Top 5 Key Skills In-Demand for Administrative Assistants

Administrative assistants, or secretaries, traditionally provided staff and administrative support. They would prepare files, organize emergency impromptu meetings, handle scheduling and billing, and organize documents. Most positions require a high school diploma or GED; some executive assistant positions may require a bachelors degree or at least some college-level experience. However, the past three years many assistants have assumed the responsibility of middle management in addition to their daily tasks. Employers seek candidates with strong communication skills, technology skills, and industry experience. Here are the top key skills and characteristics that are expected from administrative assistants.

 Interpersonal and Written Communication Skills

Strong writing and verbal communication are essential skills, especially in the Administrative Assistant field. Administrative Assistants interact with employees, management, suppliers, and customers. It helps to have a dictionary and thesaurus on hand. Grammar refreshers can help you practice and minimize mistakes. Once you communicate something or make a mistake, it is difficult to take it back.

It is important to recognize not just written and verbal communication but non-verbal cues as well, such as tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions. Additionally, the demand for multilingual assistants is high, especially in regions where it is common to speak more than one language.

Maintain Confidentiality

This is a no-brainer. Employers expect administrative assistants to maintain the integrity of sensitive information in the workplace. A survey by CareerBuilder revealed that 53% of support workers overheard confidential information and 11% stumbled upon information that can get another employee fired. Gossiping and spreading rumors is a sure way to get fired, especially if shared on social media.

What happens if you encounter unethical information? It is important to exercise judgment when encountering such a discovery. Some companies have guidelines such as the University of North Texas, which prohibits retaliation against individuals who report harassment, discrimination, or sexual violence.

Digital Technology Skills

It isn’t enough to just learn how to use e-mail and Microsoft Office applications (even though advanced proficiency is needed). Administrative assistants should learn how to use Adobe PhotoshopInDesign, and understand basic elements of design, color theory, and composition. Administrative assistants may encounter tasks involving updating photos and graphics for a newsletter, website, brochure, or social media. Adept knowledge of some of the common social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest is needed.
Administrative assistants should also demonstrate effective internet searching capabilities and use critical skills to make sure the source is credible. Some web-based tools such as Dropbox, Google, Evernote, Doodle will prove useful in the office. Technology and software applications are incredibly dynamic and it is up to you to stay on top of updates, take advantage of training opportunities, and be open to change.

Organizational Skills

Effective time management, organizational skills, and prioritizing are sure ingredients for improving office efficiency. Administrative assistants should aim to perform as seamlessly as possible. “Time is money” after all, so punctuality and accuracy will provide productivity and improve performance.

Industry Knowledge

It is typical for most secretaries to undergo short-term training once they begin. However if you can research and master jargons, researching processes, and staying updated on trade news it shows initative and may save an employer’s time from having to explain so many details. While not required, administrative professionals can work towards getting certification from the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Healthcare and legal administrative assistants may need to seek specialized training and experience to effectively operate in the field.


Administrative Assistant Jobs: What Changes Mean for You. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Secretaries and Administrative Assistants,
on the Internet at (visited August 23, 2016).

King, D. (n.d.). Four Principles of Interpersonal Communication. Retrieved August 24, 2016, from

Lorenz, M. (2015, February 26). Majority of Support Staff Workers Have Overheard Confidential Conversations at Work, New CareerBuilder Survey Finds. Retrieved August 24, 2016, from


Published by Crystal J. Hollis

Crystal Hollis is a North Texas area artist, video/photographer, multimedia producer, digital marketer, and writer. She holds an M.A. degree in Interactive, Virtual, and Digital Communication and B.A. in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of North Texas. She has five years of experience shooting and editing videos and photography. Her interests include film, television, American and Japanese animation and graphic novels, video games, race and gender issues in media, digital media, online marketing, and the art of transmedia storytelling. You may reach her at

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