Various establishments, such as schools, stores, professional practices, and other offices use different equipment, technology, supplies, and electronic and non-electronic delivery systems.
To use these tools efficiently, they need office assistants, also known as general office clerks.
With proper skills, education, and experience they perform tasks that help office workers receive communications and mail, hold meetings, send work products, etc.
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What Does an Office Assistant Do
Office assistants are responsible for various tasks that require organizational, communication skills as well as the ability to follow directions and deliver communications to office staff promptly.
Office assistants ensure efficient operation by keeping the required items stocked and maintaining the proper work of the equipment.
- Transmit documents via emails, fax, mail and express delivery services.
- Take phone calls, faxes, and emails and redirect them appropriately.
- Take messages from clients and callers.
- Obtain, sort, and deliver mail to staff and other employees in the office.
- Deliver mail or packages to post offices or express delivery depositories.
- Troubleshoot the equipment and inform supervisors, office managers, or upper management about the equipment issues.
- Place correct postage on outgoing mail.
- Type, format, edit, and proofread documents when necessary from handwritten notes or dictation machines.
- Scan, copy and organize documents.
- Monitor the stock of supplies and when they need to be replenished.
- Schedule appointments.
- Reserve space for meetings and conferences.
- Prepare bills and invoices.
The responsibilities of an office assistant can vary from one employer to another.
For instance, office assistants in the healthcare industry handle insurance claims, Medicaid and Medicare payment requests and send out prescriptions.
In law offices, they may have to take documents to the courthouse to record and file deeds and other records.
Office assistants in stores may have to answer questions about the policies, merchandise, or assist with minor sales activities.
Office assistants should listen effectively.
They should follow the instructions and take the messages to relay to the staff.
Besides, they need to understand these communications.
Office assistants need to be well-organized as they regularly sort mail by the recipient, group documents and files to have them readily available.
They can use scheduling software and calendars to make appointments and avoid double-booking spaces and rooms.
With good organizational skills, they can also efficiently monitor the stock of supplies for the office.
Multiple tasks office assistants perform require excellent attention to detail.
For example, they should apply postage properly, type documents, and prepare bills.
How to Become an Office Assistant
Office assistants usually become qualified for the job by learning their skills through education and training.
While college education isn’t mandatory, knowledge of computers, technology, and terminology in the industry can significantly increase your chances to get a position.
Training and Qualifications
Office assistants usually need a high school diploma or an equivalent document.
A college education isn’t required for the job.
However, to perform their tasks well, assistants may need to take classes in high school or community college that include working with spreadsheets, databases, and word processing software.
Usually, employers train their office assistants on the job.
It doesn’t take longer than a month.
This training will normally cover the use of copiers, phone systems, and other equipment, as well as etiquette and the preferred manner to address and respond to visitors and callers.
The experience, whether required or preferred, depends on the employer.
Generally, office assistants need at least one year of work in an office environment or handling administrative tasks, including using computers, typing documents, and answering phones.
Those who wish to work in retail stores need some experience in a retail setting.
Office assistants may be required to have a work history in such a setting as legal or medical.
For instance, office assistants applying to a law office may need experience working in a governmental or court setting.
The position of an office assistant is full-time.
The BLS reports that only one-fourth of assistants at an office worked in the position part-time.
The shifts usually take place on normal weekdays during regular business hours.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 12% of all assistants were employed in the Healthcare and Social Assistance setting, while another 12% worked in the educational facilities.
Since most of these positions are governmental, assistants rarely have to work odd hours.
Even in the 24/7 facilities, the business office is usually open only during regular hours.
Generally, office assistants don’t work in the evenings or on weekends in an administrative or business office.
The evening or weekend shifts may take place in the retail field, though, since most retail stores operate in the evenings and weekends, and some are even open around the clock.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate of office assistants should grow by 3%, which means 95,800, by 2024.
According to O*NET, there will be 756,200 job openings total by 2024.
Slower growth is dictated by advanced technology.
With higher office automation, the need for the services of office clerks decreases.
For example, automated phone systems answer and redirect calls instead of humans.
With email, instant texts or messaging, office staff can receive documents and messages directly.
The strongest prospects for office assistants exist in the healthcare area.
As of May 2015, 79,450 assistants were employed in the physicians’ offices, which made it the fifth among the employment sectors.
Office clerks in clinics or physicians’ offices handle health insurance claims, Medicare and Medicaid.
They have more administrative duties, including billing patients, transmitting prescriptions, calling pharmacies, and scheduling appointments.
The most assistants were employed at local governments, – 169,700.
At elementary and secondary schools, colleges, universities, and professional schools, office assistants held 252,010 positions.
In the “Employment Services” sector, they filled 168,710 positions.
According to the BLS, the average salary of office clerks is $31,890 per year.
Office assistants deliver various communications and messages, keep the track of supplies, scan, copy, fax, or email documents.
Their tasks also include billing customers as required by the other staff.
With advancing technology and digital transmission of the documents, the need for office assistants reduces.
The best prospects for office assistants exist in healthcare, where they bill patients and third-parties.
In specific professional settings, office assistants should be familiar with the terminology of the profession.