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Considering Work as a Medical Administrative Assistant?

Nature of Work

As the dependence on technology keeps up to grow in offices, the role of the office professional has considerably progressed. Organizational restructuring and office automation have resulted to secretaries and administrative assistants to progressively take over duties formerly reserved for managerial and professional staff. Albeit this changes, on the other hand, the key duties for secretaries and administrative assistants have continued to be the same: performing and coordinating an office’s administrative activities and storing, retrieving, and integrating information for distribution to staff and clients.

To administer an organization efficiently, secretaries and administrative assistants do an array of administrative and clerical duties. They function as information and communication managers for an office ; plan and schedule meetings and appointments; systematize and keep paper and electronic files; handle projects; conduct research; and distribute information by utilizing the telephone, mail services, Web sites, and e-mail. They may also manage travel and guest arrangements.

A variety of office equipment, such as scanners, fax machines, photocopiers, and videoconferencing and telephone systems are being utilized by secretaries and administrative assistants. Furthermore, secretaries and administrative assistants frequently use computers to do assignments formerly done by managers and professionals; they create spreadsheets, author correspondence, handle databases, and make presentations, reports, and documents using desktop publishing software and digital graphics. They may also haggle with vendors, keep and examine leased equipment, purchase supplies, manage areas such as stockrooms or corporate libraries, and find data from numerous sources. At the same time, managers and professionals have taken over many tasks customarily given to secretaries and administrative assistants, such as keyboarding and handling the telephone. Since secretaries and administrative assistants do minimal dictation and word processing, they now have time to assist more members of the executive staff. In a few organizations, secretaries and administrative assistants work in teams to work flexibly and share their skill.

A lot of secretaries and administrative assistants offer training and orientation for new staff, head research on the Internet, and manage and fine-tune new office technologies.

Particular job obligations differ with experience and titles. Executive secretaries and administrative assistants offer high-level administrative assistance for an office and for top executives of an organization. In most cases, they do lesser clerical functions than do secretaries and a lot of information management. Moreover to arranging conference calls and managing other clerical staff, they may take care of more intricate duties such as reviewing incoming memos, submissions, and reports in order to know their importance and to plan for their dissemination. They also arrange agendas and make preparations for meetings of committees and executive boards. They may also do research and make statistical reports.

Some secretaries and administrative assistants, such as legal and medical secretaries, do highly specialized work demanding ability in technical terminology and procedures. For example, legal secretaries make correspondence and legal papers like summonses, complaints, motions, responses, and subpoenas under the guidance of an attorney or a paralegal. They may also go over legal journals and help with legal research—for example, by checking quotes and citations in legal briefs. Furthermore, legal secretaries often brief recently minted lawyers how to arrange documents for submission to the courts. Medical secretaries transcribe dictation, produce correspondence, and help physicians or medical scientists with reports, articles, speeches, and conference proceedings. Recording simple medical histories, arrange for patients to be hospitalized, and order supplies are the other functions of medical secretaries. Nearly all medical secretaries must be well versed with insurance rules, billing practices, and hospital or laboratory processes. Other technical secretaries who help engineers or scientists may make correspondence, keep their organization's technical library, and accumulate and edit materials for scientific papers.

Secretaries employed in elementary schools and high schools accomplish crucial administrative duties for the school. They are in charge for taking care of most of the communications between parents, the community, and teachers and administrators who work at the school. In essence, they are obligated to know details regarding registering students, immunizations, and bus schedules, for example. They set appointments, keep track of students' academic records, and make room assignments for classes. Those who work immediately for principals screen inquiries from parents and take care of those concerns not needing a principal's attention. They may also schedule a principal's calendar to help set her or his priorities for the day.

A number of secretaries and administrative assistants, also known as virtual assistants, are freelancers who work at a home office. They utilize the Internet, e-mail, fax, and the phone to keep in touch with clients. Other obligations cover medical or legal transcription, writing and editing reports and business correspondence, answering e-mail, data entry, arranging appointments, making travel arrangements, bookkeeping, and desktop publishing.

