A Guide to What an Administrative Assistant Does

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 5, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You may have recently graduated from high school or are ready to begin college, and considering what you want to do next. There are many options available, including administrative and office careers. Understanding the role of an administrative assistant can help decide if this is the right job for you. In this article, we will discuss the skills required to be an administrative assistant and how to become one in Canada.

What is an administrative assistant?

An administrative assistant or administrative support specialist is a person who is in charge of providing various types of administrative help. They support the day-to-day running of an organization and keep the office coordinated. Administrative assistants are responsible for attending to the details of an organization so that other employees can perform their tasks and duties successfully.

Related: 11 Career Paths for Administrative Assistants (With Tips)

What does an administrative assistant do?

Administrative assistants perform support functions for their organizations. These tasks range from coordinating travel and meeting schedules to creating reports and keeping suitable filing systems. Their responsibilities include:

Answering and directing calls

Administrative assistants usually handle the office lines. They are generally the first point of contact to anyone trying to reach that organization. They pick up phone calls and answer necessary inquiries, and if it's beyond their knowledge, they direct the caller to someone who can help. Also, they redirect phone calls. If a customer wants to speak with the manager, for example, the administrative assistant will put the call through to the manager.

Organizing meetings and keeping minutes

It's also the responsibility of an administrative assistant to plan meetings and keep organized and detailed minutes. In a well-established organization, there are usually many departments and subcommittees that will have to meet frequently. The administrative assistant has to make sure meetings don't clash and that there's an available space for the meeting to hold. They also take minutes of these meetings.

Scheduling appointments

Administrative assistants' daily administration tasks can extend to scheduling appointments. Depending on the type of workspace, the administrative assistant can schedule appointments and meetings for other professionals in the office.

Managing travel schedules

The administrative assistants manage the travel schedules of employees. They make flight arrangements, lodging arrangements and taxi bookings for employees that have to work out of province at any given time.

Keeping office policies and procedures current

This task is also a crucial duty of an administrative assistant. Most offices have policies that they've enacted to ensure that the organization operates smoothly. The administrative assistant ensures that employees maintain these policies. Also, if there are any changes, the administrative assistant conveys these updates to the other employees so they can act accordingly.

Source and purchase supplies

It's the duty of the administrative assistant to purchase new office supplies when necessary. If there's a need for a new office supply, employees report to the administrative assistant, who then relays this information to management to get approval to purchase these supplies. They also have to bargain for the best deals and sources to keep within the office's budget when getting supplies.

Requirements needed to become an administrative assistant

The following are the basic requirements you'll need to become an administrative assistant.

Education

Many administrative assistant roles are available to those with a high school diploma. College certifications are also a great addition. Many businesses would consider candidates with degrees in any subject, including business management, communications, and arts and humanities. Certain businesses and sectors may prefer university degrees in certain areas that better equip administrative assistants for specialized tasks such as working with financial concerns and government entities.

Someone without a degree can also pursue technical courses that will teach them the hard skills required for administrative assistant roles, such as business management, paperwork, filing and administration, data analysis, and bookkeeping. Like we stated above, it depends on what the company is looking out for.

Related: Understanding Entry-Level Jobs

Training

You can attend certain training programs to hone the skills you need to be an effective office administrator. Attending training programs and seminars in employee relations, bookkeeping, data analysis, and business management will give you an edge over other administrators in the job market. Training regarding office maintenance and office procedures and management is also essential and valuable.

Related: Administrative Assistant Skills (And How to Improve Them)

Certifications

Professional certificates can help people develop in their jobs more quickly, especially in highly specialized areas. Certifications are qualifications obtained by job seekers or workers to show their legitimacy and competency to do a job. Your certification is often a document showing that you have been taught, educated, and prepared to satisfy a specific set of standards for your work as a professional.

Related: 8 Important Administrative Assistant Courses to Consider

Skills you'll need to be an administrative assistant

You'll require a specific skill set to perform effectively as an office assistant. Some of these skills include:

Skills in office management

Administrative assistants require adequate skills in office management. Because their duties include the efficient running of the organization's activities, they can't do this if they do not possess sufficient skills in office management. If you're looking to being an administrative officer, developing office management skills such as organizational skills, leadership skills, and adaptability should be a top priority.

Communication skills

Communication skills are necessary for anyone who wants to be an administrative assistant. These skills make it possible for you to pass information across the proper way. You can classify communication skills into the following:

  • Verbal communication skills: Verbal communication skills allow for a clear exchange of ideas in the workplace. They also entail active listening to comprehend a speaker's message to respond or behave correctly and effectively. Administrative assistants need to possess this skill because they are constantly working with people.

  • Written communication skills: This crucial ability entails understanding written messages and drafting suitable answers. Administrative assistants use written communication to arrange activities and meetings, allocate duties, and make requests. Effective written communication involves having good grammar and proofreading skills.

Problem-solving skills

Every administrative assistant should possess problem-solving skills. This skill involves the ability to think fast and react positively in a variety of circumstances. The office can be fast-paced and pressure-laden. Your ability to thrive here will set you apart from other workers.

Time management skills

Managing time and getting things done when needed is another skill an administrative assistant should have. The ability to multitask and meet deadlines is highly sought after by employers and business owners.

Organizational skills

Keeping things organized is very important as an administrative assistant. Making sure that the office runs smoothly is a crucial part of your job as an administrative assistant.

How to become an administrative assistant in Canada

If you want to become an administrative assistant in Canada, here are some steps you can use:

1. Finish your education

If you are in high school, complete your studies as successfully as possible with attention to courses that might support your work as an administrative assistant. If you are in college, explore class options that may help you gain the skills you need to succeed in this role. Consider pursuing internships or work experience while finishing your education.

2. Earn professional certifications

You may wish to improve your credentials by pursuing additional certifications as an administrative assistant. Research organizations that provide continuing education and certifications in the skills required to fulfill this role. Explore roles in the industry and location where you'd like to work and notice specific qualifications those positions require, and use this information to guide your professional development.

3. Develop your skills

While you are pursuing coursework and additional training as an administrative assistant, practise skills such as interpersonal communication and office technology. Consider which skills you are already proficient with and which you'd like to improve. Be sure ot work on both hard and soft career skills.

4. Prepare your application documents

Next, prepare your resume and cover letter. Use keywords from each role you apply for in these documents to help increase the chance that a hiring manager will review your application, Remember that many employers use software programs to screen applications before the hiring manager reviews them. Be sure to proofread your materials carefully and ensure you've drawn attention to your most compelling skills and qualities.

5. Apply for jobs

Submit your application materials to employers when you find positions that appeal to you. When your application materials are successful, you may be invited to interview for a role as an administrative assistant. Consider practising interview questions with a trusted friend or colleague to prepare for your interview.

Related: How to Write an Administrative Assistant Resume Objective

The average pay of administrative assistants

The average salary for administrative assistants in Canada is set at $22.03 per hour. It can go as high as $34.45 an hour, depending on your experience, skill set, how you negotiate, and the type of organization.

Now that we've learned the answer to the question "what does an administrative assistant do", as well as the skills required and how to become one in Canada, you'll be better prepared to pursue this career path.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

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