Secretaries and administrative assistants held about 3.8 million jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up secretaries and administrative assistants was distributed as follows:
|Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive||2,382,500|
|Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants||622,500|
The largest employers of secretaries and administrative assistants were as follows:
|Healthcare and social assistance||23%|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||14|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||12|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||6|
Secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry.
Most secretaries and administrative assistants work in an office setting. Some administrative assistants may work out of their own homes as virtual assistants .
Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.
High school graduates who have experience using computer software applications, such as word processing and spreadsheet programs, usually qualify for entry-level positions. Although most secretaries learn their job in several weeks, many legal and medical secretaries require additional training to learn industry-specific terminology. Executive secretaries usually need several years of related work experience.
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.
Secretaries and administrative assistants typically learn their skills through short-term on-the-job training, usually lasting a few weeks. During this time they learn about administrative procedures, including how to prepare documents. Medical and legal secretaries’ training may last several months as they learn industry-specific terminology and practices.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Executive secretaries can gain experience by working in administrative positions that have less challenging responsibilities, such as secretaries and general office clerks.
Secretaries and administrative assistants typically have an interest in the Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a secretary and administrative assistant, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Secretaries and administrative assistants should also possess the following specific qualities:
Integrity. Secretaries may have access to sensitive or private information that they must keep confidential. For example, medical secretaries collect patient data that are required, by law, to be kept confidential. They should be trusted to handle this information in order to protect patient privacy.
Interpersonal skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants often 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 often write memos and emails when communicating with managers, employees, and customers. Therefore, they must have good grammar, ensure accuracy, and maintain a professional tone.
The median annual wage for secretaries and administrative assistants was $39,850 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,510.
Median annual wages for secretaries and administrative assistants in May 2019 were as follows:
|Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants||$60,890|
|Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive||37,690|
In May 2019, the median annual wages for secretaries and administrative assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$45,100|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||40,450|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||40,300|
|Healthcare and social assistance||37,240|
Most secretaries and administrative assistants work full time.
Overall employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 7 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Employment of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive—the largest occupation in this profile—is projected to decline 9 percent from 2018 to 2028. In some organizations, technology is expected to enable other staff to prepare their own documents without the assistance of secretaries.
Employment of medical secretaries is projected to grow 16 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of medical secretaries will depend on growth of the healthcare industry. Aging baby boomers, for example, will require more medical services as they become eligible for Social Security and Medicare. As a result of these effects, medical secretaries will be needed to handle administrative tasks related to billing and insurance processing.
Employment of executive secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 20 percent from 2018 to 2028. This is largely because many executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants can support more than one manager in an organization. In addition, many managers now perform work that was previously done by their executive secretaries. For example, they often type their own correspondence or schedule their own travel and meetings.
Employment of legal secretaries, the smallest occupation in this profile, is projected to decline 21 percent from 2018 to 2028. In legal firms, paralegals and legal assistants use technology that enables them to perform work previously done by legal secretaries, such as preparing and filing documents.
Most job openings are expected to come from the need to replace secretaries and administrative assistants who leave the occupation.
For more information about careers in secretarial and administrative work, visit
International Association of Administrative Professionals
For more information about legal secretaries and administrative assistants, visit
For more information about virtual assistants, visit
International Virtual Assistants Association
For a career video on secretaries and administrative assistants, visit
Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants