A guide to the administrator career path (including skills)

Updated 23 May 2023

An administrator performs a range of secretarial and clerical duties and provides administrative support. Administrators work in all industries and play a key role in ensuring their organisation operates effectively. Learning about the diverse career opportunities in this field enables you to consider this profession. In this article, we define what an administrator career path is, outline the key skills and responsibilities of the role and provide tips on how to become an administrator and advance your career.

What is an administrator career path?

An administrator career path refers to the list of steps or jobs you perform to develop professionally and progress into different or more advanced administrative roles. The position of an administrator involves a broad and varied range of tasks. Administrators typically manage the clerical, secretarial and administrative support duties that ensure an organisation's smooth running. You might work full-time or part-time hours and work in an office, from a remote location or have a flexible work arrangement. Organisational requirements determine the administrative support functions you provide when you serve in this position.

Career progression generally involves taking on more responsibility. This might mean that the tasks you carry out have greater organisational significance and you have a higher level of accountability or that you progress from working as part of a support team to having autonomy. Transitioning into a specialist branch of administration that requires specific skills and knowledge or expanding your duties beyond basic administrative duties are other paths of progression. For example, you might develop your managerial skills to advance from an administrative assistant role to an office manager position.

Related: Common duties and responsibilities of an administrator

What are an administrator's duties?

Your daily tasks and responsibilities as an administrator can vary depending on the organisation and the industry in which it operates. For example, working in some sectors may require handling sensitive data in compliance with laws and regulations, while in others you could be responsible for planning and attending industry events. Duties common to many administrative roles include:

  • managing diaries and scheduling appointments

  • answering phone calls

  • handling email correspondence

  • answering queries

  • undertaking research and drafting reports

  • maintaining databases

  • filing documents in compliance with retention schedules

  • tracking the inventory of office supplies and ordering replacement materials as needed

  • scanning, printing and photocopying documents

  • greeting clients and visitors

  • arranging and booking travel and accommodation

  • coordinating the workload of administrative team members

Related: What does an event administrator do? (With required skills)

What are key administrator skills?

The skill requirements that employers seek typically vary depending on the industry, seniority of the position and the organisation's needs and experience with specific database applications may be necessary for some jobs. Transferable administrative skills include:

  • IT literacy: Many duties an administrator performs involve using technology, such as maintaining databases and managing email correspondence. A good level of IT literacy enables you to use different types of technology.

  • Interpersonal skills: Administration roles often require you to interact and liaise with others, including colleagues, senior managers, external partners and customers. Interpersonal skills are key to effective interactive communication.

  • Communication skills: Performing administrative duties professionally entails communicating verbally and in writing adopting the appropriate tone and adhering to business etiquette. For example, your communication skills may help you respond to customer complaint emails effectually.

  • Time management and organisation: Your administrative duties may involve multitasking. Ensuring you complete all duties promptly and maintain a smoothly functioning office requires excellent organisation and time management skills.

Related: How to improve soft skills in the workplace

Pursuing a career as an administrator

The following is a list of considerations if you're beginning your career as an administrator:

Invest in education

Some entry-level administrative positions only require candidates to have good GCSEs, including maths and English. The job market for administrators is typically competitive and investing in further studies, such as a bachelor's degree, can strengthen your CV and improve your chances of securing employment. Having an academic qualification may also provide additional job opportunities in a specific area, such as business or scientific administration.

Gain certifications

Obtaining professional certifications can be a good way to expand your administrative skills and improve your employability. There are training courses you can undertake to develop core skills, such as computer literacy, database management, communication and project management. Having a certification can help you employ your professional skills effectively and confidently. It also shows employers that you have the necessary competencies to be effective in an administrative role.

Create a strong CV

Your CV is a valuable tool if you're establishing your career. It's an opportunity to make a positive impression on prospective employers and encourage them to hire you. Take the time to craft an effective document that emphasises your abilities and experience. It's also a good idea to tailor your CV according to each administrative role you apply for so that you can align it with the job description and demonstrate you possess the relevant skills.

Related: What is CV design? (With 13 designs to inspire you)

How to advance in your career as an administrator

Here are some steps you can follow to progress in your administrative career:

1. Conduct a skills audit

A key developmental step is assessing your abilities. Conduct a skills audit to identify your strengths and areas where you could improve. You can then develop a plan to develop your skill set, determine the roles that align with your unique abilities and decide if you're ready to advance professionally and take on new challenges. If there's a particular position you wish to pursue, you can compare your skills audit against the relevant job description and establish whether you have the requirements to effectively perform the role.

2. Invest in professional development

A well-rounded skill set can improve your chances of progressing professionally. After identifying potential areas for improvement in your skills audit, consider investing time in professional development to strengthen your weaker skills. This may involve participating in training courses or committing to regular practice. For example, by practising and performing drills, you could improve your typing speed. This is a fundamental skill for many administrative roles.

Related: Interview question: 'What are your strengths and weaknesses?'

3. Gain specialist skills

Some administrative positions require individuals with specialist skills or knowledge. Niche roles are often in high demand and might provide you with greater employment opportunities and increase your earning potential. Consider researching these roles so you can gain the necessary professional skills. This could entail completing a course of study, joining a professional body or obtaining industry certification. Examples of specialised administrative roles include a medical secretary and a financial administrator. These professionals require a range of administrative skills and knowledge of medical terminology or financial practices, respectively.

Related: What does a finance administrator do? (With key skills)

4. Commit to continual professional development

Regularly seeking opportunities to grow and develop improves your chances for professional progression. Regularly undertaking continual professional development (CPD) courses are a great way to learn new skills and gain valuable certifications. Many employers offer access to CPD courses. Committing to continual development also enables you to be professionally agile and remain effective and relevant. For example, administrative roles are increasingly adopting hybrid working practices, which means there are often new software tools and technologies you can learn.

5. Network

Building your professional network can provide opportunities for career growth. This network might grow organically as you spend more time in the profession and engage with more colleagues. There are also networking events where you can connect with other specialists. Having a network of peers can be a good way to develop your skills as you share your knowledge and connect with potential employers. This might lead to career opportunities, including the chance to pursue jobs that don't appear on recruitment websites.

Related: Your complete guide to networking at events (with steps)

6. Request more responsibility

Professional progression as an administrator often relies on seeking additional responsibility. Consider asking your manager if you can take on more advanced duties or undertake new challenges so you can grow professionally and demonstrate a willingness to progress. If you perform your new responsibilities effectively, you may consider requesting a promotion or pursuing other internal roles that represent an advancement opportunity.

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