In every workplace, there are specialized employees focused on doing their individual jobs. And these jobs are obviously important to the business. But an organization can’t function or meet its goals if all the workers are only concentrating on very narrow tasks. That’s where administrators come in.
“Administrative jobs are the engine of the office,” says Shanna Hocking, Principal of Hocking Leadership and an associate VP who manages a team of 45 and has hired many admins over the course of her career. “They keep things running and help the company move forward.”
No matter the organization, there are certain support—a.k.a., administrative—tasks that need to be done to keep the business afloat. Almost every job will require some element of administrative work such as answering phones, sending emails, scheduling meetings, or updating files. But the people whose focus is on completing these types of tasks are administrative workers.
If you want a job in administration, you can work almost anywhere. “Nearly every industry and company needs effective administrators,” says Kyle Elliott, a career coach with Caffeinated Kyle and former hiring manager for administrative roles. For example, a tech startup may hire an office assistant to coordinate conference rooms, welcome visitors and interviewees, and take notes at meetings. Or a doctor’s office may employ a receptionist to schedule appointments, check patients in, and process patient requests for referrals, forms, letters, and medical records.
“An administrative role is an excellent way to understand more about a company and contribute to all aspects of the company's work,” Hocking says. So whether you’re someone who likes to have a part in the work of multiple departments or business functions or you’re still trying to figure out what you’d like to do in your career over the long term, an administrative role could be a great fit.
Check out some of the common types of administrative jobs as well as specific positions and titles you might search for within these categories below. But first, take a look at some of the key administrative skills you’ll need to succeed.
Skills for Administrative Jobs
The skills you’ll need for a given administrative job will depend on the position, team, and company you work for, but here are a few of the most common skills that will help you across the board.
- Attention to detail: As an administrator, you’ll be required to focus on the small details to keep a company, team, or individual’s work running smoothly; catch errors; and keep accurate records. When others in your organization are busy painting the “big picture,” a keen eye for detail can be invaluable in catching mistakes before they happen and ensuring larger plans have the support necessary to come to fruition.
- Collaboration: Administrative professionals support the work of anywhere from one employee to an entire organization. So employers are looking for candidates who can work well with others and give, receive, and request input and support.
- Communication: Very little of an administrator’s work can be done without strong communication skills—primarily verbal and writing skills. You’ll need to know how to get information and ideas across in an efficient way and understand what others want you to know, whether you’re communicating in person or over phone, email, or chat.
- Organization: As an administrator, you’ll need to arrange your physical and digital workspace in a way that helps you complete your work accurately and efficiently. You might also be responsible for organizing the physical office and paper and/or digital files for your employer—as well as tracking inventory and updating records. Strong organizational skills will also help you plan well and coordinate the schedules or work of different employees, departments, and even companies or clients.
- Time management: Because administrative employees are often juggling multiple tasks for different teams or departments, you’ll need to prioritize your work and plan your schedule—both in the short and long term—to make sure you get everything done on time. You might also have to remind others to meet certain deadlines.
- Technical literacy: Increasingly, admins rely on computer and technical skills to complete tasks. You might want to make sure you know some of the basics, such as how to use email and chat tools; how to read, update, and create a simple spreadsheet; and how to use office suite software. But each position will likely have its own software, databases, equipment (such as a printer or copier), or other tech you’ll need to learn how to use—and technical literacy will help you get up to speed more quickly.
- Willingness to learn: Whether you’re an entry-level employee or seasoned admin, you’ll need to learn new things about any company you work for or any new employees or teams you work with to figure out how to best keep things running smoothly. “The best admins I have worked with learn enough about the business to anticipate the needs of those they support,” says Diane Gallo, an HR professional who’s hired for many administrative roles. “This includes little things like printing out documents for a meeting or prioritizing schedules based on their knowledge of the work.”
Employers will look for some or all of these skills and qualities in administrative hires—no matter what type of role you’re looking for. Here are some of the most common categories of jobs for administrators, plus specific titles to look for and links to search for job openings on The Muse.
1. Administrative and Virtual Assistants
Administrative and virtual assistants and clerks handle support tasks at companies in almost every industry. Their exact duties will vary, but these professionals often have responsibilities like scheduling meetings and conference rooms, printing, mailing, filing, and doing a number of other tasks. Clerks often have a lower level of responsibility than assistants, but both can be entry-level positions. Virtual assistants, administrative assistants who work entirely online, are becoming more popular. Smaller businesses often hire for these roles, allowing other employees “to spend less of their time on administrative tasks and more of their energy on strategy, business development, and revenue growth,” Elliott says. Depending on your availability, you can often find both full- and part-time positions.
