Secretaries and administrative assistants
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Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
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Overview
Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine clerical and administrative duties. They organize files, prepare documents, schedule appointments, and support other staff.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for secretaries and administrative assistants are expected to shrink by 7%, and should have about 244,600 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Secretaries and administrative assistants are more likely to be automated than 89% of other careers.
Workforce size
Secretaries and administrative assistants, with 2,536,200 workers, form a larger workforce than 99% of careers.
Education
Only 23% of secretaries and administrative assistants have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by secretaries and administrative assistants
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
This is near the middle of all careeers' percentages of bachelor's holders.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 72% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for secretaries and administrative assistants. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most secretaries and administrative assistants.
This job's median $37KAll jobs' median $39K$36K$38K20142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 95% of secretaries and administrative assistants -- that's a larger percentage than 99% of other jobs.
Gender of secretaries and administrative assistants
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For secretaries and administrative assistants, the median men's salary was 11% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 16% of secretaries and administrative assistants are minority, and 9% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of secretaries and administrative assistants
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (9%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Secretaries and Administrative Assistants per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 51% of secretaries and administrative assistants, and 61% have company-sponsored health insurance (21% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for secretaries and administrative assistants
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of secretaries and administrative assistants who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (78%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (44%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (34%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do secretaries and administrative assistants earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. In particular, the ACS data is reported for the larger career group secretaries and administrative assistants, which combines the data for 4 careers, including secretaries and administrative assistants. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data is classified by SOC specialty, and excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for secretaries and administrative assistants, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for secretaries and administrative assistants compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for secretaries and administrative assistants (BLS Salary Data)
$37K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$37K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. Additionally, we only have ACS survey data for the larger career category and not for the specialty level. We first show the full salary distribution for all secretaries and administrative assistants, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for secretaries and administrative assistants compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for secretaries and administrative assistants (ACS Salary Data)
$36K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$36K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where secretaries and administrative assistants work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Secretaries and administrative assistants (ACS)
Private for-profit (61.3%)
Private not-for-profit (12.9%)
Local government (11.3%)
State government (9.0%)
Federal government (2.7%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.8%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.8%)
Working without pay (0.2%)
Distribution: Salaries of secretaries and administrative assistants by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of secretaries and administrative assistants, which combines the 4 specialties for this career.
$36K$37K$35K$46K$36K$36K$34K$29K$21K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Working without paySelf-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of secretaries and administrative assistants by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty secretaries and administrative assistants, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$37K$51K$38K$36K$38K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for secretaries and administrative assistants

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$38K$40K$31K$36K$40K$41K$22K$36K$33K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
0100K200K300K400KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Secretaries and administrative assistants and gender

With 95% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 99% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
95%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Secretaries and administrative assistants
Men (5%)
Women (95%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for secretaries and administrative assistants, with the median salary for men 11% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$36K$40K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Secretaries and administrative assistants have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 67% of other jobs.

11%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of secretaries and administrative assistants

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority secretaries and administrative assistants than for 65% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of secretaries and administrative assistants
White (81% )
Black (10% )
Other (3% )
Asian (3% )
Multiracial (2% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
16%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
9%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for secretaries and administrative assistants by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$32K$33K$33K$36K$36K$37K$38K$42K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KOtherHispanicAmerican IndianMultiracialWhiteBlackPacific IslanderAsian
Distribution: Salaries for secretaries and administrative assistants by nativity
$36K$37K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by secretaries and administrative assistants

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), secretaries and administrative assistants typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as secretaries and administrative assistants as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for secretaries and administrative assistants.

Education attained by secretaries and administrative assistants
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for secretaries and administrative assistants

High school graduates can take courses in word processing and office procedures at technical schools or community colleges. Some temporary placement agencies also provide training in word processing, spreadsheet, and database software.

Some medical and legal secretaries learn industry-specific terminology and practices by attending courses offered at community colleges or technical schools. For executive secretary positions, employers increasingly prefer to hire those who have taken some college courses or have a bachelor’s degree.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for secretaries and administrative assistants? Below we see the distribution of secretaries and administrative assistants salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as secretaries and administrative assistants, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$30K$34K$36K$37K$39K$42K$42K$44K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KNone (2%)High School (27%)Some College (33%)Associate's Degree (15%)Bachelor's Degree (20%)Master's Degree (3%)Professional Deg/Doct (0%)Doctorate (0%)
Certificate/degree pathways

The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click a program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.

