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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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
scheduling meetings and booking meeting rooms or venues
replenishing office supplies like toner or stationery
forwarding written and email communications to the relevant employees
signing off invoices
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
- What does a sales operations manager do? (Plus skills)
- How to become a business banker (with definition and skills)
- How to get the job you want: an 8-step guide with tips
- How to become a sports administrator: plus duties and skills
- What is a recording engineer? (A definitive career guide)
- How to become a makeup artist apprentice (with skills)
- What does an aid worker do? (Skills and duties explained)
- 11 part-time jobs for retired people to enhance your pension
- What does an HR manager do? (Plus how to become one)
- What is a high-level teaching assistant and what do they do?
- How to make the right career move: a step-by-step guide
- How to become a health coach (with steps and tips)