The duties, qualifications, and career prospects of secretaries are greatly influenced by technology.
The documents can be sent electronically and instantly reviewed.
With technologies, some duties that were traditionally performed by secretaries can be now done by other professionals as well.
Article Table of Contents
What Does a Secretary Do
The work of a secretary comprises the elements of call screener, gate-keeper, and document organizer.
They are often referred to as administrative or legal assistants as they provide a great deal of assistance to the managers, executives, and professionals.
To perform their duties, secretaries use computers, their technology skills, communicate with various people inside and outside the company.
- Answer, redirect and take messages from the phone calls.
- Respond to emails and messages.
- Prepare and edit documents, letters, etc.
- Organize the calendar and schedule appointments, meetings, and other activities.
- Maintain and organize records, files, databases, and other informational sources.
- Prepare and send bills and invoices.
The duties of a secretary can also vary depending on the job setting.
For instance, legal secretaries work with such documentation as contracts, court forms, lawsuit pleadings, subpoenas.
Medical secretaries transcribe dictated medical articles and reports.
They can also work with patient histories, and handle appointments or admissions scheduling for patients.
Additionally, they bill patients or insurers.
Secretaries in schools handle parents’ calls, organize school records, and monitor late arrivals or early departures of students.
Secretaries should know how to file, track, and categorize the documents.
Using their organization skills, they should also track schedules to avoid missing appointments or events, or overbooking.
The secretary’s employer may need a specific document or information, and the secretary should be able to get it ready quickly.
Managers, executives, attorneys, physicians, and other professional secretaries may work for, provide them with instructions on the required tasks.
Secretaries also use effective communication skills to listen to customers and communicate with them to obtain information, schedule appointments, etc.
According to O*NET, about 91% of secretaries use phones every day.
Secretaries need the skills in word processors to type and edit documents as well as scanners, databases, and other software and hardware.
Every day, about 86% of secretaries use email in their work.
Secretaries also need excellent grammar and syntax to write emails, memos, messages, and other documents.
Those employed in legal offices should be familiar with citing cases and statutes rules as well as other authorities.
How to Become a Secretary
To become a secretary, one needs a mix of education and experience.
Working in a specific setting, some specialized or extensive education may be necessary.
Training and Qualifications
The minimal educational requirement is a high school diploma.
Secretaries may find helpful such courses like a computer, word processing, and spreadsheet at high school or community colleges.
Those who plan to work in legal offices should take coursework that includes legal terminology and procedures.
Secretaries seeking a position in the medical field will need classes covering medical terms and health insurance billing.
Executive secretaries working for corporate offices usually have a wider range of responsibilities, so they may need a bachelor’s degree or at least college classes.
For a general office setting, training usually takes a few weeks while in the industry-specific setting, it can last for a few months.
The amount of required experience usually depends on the work setting.
Secretaries in general offices can gain experience working in smaller offices dealing with simple tasks.
For the position with a large employer or the company with several offices, secretaries should be more experienced.
Certifications can expand job opportunities, although they are not mandatory.
To become a Certified Administrative Professional by the International Association of Administrative Professionals, one needs two to four years of experience in the area and to pass the exam.
To obtain a Legal Secretary Specialist certification, Legal Secretaries International requires a minimum of five years of legal experience.
The candidates meeting the requirements can get a certification in criminal law, intellectual property, civil litigation, and business law, etc.
Typically, secretaries have a full-time schedule, but some employers may hire part-time employees.
They usually work on weekdays, and those in schools and legal offices, have days off for holidays.
Secretaries at schools may have a few weeks of vacation during the Christmas holidays and in summer.
This doesn’t apply to year-round schools.
Legal offices are usually closed on the same days that courts and government offices are.
Mostly, secretaries work 8 am-5 pm or similar hours.
Medical secretaries may have to work in the evenings or on weekends sometimes.
The Physicians’ offices are usually open at the times meeting their patients’ schedules.
As the BLS reports, the employment rate should increase by 3% both for secretaries and administrative assistants.
This means 188,800 more job openings by 2024.
This rate is lower than the other occupations, which is 7%.
The employment rate may decrease for legal secretaries by 3% and executive secretaries and secretary assistants by 6%.
With computer software, emails, and other technology, professionals can do some tasks of secretaries themselves, such as to send documents, communicate with clients, etc.
Some tasks that legal secretaries perform can be done by paralegals.
In the medical field, on the other hand, employment will increase by 21%.
The aging population and increased access to health insurance raise the demand for medical services and for secretaries to handle the billings.
Also, with more people reaching 65+ years old, there will be more patients eligible for Medicare.
Secretaries with experience can eventually advance to an office manager or a supervisor position.
In legal offices, secretaries can use their experience to become paralegals.
Secretaries are responsible for the organization of records and schedules, preparing documents and addressing the needs and concerns of customers and staff.
To perform their tasks, secretaries need computer skills.
However, advancing technology can affect the employment projections in the future since managers can use software to do most of the secretary tasks.
Because of the greater demand for healthcare services and easier access to insurance, medical secretaries have more positive employment prospects.