Program
Education
Education level of awarded degrees
Less than bachelor's
bachelor's degree
Higher than bachelor's
Gender
Gender of graduates
Men
Women
Race/Origin
Race/origin of graduates
White
Minority
International
Number of degrees awarded in 2017
Administrative Assistant and Secretarial Science
10,132
Executive Assistant/Executive Secretary
1,691
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for secretaries and administrative assistants

What jobs will most secretaries and administrative assistants hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of secretaries and administrative assistants reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Secretaries and administrative assistantsFirst-line supervisors of office and administrative support workersGeneral office clerksReceptionists and information clerksBookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerksManagers (specialized areas)
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for secretaries and administrative assistants

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 5 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as secretaries and administrative assistants as well as 1% of respondents after working as secretaries and administrative assistants. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for secretaries and administrative assistants
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
General office clerks
356,600
$0$200K$33K
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks
188,400
$0$200K$38K
First-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers
153,100
$0$200K$48K
Receptionists and information clerks
151,300
$0$200K$27K
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for secretaries and administrative assistants: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as secretaries and administrative assistants? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of secretaries and administrative assistants surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for secretaries and administrative assistants
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Secretaries and administrative assistants
395,200
$0$200K$36K
45.3%
General office clerks
356,600
$0$200K$33K
4.2%
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks
188,400
$0$200K$38K
2.1%
First-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers
153,100
$0$200K$48K
5.6%
Receptionists and information clerks
151,300
$0$200K$27K
3.3%
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
2.0%
Paralegals and legal assistants
34,800
$0$200K$47K
1.1%
Office and administrative support workers
30,900
$0$200K$40K
1.0%
No occupation
8.1%
Read about secretaries and administrative assistants
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Secretaries and administrative assistants typically do the following:

  • Answer telephones and take messages or transfer calls
  • Schedule appointments and update event calendars
  • Arrange staff meetings
  • Handle incoming and outgoing mail and faxes
  • Prepare memos, invoices, or other reports
  • Edit documents
  • Maintain databases and filing systems, whether electronic or paper
  • Perform basic bookkeeping

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform a variety of clerical and administrative duties that are necessary to run an organization efficiently. They use computer software to create spreadsheets; manage databases; and prepare presentations, reports, and documents. They also may negotiate with vendors, buy supplies, and manage stockrooms or corporate libraries. Secretaries and administrative assistants also use videoconferencing, fax, and other office equipment. Specific job duties vary by experience, job title, and specialty.

The following are examples of types of secretaries and administrative assistants: 

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants provide high-level administrative support for an office and for top executives of an organization. They often handle more complex responsibilities, such as reviewing incoming documents, conducting research, and preparing reports. Some also supervise clerical staff.

Legal secretaries perform work requiring knowledge of legal terminology and procedures. They prepare legal documents, such as summonses, complaints, motions, and subpoenas under the supervision of an attorney or a paralegal. They also review legal journals and help with legal research—for example, by verifying quotes and citations in legal briefs.

Medical secretaries transcribe dictation and prepare reports or articles for physicians or medical scientists. They also take simple medical histories of patients, arrange for patients to be hospitalized, or process insurance payments. Medical secretaries need to be familiar with medical terminology and codes, medical records, and hospital or laboratory procedures.

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive form the largest subcategory of secretaries and administrative assistants. They handle an office’s administrative activities in almost every sector of the economy, including schools, government, and private corporations. For example, secretaries in schools are often responsible for handling most of the communications among parents, students, the community, teachers, and school administrators. They schedule appointments, receive visitors, and keep track of students’ records.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of secretaries and administrative assistants? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Decisionmaking skills
Secretaries and administrative assistants often prioritize tasks and make decisions on their employers’ behalf, so good judgment is essential.
Interpersonal skills
Secretaries and administrative assistants interact with clients, customers, or staff. They should communicate effectively and be courteous when interacting with others to create a positive work environment and client experience.
Organizational skills
Secretaries and administrative assistants keep files, folders, and schedules in proper order so an office can run efficiently.
Writing skills
Secretaries and administrative assistants write memos and emails when communicating with managers, employees, and customers. Therefore, they must have good grammar, ensure accuracy, and maintain a professional tone.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for secretaries and administrative assistants
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 72% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for secretaries and administrative assistants. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $37KAll jobs' median $39K$34K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for secretaries and administrative assistants are anticipated to shrink by 7%. over the next decade; 88% of jobs are projected to grow more.

The projected employment for secretaries and administrative assistants is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

200020102020203001,000,0002,000,0003,000,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most secretaries and administrative assistants? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as secretaries and administrative assistants. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all secretaries and administrative assistants, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Secretaries and Administrative Assistants per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.010.020.030.040.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where secretaries and administrative assistants earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for secretaries and administrative assistants compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for secretaries and administrative assistants.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all secretaries and administrative assistants, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Median salary ratio: Secretaries and Administrative Assistants to all workers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which secretaries and administrative assistants earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.20.40.60.81.01.2
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Secretaries and administrative assistants (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
Choose the similarity measure to compare careers
Interests
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Knowledge
Physical Abilities
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