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What’s the Difference Between a Secretary and an Administrative Assistant?

Posted: February 3, 2015

Difference Between a Secretary and an Administrative Assistant

Although their titles are often used interchangeably, secretaries and administrative assistants actually perform different jobs. Their responsibilities may sometimes overlap, but in most organizations an administrative assistant has a higher degree of responsibility than a secretary does.

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Have Different Roles

A Secretary May Be the First Person You Encounter

Secretaries often serve as receptionists, greeting people as they enter an office or a business and directing them to the people they need to see. They handle written correspondence, answer phones, forward calls and take messages. Secretaries also make appointments and maintain schedules for their supervisors. Clerical work is generally the primary focus of a secretary’s day. Typing, filing, entering data and performing bookkeeping tasks are typical job responsibilities. And secretaries may report to the top boss or they may answer to an administrative assistant.

Administrative Assistants Have More Responsibility

Administrative assistants, on the other hand, generally have more of a leadership role in an organization than secretaries do. They can, and often do, perform all the responsibilities of a secretary, but then much more. Instead of just making appointments, they might organize, schedule and create agendas for meetings and conferences. They may perform some bookkeeping tasks, but they could also create the spreadsheets that secretaries use to input that bookkeeping data. They may manage their company’s budget and ensure that client and vendor billing is accurate and that payables and receivables are handled in a timely manner. They interact with people across departments.

Administrative assistants are expected to think independently, problem solve and work with the whole business team. They may have similar day-to-day tasks as secretaries, but they are often also assigned long-term projects that can span months. Some administrative assistants have employees who report to them and they may need to assign and supervise the work of others. They, themselves, often report to the top members of corporate organizations like company presidents, chief executive officers and chief financial officers.

Both secretaries and administrative assistants play important roles in corporate American and need to have solid business skills. They should have a natural skillset that includes excellent attention to detail, good oral and written communication skills, good time management skills and a strong sense of professionalism. Among the technical proficiencies they’ll need is familiarity with a wide range of business software including such programs as Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, QuickBooks and desktop publishing. They’ll need a good work ethic and a desire to become part of a business team.

If you’d like a career in business, becoming a secretary or administrative assistant may be a good place to start. Do you have what it takes? At Career Quest Learning Centers, our Associate Degree in Business Administration or Administrative Assistant programs can help you get started on your path to a new career. Call us in Lansing at 877-481-4930 or Jackson at 877-365-8144 to learn more now!

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