The 21st Century Administrative Professional

One of the largest segments of the office workforce...

  • More than 4.2 million administrative assistants and secretaries, along with 1,4 million supervisors of office and administrative support workers, were employed in the United States in 2006 (U.S. Department of Labor).
  • A total of 476,000 administrative professionals are employed in Canada, including 365,670 secretaries, 26,390 executive assistants and 84,140 clerical supervisors (Statistics Canada).
  • Millions more administrative professionals work in offices around the globe.
  • More than 255,000 administrative assistant and secretarial positions will be added in the U.S. between 2004 and 2014, representing growth of 6.2%. More than 438,000 office supervisor positions will be added. (U.S. Department of Labor)

An increasingly vital and skilled role in today's (and tomorrow's) office...

  • The administrative professional’s job today requires skills in management functions and technology, including: project management; integrated computer software applications; organization and scheduling; Internet/Intranet communications and research; document preparation, storage, and retrieval, with emphasis on electronic recordkeeping; customer service and public relations.
  • Admins are handling a wider variety of duties beyond strictly clerical roles—Today's admins often purchase office equipment and supplies, plan meetings and special events, work closely with vendors and suppliers, create presentations and give them as well, interview, orient and supervise other staff, write and edit documents, schedule events and facilities, coordinate direct mailings, maintain multiple schedules and calendars, handle messages and correspondence (with voice mail, e-mail, and regular postal mail), maintain computer files, directories, and databases, and more.

Job Titles

  • Most common job titles reported by members of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) in a 2005 survey are administrative assistant, 30%; executive assistant, 18%; executive secretary, 6%; office manager or supervisor, 5%; and secretary, 5%. More than one fourth (26%) of those surveyed have a wide range of titles commonly including terms such as coordinator, administrator, specialist, associate, or denoting specialized business types or functions such as legal, accounting, medical, human resources, and many others.

Average Salaries

  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, median annual earnings of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive, were $27,450 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $21,830 and $34,250. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $41,550. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive in May 2006 were:
    Local government $30,350
    General medical and surgical hospitals 28,810
    Colleges, universities, and professional schools 28,700
    Elementary and secondary schools 28,120
    Employment services 26,810

    Median annual earnings of executive secretaries and administrative assistants were $37,240 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,240 and $46,160. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,740. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of executive secretaries and administrative assistants in May 2006 were:

    Management of companies and enterprises $41,570
    Local government 38,670
    Colleges, universities, and professional schools 36,510
    State government 35,830
    Employment services 31,600

    Median annual earnings of legal secretaries were $38,190 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $29,650 and $48,520. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,770. Medical secretaries earned a median annual salary of $28,090 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $23,250 and $34,210. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,750, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,870. Salaries vary a great deal, however, reflecting differences in skill, experience, and level of responsibility. Certification in this field may be rewarded by a higher salary.

  • A 2005 survey of IAAP members showed that 45% of members earn more than $40,000 per year in base salary, compared to 33% in 2002 and 8% in 1997.

Career Paths for Administrative Support Staff
Source: International Association of Administrative Professionals

Traditionally, a secretary was one who supported an executive by helping to manage their schedules, handle visitors and callers, and produce documents and communications. Many administrative professionals continue to support executives in business and institutions in this manner. However, for most administrative professionals today, much more is expected. With more managers keying their own correspondence and more files being stored electronically, the nature of secretarial work is changing drastically. Managers are doing more clerical work; administrative assistants and secretaries are doing more professional work. Technology and corporate restructuring have created jobs that are more rewarding and more skilled than ever before. In today’s downsized and restructured businesses, everyone is called upon to do more. Administrative professionals have gladly accepted their share of increased responsibility. Job descriptions are expanding and new titles are being created, such as administrative coordinator, office administrator, administrative specialist and information manager, to name just a few.

Administrative assistants have moved into training, supervision, desktop publishing, information management and research. They are involved with equipment purchase and maintenance, customer service, project management, public relations and supervision of outside vendors.

According to research by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), most administrative professionals want to remain in their field and advance into higher support positions or become office managers. Many say they are finally receiving recognition for what they do. They are becoming members of the management team.

With businesses operating in a global economy, administrative professionals will have opportunities to interact via e-mail, audio- and video-conferencing, and even face-to-face with customers and associates from around the world.

The winners will be those professionals who master technology, effectively use their interpersonal and communication skills, have the ability to track and organize and be creative in solving problems, and most importantly, have the willingness to learn and grow, and accept challenges. For these administrative professionals, there is a world of opportunity waiting for them!