Work Environment

Secretaries and administrative assistants commonly work in schools, hospitals, corporate settings, government agencies, or legal and medical offices. Virtual assistants work from a home office. Their jobs mostly involve sitting for long periods. Spending a lot of time keyboarding, specifically at a computer monitor may result to problems of eyestrain, stress, and repetitive motion ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Most of secretaries and administrative assistants are full-time employees who work a regular 40-hour week. Nearly 18 percent of secretaries work part time and many others work in temporary positions. Some are self-employed, freelance (such as virtual assistants), or enter into in job-sharing arrangements, in which two people divide duty for a single job.

Training and Other Qualifications

Education and training. Being a high school graduate having basic office know-how will qualify for entry-level secretarial positions. They can get these skills in different ways. Training varies from high school vocational education programs that teach office skills and typing to 1-year and 2-year programs in office administration provided by business and vocational-technical schools, and community colleges. A lot of temporary placement agencies also offer formal training in computer and office skills. Nearly all medical and legal secretaries need to go through specialized training programs that educates them the industry’s language. Many community colleges offers virtual assistant training programs such as transcription, bookkeeping, project management, and computer technology. Online training and coaching programs are also available.

Employers of executive secretaries to a greater extent are looking for a candidate with a college degree, as these secretaries work immediately with top executives. In the application process, having a degree related to the business or industry in which a person is looking for employment may give the jobseeker an edge in the application procedure.

Nearly all secretaries and administrative assistants, the moment got hired, is likely to get more advance skills through on-the-job instruction by other employees or by equipment and software vendors. Some may attend classes or get involve in online education to learn how to run new office technologies like information storage system, scanners, or updated software packages An office automation continues to

Others may attend classes or participate in online education to learn how to operate new office technologies, such as information storage systems, scanners, or new updated software packages. As office automation goes on to change, retraining and continuing education will stay as integral parts of secretarial jobs.

Other qualifications. Secretaries and administrative assistants must be skilled in typing and excellent at spelling, punctuation, grammar, and oral communication. Employers also seek good customer service and interpersonal skills since secretaries and administrative assistants must be tactful in their business relations with people. Foresight, good judgment, organizational or management ability, initiative, and the capability to work independently are particularly crucial for higher-level administrative positions. Changes in the office environment have doubled the demand for secretaries and administrative assistants who are versatile.

Certification and advancement. Testing and certification for proficiency in office skills are offered through organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals; National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS), Inc.; Legal Secretaries International, Inc; and International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). As secretaries and administrative assistants gain experience, they can earn several different designations. Prominent designations include the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP), which can be acquired by complying with certain experience or educational requirements and passing an examination. In addition, those with 1 year of experience in the legal field, or who have finished an authorized training course and who want to be certified as a legal support professional, can get the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) designation through a testing process carried out by NALS. NALS provides two additional designations: Professional Legal Secretary (PLS), considered an advanced certification for legal support professionals, and a designation for proficiency as a paralegal. Legal Secretaries International confers the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) designation in areas such as intellectual property, criminal law, civil litigation, probate, and business law to those who have 5 years of legal experience and pass an examination. In some situations, particular needs may be waived. There is presently no set standard of certification for virtual assistants. A number of certifications exist which include passing a written test covering areas of basic competencies and business ethics. The IVAA has three certifications available: Certified Virtual Assistant, Ethics Checked Virtual Assistant; and the Real Estate Virtual Assistant.

Secretaries and administrative assistants usually advance by being promoted to other administrative positions with larger responsibilities. Certified administrative assistants who expand their knowledge of a company's operations and increase their skills may be promoted to senior or executive secretary or administrative assistant, clerical supervisor, or office manager. Secretaries with word processing or data entry skills can move to jobs as word processing or data entry trainers, supervisors, or managers within their own firms or in a secretarial, word processing, or data entry service bureau. Secretarial and administrative support experience also can result to jobs such as instructor or sales representative with manufacturers of software or computer equipment. With further training, many legal secretaries turn paralegals.


Secretaries and administrative assistants held nearly 4.3 million jobs in 2008, classifying it among the largest occupations in the U.S. economy. Below, the following tabulation displays the distribution of employment by secretarial specialty:

Secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive


Executive secretaries and administrative assistants


Medical secretaries


Legal secretaries


Secretaries and administrative assistants are hired in organizations of every type. Nearly 90 percent are hired in service-providing industries, ranging from education and healthcare to government and retail trade. Most of the rest work for firms that deal with manufacturing or construction.

