CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 09, 2014
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How to Become a Bilingual Administrative Assistant

The path to becoming a bilingual administrative assistant involves a lot of dedication. But if you’re bilingual and are on the lookout for an administrative position, this could just be your ideal job. This article covers the role of bilingual administrative assistants, salary expectations, and qualification requirements.

What bilingual administrative assistants do

A bilingual administrative assistant does everything an administrative assistant does, but with the added role of working with documents and communicating in a second language. Your foreign language tasks might include:

  • Creating documents in a foreign language
  • Speaking in your foreign language, such as while providing customer service or negotiating, whether face to face or over the phone
  • Interpreting during meetings and videoconferences
  • Translating documents

Bilingual administrative assistants may also be known as bilingual personal assistants, or as multilingual administrative assistants (if you use two or more foreign languages). A bilingual administrative assistant’s administrative duties are the same as any other administrative assistants. These tasks may include:

  • Organising meetings
  • Filling the role of a personal assistant
  • Making travel arrangements for business trips
  • Filing documents and working with databases
  • Typing documents and creating emails, lists, pdf files, etc
  • Photocopying, scanning receipts, data entry

Income

Salaries can vary depending on your experience and responsibilities. 

Experience

Salary

Entry level

£18,000 to £20,000

Experienced

£20,000 to £35,000

Source: nationalcareersservice

Qualifications and skills

Bilingual administrative assistants should have good administrative skills and be comfortable multitasking. Experience in an office environment- especially if you’ve previously worked as an administrator, clerk or receptionist- would be helpful too. As with most office jobs, IT skills are important. You’ll also need to be well organised, with an eye for detail. You should be able to work on your own initiative and also perform well as part of a team.

Obviously, to be successful as a bilingual administrative assistant, you’ll need to be fluent in at least one foreign language. To become a bilingual administrative assistant you’ll usually have to have an A level (or equivalent qualification) in your second language. But if it’s your native language or you became fluent while resident in another country, you won’t need any formal qualifications. 

A degree in languages could give you an edge when it comes to applying for jobs. So could a joint degree in a language and business studies. But you can land a job as a bilingual administrative assistant without either, especially as a lot of employers value administrative experience more than qualifications. Many employers are more interested in your office experience and administrative skills than in any qualifications. 

Further development 

European languages such as Italian, French and Spanish are the most in demand. However other languages- especially Chinese, Arabic, Japanese and Russian- are useful in the business world, too. Even if you’re already working as a bilingual administrative assistant, you can still enhance your language skills by taking language courses, such as:

  • OCR Entry Level Certificates in Business Language Competence for Italian, French, Japanese, Spanish, German or Russian
  • OCR Level 1, 2 and 3 Certificates in Business Language Competence for German, Italian, French or Spanish
  • New language NVQs from Edexcel (levels 1-3 in Irish, Italian, Arabic,  German, Spanish, Chinese, French, or Welsh)
  • OCR (levels Entry-4 in Spanish, Welsh, Irish, French, German and Italian

To get accepted to do a language degree at a university, you’ll usually need five GCSEs (A-C) and two A levels (one of which must be in a language). Colleges and universities can differ, though, so you should check their entry requirements. If you’re Scottish, you might not need as many Highers and Advanced Highers as your English peers need GCSEs, because the grading system in Scotland is tougher.

Some of the larger companies may prefer you to be qualified in business administration. If you’d like to work for one of these large employers, there are a lot of full and part time business studies courses available- you don’t have to do a three-year Business Studies degree. You can study Business Administration at the Open University or take a course in business administration at a college. Other relevant college courses include shorthandtranscription, and computing skills.  

It takes work to be a bilingual administrative assistant- getting your language skills up to a good standard, brushing up your IT skills and becoming familiar with the office setting. But once you land the job, you’ll have a varied and interesting career that most people wouldn’t be able to do.

 

Image source: istock

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