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At a Glance

  • Perform clerical and administrative duties
  • Work in all types of firms and organizations
  • Use fax machines, copiers, complex phone systems, and computers
  • Typically work a standard work week
  • Need a high school diploma
  • Train on the job

Career summary

Secretaries perform a variety of clerical and administrative duties needed to run an office.

Secretaries may also be called administrative assistants.

Secretaries work in all types of firms and organizations. Common tasks include:

Secretaries organize and use paper and computer files. They use computer software to create spreadsheets, manage projects, and produce documents.

Secretaries sometimes take notes at meetings. They often compose letters and e-mail correspondence. In some offices, they place orders for supplies and keep track of orders.

They may conduct research on the Internet and write reports of their findings. They may also manage projects using database management software.

Secretaries use a variety of office equipment to do their work, such as:

Secretaries may also arrange office equipment repairs.

Related careers

This career is part of the Business Management and Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to secretaries.

Common work activities

Secretaries perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, secretaries:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Secretaries frequently:

It is important for secretaries to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for secretaries to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Secretaries need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a secretary, you typically need to:

Education after high school

You must have at least a high school diploma to be a secretary. Some secretaries have formal training beyond high school. Many business schools, vocational schools, and community colleges offer one- and two-year programs in office administration.

You need basic office skills such as accounting, word processing, filing, and recordkeeping. In addition, you need excellent spelling, punctuation, and grammar. You also need knowledge of spreadsheet and database software. Shorthand is necessary for some jobs.

Work experience

Some people prepare for this occupation through work experience. You can work your way up through clerical jobs, learning new skills at each one. Eventually, you have enough knowledge to move into a secretarial position.

On-the-job training

New secretaries work under the guidance of experienced secretaries or office managers. You may receive training for up to one month.

Because of the fast changing nature of this field, employers often offer training in the newest office technologies and software.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be administrative support specialists. Training lasts six to ten weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

High school graduates who have basic office skills may qualify for entry-level jobs. However, many employers require applicants to have knowledge of software applications. Employers look for applicants with good typing and grammar skills. They also look for secretaries who are tactful and have good people skills. Good judgment and the ability to organize are important for higher-level positions.

High school keyboarding and information technology classes can prepare you for entry-level jobs. Some employers prefer applicants with additional secretarial training at a college or private business school. Many employers prefer employees who can keep the information they work with confidential. Training in first aid and HIV/AIDS is helpful when applying for jobs with public schools. Some school secretary jobs also require a current state driver's license and a good driving record. Many employers in Eastern Washington look for applicants who can speak both English and Spanish.


Most employers specify that accuracy is more important than speed, both in taking dictation and keyboarding. Some employers will train people in clerical skills if the applicant shows an ability to get along with people and learn quickly. A good resume is important. Law classes may be helpful in some settings. The ability to speak and read a language besides English is helpful.