Job Outlook

Employment change. Employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is assumed to grow by 11 percent, which is approximately as fast as the average for all occupations, between 2008 and 2018. Projected employment differs by occupational specialty. Above average employment increase in the healthcare and social assistance industry should result to much faster than the average increase for medical secretaries, while moderate increase in legal services is assumed to lead to faster than average increase in employment of legal secretaries. Hiring of executive secretaries and administrative assistants is assumed to increase as fast as the average for all occupations. Growing industries—such as construction; educational services; healthcare and social assistance; and professional, scientific, and technical services—will carry on to generate the most new jobs. A growth slower than average is forecasted for secretaries - except legal, medical, or executive - who account for about 46 percent of all secretaries and administrative assistants.

Growing office automation and organizational restructuring will persist to make secretaries and administrative assistants more productive in coming years. Computers, e-mail, scanners, and voice message systems will let secretaries and administrative assistants to accomplish more in the same amount of time. The utilization of automated equipment is also evolving the distribution of work in many offices. In some situations, traditional secretarial obligations as typing, filing, photocopying, and bookkeeping are being done by clerks in other departments or by the professionals themselves. For example, professionals and managers increasingly do their own word processing and data entry, and manage much of their own correspondence. In a number of law and medical offices, paralegals and medical assistants are taking over some duties once done by secretaries. Furthermore, a lot of small and medium-sized organizations are outsourcing important administrative functions like data entry, bookkeeping, and Internet research, to virtual assistants.

Increases in office technology are sure to continue. On the other hand, a lot of secretarial and administrative obligations are of a personal, interactive nature and, for that reason, are not easily automated. Responsibilities such as planning conferences, working with clients, and instructing staff require tact and communication skills. Since technology cannot replace these personal skills, secretaries and administrative assistants will continue to play a crucial role in most organizations.

As paralegals and medical assistants get more of the obligations generally given to secretaries, offices will carry on to change the traditional arrangement of one secretary per manager with secretaries and administrative assistants who support the work of systems, departments, or units. This method signifies that secretaries and administrative assistants will assume further responsibilities and will be considered as valuable members of a team.

Job prospects. Along with jobs created from growth, numerous job opportunities will arise from the need to replace secretaries and administrative assistants who transfer to other occupations, including exceptionally skilled executive secretaries and administrative assistants who often move into professional occupations. Job opportunities should be best for applicants with thorough knowledge of computer software applications, with experience as a secretary or administrative assistant, or with advanced communication and computer skills. Applicants with a bachelor's degree will be in great demand to act more as managerial assistants and to do more complex tasks.


Average yearly wages of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive, were $29,050 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent brought in between $23,160 and $36,020. The lowest 10 percent obtained less than $18,440, and the highest 10 percent collected more than $43,240. Average yearly salaries in the industries hiring the largest numbers of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive in May 2008 were:

Local government


Colleges, universities, and professional schools


General medical and surgical hospitals


Elementary and secondary schools


Employment services


Average yearly income of executive secretaries and administrative assistants were $40,030 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent got between $32,410 and $50,280. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,030, and the highest 10 percent took home more than $62,070. Average annual salaries in the industries hiring the largest numbers of executive secretaries and administrative assistants in May 2008 were:

Management of companies and enterprises


Local government


Colleges, universities, and professional schools


State government


Employment services


Average yearly wages of legal secretaries were $39,860 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent gained between $30,870 and $50,930. The lowest 10 percent took home less than $25,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,290. Medical secretaries earned average yearly salaries of $29,680 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent got between $24,530 and $36,090. The lowest 10 percent gained less than $20,870, and the highest 10 percent took home more than $42,660.

Virtual assistants arrange their own rate structure and billing terms depend on the type of work, skill level, costs of living in their area, experience, and personal financial needs. Those who bill adopting an hourly rate can range anywhere from $25 to $100 per hour. A few also bill on a per page or project rate.

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