Breaking into an industry can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you don’t have the proper certification or experience necessary to obtaining a high-ranking position. For many people, it can seem impossible to secure a position in the field of their choice. One of the best ways to break into your preferred industry is to do so as a secretary. Obtaining secretarial work is usually less competitive than most people think, and is a great way to learn a multitude of disciplines that can carry over to just about any field of work.
Determining the salary that is most often received by secretaries is actually somewhat difficult, as it depends on a variety of different factors. For one, those who are new to the position will find that they don’t tend to make a lot of money at first; more often than not, first time secretaries make approximately $26,000-$30,000 per year. The pay scale for secretaries changes quite dramatically once one gets a bit of experience under their belt. The median salary for a secretary who has been in their line of work for at least five years is usually considered to be between $43,000 and $55,000 per year. Those who are employed by institutions that are doing well often find themselves making over $60,000 in a year’s time. The salary received will depend heavily upon the state of the company, the person’s responsibilities, how long they have worked there and how long they have worked as a secretary in general.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Becoming a secretary is similar to golf or chess; it’s not very difficult to get started, but mastering the job can take a lifetime of work. Put simply, being a good secretary is all about organization; those who have strong organizational skills often find that the job is a breeze, while those who don’t usually find themselves leaving the profession after a short period of time. Secretaries are responsible for handling the day-to-day things that upper-level professionals don’t have time to deal with. As a secretary, a typical day’s work might start with brewing a pot of coffee and opening the office in the morning, followed by answering emails or phone calls and scheduling/preparing for meetings. A secretary’s day often involves quite a bit of clerical work as well.
This may all seem somewhat overwhelming and mundane. However, as one becomes more familiar and comfortable with the position, the work soon becomes second nature. Once the day-to-day tasks have been internalized and become habit, it’s possible to take on other, perhaps more significant work such as helping with marketing campaigns or weighing in on company decisions. Those who excel at the job often find a position that they are comfortable enough with to stay in for years to come.
Training and Education Requirements
There are many different routes one could take to become a secretary. Some people find that they are able to gain a job as a secretary without having any training or credentials that relate to the job; this, however, is becoming a thing of the past. While in the past it may have been possible to secure a job as a secretary without a formal college education, competition for jobs today is fierce, and employers are usually not willing to take any risks. Hence, a post-high school education is often recommended and – sometimes – required.
While attaining a degree at a four-year institution is always recommended, it is more than possible to obtain a job as a secretary with nothing more than an associates degree. These degrees can usually be attained in two or less years, and programs are available at institutions that cost only a fraction of most four-year schools. Most community colleges offer associates degrees, during which one will learn how to be proficient in the type of work that would be part of a typical day for a secretary.
While many secretaries carry no certificates other than perhaps a BA or associates degree, it is possible to get certified as a CPS, or Certified Professional Secretary by the International Association of Administrative Professionals. It is also possible to get certified in a particular field; for instance, those who work as secretaries at law offices might want to attempt to obtain Legal Secretary Certification. These types of certification are not necessary; however, they can be quite helpful when it comes time to try to find a job in a depressed market, and are recommended for those who wish to climb to the top of their salary bracket.
Secretarial work is popular the world over, and as a result, there are a variety of professional associations for secretaries to belong to. These include:
- International Association of Administrative Professional (IAAP)
- Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals (AEAP)
- Senate Press Secretaries Association (SPSA)