Office assistant is a vague term that can describe many different types of jobs worked in an office. It can sometimes be used synonymously with words like administrative assistant, or it can refer to office support staff who help the work of administrative assistants, executive assistants, or secretaries. The average office assistant may work a variety of jobs in the office setting, and generally needs basic office skills for the job.
An office assistant of this last type might do any of the following jobs:
- Answer phones
- File and organize information
- Take messages
- Run errands
- Do data entry or word processing
- Work to support other office staff
- Operate office equipment like copiers or fax machines
- Use specific programs like Microsoft Word®, Excel®, or Access®
- Provide customer support
- Help with office accounting
More advanced office assistants could be responsible for running an office, directly supporting executives, and supervising other office employees. Typically when support to executives or high level employees is more direct, the office assistant can be termed an administrative or executive assistant. If the office assistant supervises other employees, he or she may be called an office manager.
Frequently, office assistants must be “jack of all trades” employees. They must have good typing skills, be willing to take orders from other employees, be ready to work in a variety of capacities, and have at least beginning knowledge of typical office software. Work can vary from day to day and may depend upon the current needs of the office. You might be inputting data one day, filing the next, and faxing or mailing promotional materials on another day. Sometimes if the office is customer-service based, the extent to which you are busy may depend upon customer traffic.
An office assistant may have completed certificate programs through trade schools or community colleges. Others have high school diplomas, and few lack even that. The main skills that are sought after are ability to type quickly and accurately, good phone manners, good people skills, and demonstrated ability to be organized. Other companies want to make sure you can work with office software, and some companies require you to take tests on such software to demonstrate capability.
When office assistants are really direct assistants to professionals, their jobs may be more focused. They will essentially do whatever office tasks are needed so that the professional doesn’t have to. Administrative and executive assistants tend to have more experience with office software and often act as go betweens for clients and their executives. They may manage offices and hire and fire office assistants who can assist them with their work in supporting the professional.
Since the term may mean so many things, pay range can also be variable. The office assistant with minimal office skills may make little over minimum wage. Administrative assistants may command a higher salary, with an average salary in the $30,000 US Dollar (USD) range. Many make much more than this, depending upon their experience and job responsibilities.