In the past, “secretary” was a common term for these roles and you’ll still see it occasionally, but many companies and professionals now consider it outdated. The perception of a secretary was of a woman who was at the beck and call of a stereotypical male boss (getting coffee, for example), and most likely didn’t do anything without being instructed to do so, Gallo says, while administrative assistant and similar terms acknowledge that the job is a vital support role. Plus the shift helps shed the gender-specific connotation “secretary” developed over time.
Here are a few position titles that are still common (click on each title to search for open jobs on The Muse):
2. Administrative Services, Facilities, and Office Managers
Administrative services, facilities, and office managers oversee the support activities that help the physical workplace run efficiently. They might be in charge of maintaining and repairing supplies, equipment, the office, the building, and any outdoor spaces as well as coordinating and purchasing resources for the organization. In larger businesses they might manage administrative assistants or other support staff.
You’ll usually need previous professional experience to land one of these roles—but what kind depends on the type of job and company you want to work for. If you’re looking at office manager positions, for example, experience as an administrative assistant might be helpful, while a facilities manager may have a background in building maintenance or similar.
Some of the positions you might find are:
3. Bookkeepers and Accounting Clerks
Bookkeepers and accounting clerks create and maintain financial records for a company. They might be responsible for recording transactions, updating financial statements, managing payroll, preparing invoices, paying bills, keeping track of financial records, checking all of it for accuracy, and alerting others, such as accountants or auditors, about discrepancies and errors. People in these roles may work in a larger finance or accounting department or for a smaller business without one of these departments.
If you’re looking to land one of these positions you should have some mathematical and accounting skills as well as some experience with accounting software such as QuickBooks. Many organizations require some post-secondary education, preferably with accounting coursework. If you’re looking to become an accountant or auditor, note that these are not administrative roles and require specific and more extensive schooling and often certification.
Common titles include:
4. Financial Clerks
Financial clerks keep financial records, help customers, and carry out transactions that involve money. While bookkeeping and accounting clerks can work for almost any organization, financial clerks primarily work for financial institutions, insurance companies, healthcare providers, and businesses that handle cash. They may also calculate charges and create bills and invoices. Many positions are possible to obtain with a high school diploma, but there are a number of types of financial clerks as defined by BLS and some, such as brokerage clerks, may require additional education, licensing, or certification.
Some positions are:
5. Data Entry Clerks
Data entry clerks take information from one document and transfer it to another source, usually on a computer. For example, they may update customer or client information in a database or enter invoice amounts into accounting software. Data entry workers may also collect, sort, and verify the data. These jobs are often remote and may be full or part time, and you can usually get a data entry position with a high school diploma or equivalent.
Some common position titles are:
6. Executive Assistants
Executive assistants support individual—or groups of—executives or senior-level professionals at an organization by taking care of administrative tasks they may not have the time or bandwidth to complete. Executive assistant responsibilities may include maintaining their executives’ schedules, communicating with others on their behalf, taking meeting notes, booking travel, processing documents, or completing any other tasks their managers might need. Like administrative assistants, executive assistants were commonly called secretaries in the past, but the title has fallen out of fashion.
Some common titles and positions in this career now are:
7. Functional Assistants
Many departments within an organization may hire administrative professionals to help support their specific goals and jobs. For example, a marketing or PR assistant may track down media contact information, draft marketing materials, or coordinate social media, Elliott says. And an HR assistant might screen resumes to make sure candidates meet minimum requirements before they’re called for an interview. Though the bulk of this work is administrative, one of these positions may serve as a good stepping stone into a job function you hope to work in. Often, it’s useful to have—or be working toward—a degree in a field related to the department you support.
Some of these positions might be:
8. Material Recording Clerks
Material recording clerks often work in the manufacturing, shipping, or distribution industries to track orders and products to keep supply chains and deliveries moving efficiently. They might be responsible for creating and maintaining records of products and/or supplies shipped, received, or transferred; coordinating activities necessary to meet production and/or delivery schedules; preparing materials for shipping; and/or assuring quality of incoming and outgoing shipments. These jobs often require a high school diploma or equivalent, but some companies may look for candidates with college degrees.
Some of the positions in this area are:
- Expediting clerk
- Inventory clerk
- Inventory specialist
- Materials control associate
- Materials coordinator
- Materials planner
- Order fulfillment specialist
- Planning clerk
- Procurement clerk
- Production clerk
- Production controller
- Production planner
- Production scheduler
- Purchasing agent
- Purchasing manager
- Receiving associate
- Receiving clerk
- Receiving coordinator
- Shipping clerk
- Shipping coordinator
- Supply clerk
9. Medical Transcriptionists
Medical transcriptionists prepare records of healthcare visits and patients. They may take notes during doctor interactions with patients; take patient medical histories; and write out reports from patient charts, health records, and dictation by medical professionals. Medical transcriptionists generally work in hospitals, medical labs, or other healthcare settings.
