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How to Start a Career as a Secretary

Doris Benitez
Reading time: 3 min

A career as secretary is one of the most diverse and fulfilling vocations. This diversity makes it possible for a secretary to function in practically any organisation. As secretary, you could be working in the private or public sector, but you may also find yourself working for a charity organisation.

Most secretaries employed on full time basis work between 9am and 5pm in an office, Monday to Friday. With the advent of flexible working, some organisations permit work from home on some days, depending on the nature of the organisation’s business. Some may engage secretaries for temporary work, and if the amount of work is limited, a secretary may be employed on a part-time basis.

Job Basics

An entry level job as secretary can fetch a salary between £14,000 and £16,000 per annum. As you acquire more experience and hone your skills, you can expect this figure to increase up to £20,000. More experienced secretaries earn about £25, 000 and above.

What Secretaries Do

Secretaries are generally engaged in the administrative aspects of the organisation they work for. They handle a variety of tasks on a daily basis. They are often the first point of contact when a visitor comes in and they attend to important incoming and outgoing communications such as letters, emails, phone-calls and fax messages.

They also see to it that vital documents such as invoices, reports and spread-sheets are correctly filed away or electronically updated on the organisation’s IT database. Administratively, secretaries provide an invaluable service organising meetings and taking down minutes during such meetings. They manage the diary of key officials of the company and make travel arrangements on their behalf.

What it takes to become a Secretary

A secretary must possess good problem solving skills and the ability to take initiative. Proficiency in administration, time management skills and familiarity with the use of office equipment and modern IT gadgets are very essential. A friendly disposition and excellent telephone manners will also stand a secretary in good stead.

Employers often require a minimum of GCSE or its equivalent. Additional qualifications in administration or secretarial studies are essential, but relevant experience previously acquired on the job by volunteering may be accepted in lieu of formal training.

One sure way of getting the foot on the career ladder as secretary is to go through an apprenticeship. This offers an opportunity to acquire practical experience on the job by working alongside experienced staff. The apprentice often earns a stipend while acquiring job-specific skills.

Some apprenticeships give trainees the opportunity to combine studies with on-the-job training by giving them time off work for study related to secretarial work. Apprenticeships last for a variable length of time depending on the trainee’s educational background and previous experience but most do not exceed 5 years.

Career Outlook

The outlook of a career as secretary is very bright once the relevant skills have been acquired and the individual has gained some experience. Secretaries advance to positions which offer higher salaries and greater responsibilities. Successful secretaries go on to become executive assistants, and to occupy supervisory positions which involve overseeing other staff. Later in their career, they can move into human resources work or go on to specialise in fields such as medical or legal.”

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