrative profession, they are beginning to see the opportunities and satisfaction that they can derive, particularly with the invasion of technology and systems in office environments,” writes Ettinger.
Not only office work anymore
And if you believe that administrative assistants are drones stuck in an office all day, think again. Today hundreds of administrative assistants are taking advantage of telecommuting, flex-time, part-time and job sharing work arrangements. Also with the advent of the Internet, a new kind of administrative assistant has cropped up, one that works with small online businesses and solopreneurs. These professionals are called virtual assistants. Some virtual assistants focus on marketing, others on project management, medical transcription, data entry, customer service, writing, computer programming and much more.
Good prospects for career changers and older workers
One of the advantages of being an administrative assistant, according to Ettinger is the fact that the skill set of an admin is “broader than that of most managers and other professionals, which means you can more easily move into a different department or new industry.” Also this field is welcoming of older workers who bring a wealth of experience to the table.
Taking an example from African American History, Bennet McVey Stewart, a Representative from Illinois ended his career as the administrative assistant to Mayor Jane Byrne of Chicago from 1981-1983 when he was in his 70s.
For more information about this varied and dynamic field, visit the following organizations.
American Association of Medical Assistants
International Virtual Assistants Association