Medical transcriptionists need to be familiar with medical terminology, abbreviations, and sometimes billing codes, as well as anatomy and physiology. Medical transcriptionists have often completed some post-secondary education, usually in the form of an associate’s degree or certificate geared specifically toward this field, though students planning to become doctors or nurses can often find jobs as medical scribes with a completed or in-progress bachelor’s degree. Medical transcriptionists may also choose to get certified by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), though not all positions will require it.
Some common jobs in this field are:
Receptionists are often the first employee that a customer, visitor, or client interacts with at a workplace, either in person, over the phone, or via email. Depending on where they work, they may be responsible for answering phones; greeting visitors, new employees, and interviewees; collecting visitor information; controlling access to the office or building; providing information about their employer; scheduling appointments; handling incoming and outgoing mail; and completing other administrative tasks. Receptionists often have a high school diploma or equivalent. Positions can be either full or part time and some organizations may need receptionists on nights or weekends.
Some titles you might see for receptionists are:
Tips for Landing an Administrative Role
Looking to land an admin job? Here are a few pointers:
Do Your Research
Before pursuing a new administrative role, learn what the job entails. There are free online resources, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, that will teach you the basic job duties and required skills, education, and experience for any given position. You can also find an industry or company that you’re interested in and connect with people who work there for informational interviews, Hocking says. “It can be especially helpful to get an insider's perspective before you make the move yourself and may help you land a job, as well.”
Read the Job Description Carefully
For any job you want to apply to, you can find out what they’re looking for in a candidate by reading the job description thoroughly. Take note of any skills, experiences, or qualifications you have as well as any job duties for the position you’ve already done in a past job or elsewhere. Emphasize these points in your application materials. You should also use the same language as the job description whenever possible. So, for example, if a job posting says they want someone with Excel experience, don’t just say you’ve used spreadsheets. In addition to helping you land an interview, being able to pull out the most important pieces of a job description can show potential employers your attention to detail.
Craft a Tailored Resume and Consider a Cover Letter (Even If It’s Optional)
Once you’ve read the job description, highlight your most relevant skills, experiences, and qualifications in a well-crafted resume. Under your past experiences, write strong bullet points that highlight your achievements rather than just your job duties, and add numbers to quantify your experiences wherever possible. Emphasize what sets you apart from other candidates, Elliott says. Have you worked extensively with the software you’d be using every day in this job? Are you a native Spanish speaker applying for a receptionist role in an area with a significant Hispanic population? “Articulating your unique value proposition makes it easier for employers to choose you over other candidates,” Elliott says.
You can expand further on any of these attributes in a well-written cover letter. (Yes, employers still read them!) Even if a cover letter is optional, you can use one to show some more personality than your resume might allow and give possible employers a taste of your writing skills—both of which could show how you’d communicate and interact with others as an administrative employee.
And don’t forget to tailor your application materials for every job you apply to. In other words, make sure you’re editing your resume and cover letter to highlight whatever about you will be most important to the person reading it. Administrative roles can vary widely at each company, so be sure that you’re showing employers how you’re a qualified fit for this specific role.
You can check out these articles for more specific resume advice for certain jobs and situations:
- Administrative assistant resume
- Career change resume
- Entry-level resume
- Executive assistant resume
- First job resume
- Office manager resume
- Resume advice for older job seekers
Prepare Stories and Answers for Your Interview
Whether you land an in-person, phone, or video interview, you need to come in prepared. Spend some time reading about how to answer common interview questions. Prepare a few stories that show off your best attributes so you can adapt them to answer different behavioral questions. “In other words, you need to identify what makes you fabulous. Then back it up with clear examples,” Elliott says. Have you ever created a new process that helped your workplace save money or time? Have you ever caught a mistake that would’ve had big consequences otherwise?
And, above all else, remember: Interviews are a chance to make a connection with someone you might be working with or for. They should feel like conversations—so don’t just recite rehearsed answers, allow for some back and forth with the person across the table from you and come prepared with questions of your own. These things will show your interviewer what you’d be like to interact with as an employee or how quickly you might be able to connect with visitors to your organization, for example.
Be Professional Throughout the Process
In many administrative roles, you’ll not only be communicating with many employees throughout a company, but you’ll also be representing the company to others. So in all your communications throughout the interview and hiring process make sure that your phone, email, and video etiquette is on point and shows that you’ll be a great face for the organization.