How to become an administrative assistant (With skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're looking for a career where you can support companies and professionals in organising their work, consider becoming an administrative assistant. These professionals have a diverse skill set and professionalism that can help businesses stay productive and grow. Understanding what the role of an administrative assistant involves and how to become one can help you start a rewarding career in this field. In this article, we define this role, explain how to become an administrative assistant, outline their duties and discuss their skills and qualities.

How to become an administrative assistant

Knowing how to become an administrative assistant may be the first step in advancing your career in administration. This field offers a variety of paths to entry, with targeted practical skills and qualifications that employers value. Here are some key steps for becoming an administrative assistant:

1. Complete secondary education

At a minimum, employers typically require administrative assistants to have completed secondary education. Passes in GCSE English and Maths are often necessary for candidates for entry-level administration positions. A-level and further education qualifications can help you distinguish yourself from other applicants.

Related: What are administrative jobs? (Including salary information)

2. Build typing skills

Accurate typing is an important skill for an administrative assistant and employers often request a candidate's typing speed in words per minute (WPM). Learn and improve your word processing skills by taking typewriting courses and getting elementary, intermediate and advanced qualifications. Courses are available via colleges or online and you can use typing programs to train and time your typing.

Related: 8 secretary skills to develop for career success (with tips)

3. Develop basic information technology (IT) skills

Computing and handling data are a central part of an administrative assistant's role. Vocational training in basic IT can make it easier to use the varied software programs that are common in this role. Employers may expect proficiency in productivity software, and you can learn how to use programs like word processors, presentation apps and spreadsheets online.

4. Get training relevant to the industry you want to work in

If you want to work as an administrative assistant in specific fields like medicine or law, it may be worthwhile familiarising yourself with relevant terminology and practices. Understanding aspects of the industry you want to work in can assist you in interviews and when starting a new job. There may also be opportunities for an apprenticeship to provide structured training that is unique to specialist administrative roles.

Related: Common duties and responsibilities of an administrator

5. Gain work experience

Applying for work placement or internships can be an excellent way of getting some authentic experience in working as an administrative assistant. It can also allow you to network, earn a reference or even get a job offer. You can share this work experience on your CV.

Related: What does an administrative assistant do?

6. Search for an entry-level job

You can learn a lot of the skills and duties of an administrative assistant while working, so finding your first role is a key step in starting your career. If you don't have previous work experience in administration, an entry-level position can enable you to gain the necessary experience and references to progress your career. Here are some methods you can use to find your first administrative assistant job:

  • Search for jobs online: An online job search can help you identify suitable administrative assistant jobs in your area. You can either apply online or contact employers directly.

  • Enquire about local job vacancies: Ask local businesses like accountants, solicitors and media agencies if they're looking for an administrative assistant. For larger companies, contact the human resources department and ask about opportunities or leave a CV.

  • Attend job fairs: You can meet hiring managers and start networking at job fairs. There may even be the opportunity to interview for a role on that day.

  • Network: Use your existing personal and professional contacts to find out about job opportunities that might be a good fit for you. If someone refers you to direct contact in a particular company, make sure that you reach out to them promptly.

7. Create a CV

Create a simple CV that clearly outlines your skills, abilities and suitability for an administrative assistant role. Keeping the presentation smart and the content concise conforms with this role, as organisation is an important quality. A CV for an entry-level administration position may include the following:

  • your personal information and contact details

  • a personal summary, including your level of experience, skills and strengths

  • qualifications and certifications that apply to the role

  • your employment history

  • your skills

Related: Types of administrative assistant CV skills (plus examples)

8. Write a cover letter

A cover letter is an effective way of communicating your interest in and capabilities for an administrative assistant role. Highlight any skills and experience on your CV that show that you may be a great fit for the job. Use the cover letter to share information that's specific to the organisation or company you'd like to join, such as products and services they deliver or upcoming ventures.

Related: How to write an administrative assistant cover letter with no experience

9. Present yourself properly at the interview

An invitation to a job interview may be an opportunity to present yourself as an ideal administrative assistant. Answer questions confidently, directing your interviewer to your strengths, abilities and achievements that match the requirements of the job. Here are some strategies that can help you succeed:

  • practice answering interview questions with a friend or relative

  • prepare answers to common interview questions for an administrative assistant

  • dress in professional or business attire

  • listen to each question, pausing to think before answering

  • thank your interviewer and send a follow-up email

Related: 8 common administrative assistant interview questions

10. Be ready to learn

One of the key qualities of an administrative assistant is willingness to learn. Employers can train you in their systems and practices so that you can integrate well into the team and company culture. Here are some strategies you can use to feel comfortable in a new role:

  • listen carefully to instructions

  • clarify instructions you receive if necessary

  • be patient when someone corrects you

  • ask questions

  • ask for feedback

What is an administrative assistant?

An administrative assistant provides administrative support for businesses, organisations and institutions of any type or size. They typically carry out their work in an office environment and undertake clerical tasks that include record-keeping, data entry, filing and scheduling. This organisational role can help the other staff to remain optimally productive.

Administrative assistant job description

An administrative assistant provides essential organisational support to managers and employees by fulfilling the administrative needs of the office. Daily duties of an administrative assistant include:

  • dealing with administration-related requests and queries from employees and managers

  • filing documents

  • scheduling meetings and booking meeting rooms or venues

  • replenishing office supplies like toner or stationery

  • forwarding written and email communications to the relevant employees

  • receiving deliveries

  • signing off invoices

  • processing documents

  • creating presentations

  • collating information for reports

  • organising transport and accommodation for business trips

Administrative assistant qualities and skills

There are many hard and soft skills that can help you excel as an administrative assistant. If you're preparing a CV or cover letter for this role, here are some of the key qualities that you may emphasise:

Diligence

Administrative assistants can establish themselves in the workplace by working hard and maintaining high professional standards. Employers may require you to complete complex tasks that require diligence and attention to detail. When you run an office in a satisfactory manner, your employer and fellow employees know they can rely on you and focus on their own duties.

Related: Administrative skills: definition and examples

Integrity

It's important that employers can trust their administrative assistants to exercise discretion and honesty in their work. In certain roles, these professionals handle confidential or highly sensitive information. Enhanced vetting might be necessary in such roles.

Organisation skills

Strong organisation skills are often valuable to an administrative assistant. By maintaining an organised environment, you can assist your colleagues more effectively. Develop and improve your organisation skills by creating systems and routines for common tasks.

Related: Strategies for effective administrative management

Communication skills

Administrative assistants require excellent verbal and written communication skills to deal with a wide range of people spanning couriers to high-level management. Active listening may also be important for following instructions, taking notes and repeating messages precisely. Non-verbal communication skills like open body language and good eye contact can help an administrative assistant appear approachable and willing to help the team.

Explore more articles