How To Become An Administrative Assistant

If you like the idea of working in an office environment as part of a team; you’re good at organising and your work is detailed and accurate, then the role of an Administrative Assistant could be right for you.

Entry requirements do vary depending on what sort of organisation you are hoping to join although most employers do require a minimum of maths and English GCSEs, telephone skills, typing qualifications and some office experience.  Much of your training will take place on-the-job and some employers will pay for you to attend courses relevant to the industry you are working in.

Skills and qualities

To be an Administrative Assistant you should have:

  • good organisation and time management skills
  • excellent communication skills
  • the desire and ability to work as part of a team
  • typing and computer literacy skills
  • good English spelling and grammar
  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • the ability to use your own initiative and know when to escalate matters to a supervisor
  • self-confidence

The work

The work varies according to the type of organisation you are employed by and the size of the department you work in.  Daily tasks might include:

  • opening and distributing post
  • monitoring stationery stocks and ordering more when required
  • answering the telephone, transferring calls and taking messages
  • manning the reception desk and looking after visitors
  • typing documents and letters
  • updated computer records
  • filing
  • using office hardware; printers, fax machines, photocopiers
  • managing junior managers’ diaries
  • arranging meetings and taking minutes
  • making travel arrangements and booking accommodation

Your job title may vary depending on the tasks you carry out; office administrator, clerical assistant or junior secretary, for example.


Some Administrative Assistant positions may be part-time or job-share posts but you would usually work full-time, Monday to Friday across a 35 to 40 hour week.  Flexible hours are available between 8am and 6pm depending on the requirements of each individual employer.

You would be office-based and much of your work would involve using a computer.


Starting salary

£12,000 per annum

With 2 years’ experience

£13,500 per annum

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Entry requirements

Entry requirements do vary between employers and may include some or all of the following:

  • GCSE mathematics and English language
  • RSA typewriting grade I (or equivalent)
  • Telephone skills
  • General office skills including filing

Most employers recruiting administration staff will test some or all of these skills with basic exercises at interview.

It would also be advantageous for you to have attained Award, Certificate or Diploma in Business and Administration (levels 1, 2 and 3).  These courses typically include modules in the following:

  • producing documents and reports
  • management of office supplies
  • use of email, diary and information systems
  • planning and organising meetings
  • use of office equipment

A good way of gaining experience that may lead to the offer of a permanent position is through temporary work, or temping.

Another avenue into this line of work might be through an Apprenticeship scheme.  The Apprenticeships website will have details of what schemes are available in your area.

Training and development

When you join the company, your employer will provide you with induction training which covers their office systems and procedures.  You may be offered opportunities to train towards further qualifications or be required to attend in-house courses relevant to your job.  

Job opportunities

The good news is that pretty much every company in every industry employs Administrative Assistants.  Consequently, there are plenty of jobs available and you will find them advertised in your local press, recruitment agencies and Jobcentre Plus.

You could choose to work for a small, local company or seek a career in the health service or with a major legal firm.  Larger organisations offer the scope for promotion to positions like administrative officer; supervisor, office manager, secretary or personal assistant and you might be able to move to different departments to further your experience. 

Useful references

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