Costs to workers

Secretaries may be expected to have appropriate business clothing. In addition, they may need to enroll in classes or seminars to keep up with changes in their field. Some secretaries who wish to join a professional association or are required to join a union must pay membership dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive (SOC 43-6014)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $14.07 $16.78 $20.18 $24.55 $28.77
Monthly $2,438 $2,908 $3,497 $4,255 $4,986
Yearly $29,260 $34,890 $41,970 $51,070 $59,840
    Bellingham Hourly $13.90 $16.21 $18.82 $22.31 $25.27
Monthly $2,409 $2,809 $3,262 $3,866 $4,379
Yearly $28,908 $33,726 $39,138 $46,400 $52,555
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $14.23 $17.11 $20.65 $25.28 $29.69
Monthly $2,466 $2,965 $3,579 $4,381 $5,145
Yearly $29,596 $35,580 $42,946 $52,571 $61,769
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $10.71 $12.39 $15.27 $19.34 $23.19
Monthly $1,856 $2,147 $2,646 $3,352 $4,019
Yearly $22,289 $25,784 $31,761 $40,225 $48,227
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $13.76 $16.44 $20.21 $24.29 $28.58
Monthly $2,385 $2,849 $3,502 $4,209 $4,953
Yearly $28,607 $34,188 $42,029 $50,509 $59,436
    Longview Hourly $13.84 $15.95 $19.73 $23.46 $26.73
Monthly $2,398 $2,764 $3,419 $4,066 $4,632
Yearly $28,784 $33,169 $41,032 $48,796 $55,596
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $13.51 $15.64 $20.69 $24.29 $27.74
Monthly $2,341 $2,710 $3,586 $4,209 $4,807
Yearly $28,095 $32,533 $43,035 $50,521 $57,699
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $15.32 $18.45 $21.82 $25.58 $30.74
Monthly $2,655 $3,197 $3,781 $4,433 $5,327
Yearly $31,864 $38,371 $45,386 $53,200 $63,942
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $15.83 $18.22 $22.31 $27.04 $30.45
Monthly $2,743 $3,158 $3,866 $4,686 $5,277
Yearly $32,918 $37,904 $46,411 $56,252 $63,349
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $13.15 $15.80 $18.60 $22.19 $25.13
Monthly $2,279 $2,738 $3,223 $3,846 $4,355
Yearly $27,364 $32,882 $38,689 $46,144 $52,258
    Vancouver Hourly $13.63 $16.58 $19.92 $24.07 $28.23
Monthly $2,362 $2,873 $3,452 $4,171 $4,892
Yearly $28,351 $34,495 $41,428 $50,065 $58,708
    Walla Walla Hourly $12.96 $15.98 $18.17 $20.54 $23.95
Monthly $2,246 $2,769 $3,149 $3,560 $4,151
Yearly $26,959 $33,239 $37,806 $42,723 $49,810
    Wenatchee Hourly $13.84 $16.25 $19.20 $23.62 $27.76
Monthly $2,398 $2,816 $3,327 $4,093 $4,811
Yearly $28,776 $33,790 $39,920 $49,123 $57,735
    Yakima Hourly $13.64 $16.16 $19.15 $22.75 $25.93
Monthly $2,364 $2,801 $3,319 $3,943 $4,494
Yearly $28,381 $33,624 $39,832 $47,327 $53,945
United States Hourly $11.09 $13.91 $17.61 $22.23 $26.93
Monthly $1,922 $2,411 $3,052 $3,852 $4,667
Yearly $23,060 $28,930 $36,630 $46,230 $56,010

Wages vary based on the secretary's skill, experience, and level of responsibility. Wages vary by industry. They tend to be highest in transportation and public utilities. Wages are often lowest in retail trade, finance, insurance, and real estate.

Benefits vary by employer. Full-time secretaries usually receive typical benefits. These include vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Part-time secretaries often do not receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive (SOC 43-6014)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 39,791 14.3% 16.1% 5,684
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 1,418 12.4% 13.4% 195
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 1,534 7.4% 8.6% 192
    Benton and Franklin Counties 1,752 14.7% 15.0% 252
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 1,694 14.8% 11.9% 245
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 2,840 13.3% 15.2% 398
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 3,716 12.8% 14.1% 517
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 2,391 16.8% 14.6% 357
    King County 12,312 16.4% 19.6% 1,824
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 1,635 13.7% 13.8% 231
    Pierce County 3,719 13.1% 15.2% 520
    Snohomish County 2,771 13.0% 12.4% 386
    Spokane County 3,260 11.4% 13.9% 441
United States 2,382,500 -8.9% 5.2% 233,500

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will decline. 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.

Many job openings will occur as people leave the occupation. Job prospects are best for those with experience and strong computer skills.

Other resources

Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals (external link)
900 South Washington Street, Suite G-13
Falls Church, VA 22046
Careers in the Military (external link)
International Association of Administrative Professionals (external link)
10502 North Ambassador Drive, Suite 100
Kansas City, MO 64153
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster