What is a company secretary? (With job info and salary)

Updated 15 May 2023

All public companies have a company secretary by law. Company secretaries oversee several aspects of an organisation, including its governance, financial policies and administrative duties. A career as a company secretary is suitable for individuals who're interested in the legal sector and feel comfortable processing large amounts of information. In this article, we answer the question 'what is a company secretary' and outline their responsibilities, salaries and essential skills.

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What is a company secretary?

If you've started looking into a profession that oversees the planning, organisational and administrative duties of a company, you might be wondering, 'what is a company secretary?' They're at the heart of corporate governance, ensuring that a company complies with financial and legal requirements. They're also involved in decision-making processes and make sure that a company's strategy is in accordance with regulatory and ethical standards.

This means they understand how laws affect a company's area of work and come up with practical solutions that allow a company to achieve their goals whilst operating within the law. Although their primary aim is to provide legal advice, they also act as a point of contact between the board of directors, executive management and the company shareholders.

Related: How to write a legal CV (With template and example)

What does a company secretary do?

The responsibilities of a company secretary vary depending on the size of the company they work for, their seniority within the company and the sector in which they operate. Some general duties include:

  • scheduling appointments and updating event calendars

  • answering phone calls and email correspondences

  • managing customer files

  • facilitating inter-office communications

  • prepare meeting agendas

  • taking minutes of general meetings and board meetings

  • arranging meetings of the directors and the shareholders and giving proper notice

  • monitoring changes in relevant legislation and the regulatory environment

  • maintaining statutory books

  • filling the directors' report and auditors' report

  • keeping a register of all shareholders and their shareholdings

  • logging details of the company's assets and liabilities

  • making changes to the company's structure or management

  • filing necessary documents with Companies House, such as audit reports and annual tax returns

  • recruiting and onboarding new employees

  • ensuring the security of the company's legal documents

  • managing share option schemes

  • implementing systems that ensure the company complies with applicable standards and codes

  • liaising with external regulators and advisers, such as lawyers and auditors

  • maintaining good shareholder relations

  • helping visitors or clients navigate the workspace

How much does a company secretary make?

The national average salary for a company secretary is £21,673 per year. Salaries vary depending on the size and type of organisation, geographical location and sector. Your level of experience and education can also affect how much money you earn.

Company secretary work environment

Upon entering the industry, entry-level secretaries usually work as part of a team to frequent themselves the company's functions. They generally work 35 to 40 hours per week, and some employers allow them to carry out work remotely on an occasional basis. Once gaining experience, a company secretary may retain their own office space within the organisation. The office-based environment can be quite fast-paced, requiring company secretaries to coordinate communications with various departments. Company secretaries work in a variety of organisations, including:

  • local and central government organisations

  • private companies

  • charities

  • professional bodies

  • hospitals

  • educational institutions

  • banks and building societies

  • accountancy firms

  • housing associations

  • insurance companies

It's also possible for company secretaries to run their own businesses or small partnerships, freelancing their secretarial services for a set fee. This is especially the case for company secretaries who achieve chartered status under The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland (CGI).

Company secretary skills

Company secretaries tend to have a broad knowledge to support governance, corporate law, finances and other corporate secretarial practices. Some essential company secretary skills include:

  • Organisational skills: Company secretaries usually coordinate various responsibilities to ensure all departments remain on task. You document files and prepare schedules so that the company can streamline their processes.

  • Numerical skills: As a company secretary, you might analyse vast amounts of data and be able to interpret it when assisting in decision-making processes.

  • Written and verbal communication skills: Company secretaries liaise with various individuals, including customers, managers, board of directors, shareholders and partners. Communication skills mean that you professionally relay information both orally and through reports, memos and other correspondences.

  • Management skills: Good governance relies on excellent management skills to ensure that all company processes are under control. Management skills allow company secretaries to coordinate all business operations and stay on track to meet corporate aims.

  • Negotiating skills: Since company secretaries are the main point of contact between shareholders and executive management, they use good negotiating skills to secure deals and guarantee the best outcome for both parties. This requires you to negotiate with a diplomatic approach and relay shareholder concerns or problems to company members.

Related: 12 ways to improve your manager communication skills

How to become a company secretary

Certain education and experience requirements are usually required to succeed as a company secretary. Here is a simple step-by-step guide on how to become a company secretary:

1. Choose a specialism

Decide what field you want to specialise in before pursuing your education and training. This is because different sectors may require specific qualifications compared to others. There are several industries you can work in as a company secretary, including medical, legal and industrial, so be sure to consider all your options thoroughly. Make sure you stay up to date on all advancements in your chosen specialism and select a field that you're passionate about.

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

There are no set academic requirements to become a company secretary as many individuals manage to secure entry-level positions upon completing secondary education. Other employers accept candidates with relevant HND subjects. A bachelor's degree in a related subject can give you a competitive edge over other candidates and boost your earning potential. Some relevant degrees include:

  • law

  • business management

  • accounting and finance

These courses teach you proficient skills in database management and office management and require you to use spreadsheets, databases and word processing software in the same way that company secretaries do.

Related: 15 popular law degree jobs (With salaries and duties)

3. Get practical experience

Gain at least three to five years of practical experience, such as administrative experience, in any secretarial role before applying for company secretary jobs. Administrative work experience can give you first-hand knowledge in:

  • purchasing behaviours

  • office management

  • sales administration

  • credit control

  • accounts

  • insurance

  • personnel

  • pensions

Practical experience allows you to build on your skills and train whilst earning a wage. Many employers offer on-the-job training for secretarial employees with the opportunity to progress in the role. This is because on-the-job training ensures employers align their theoretical knowledge with procedures, policies and software.

4. Gain certification

Public companies tend to hire candidates who have the requisite knowledge and experience to carry our secretarial functions. Therefore, they usually look for individuals who achieve 'chartered secretary' status with one of the following institutions:

  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland

  • The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators

  • The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

  • The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting

You might find institutional programmes divided into two levels, and candidates can apply for registered tuition.

5. Look for a secretary position

Broaden your search beyond your speciality when first applying for company secretary positions. This is because some companies may simply post a job listing for a company secretary without specifying the industry in the title. There are several temporary and staffing agencies you can apply to when looking for secretarial jobs that allow you to work from home or 'remotely'. Be sure to expand your search to encompass commutable areas further afield so that you can increase your job opportunities. If you're willing to relocate for work, search for company secretary jobs across the country.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌ Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: What does a medical secretary do? (Qualities and salary)

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