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Secretary: job description

Secretary: job description

Secretaries play a supportive role in organisations where they are employed to undertake a variety of administrative and clerical tasks.
A number of private colleges offer specialised secretarial courses for graduates.

What does a secretary do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Secretaries help to keep an organisation running smoothly. The role is varied but the main tasks are administrative.

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • answering telephone calls
  • maintaining diaries
  • arranging appointments
  • taking messages
  • typing and word processing
  • filing
  • organising and servicing meetings (producing agendas and taking minutes)
  • managing databases
  • prioritising workloads
  • recruiting, training and supervising junior staff
  • handling correspondence
  • implementing new procedures and administrative systems
  • liaising with relevant organisations
  • coordinating mail-shots and similar publicity tasks

Occasionally, an administrative role could be a way into a profession, particularly in the media. There are many similarities with the work of Personal Assistants (PAs).

Typical employers of secretaries

  • Local and national government
  • Universities
  • Hospitals
  • Businesses
  • Charities
  • Financial institutions
  • Law firms

Many positions require word processing and/or shorthand qualifications – a range of secretarial training courses are available at further education colleges. Relevant experience can be gained via temporary agency work (‘temping'), which can in turn lead to permanent work.

Jobs are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies and in local, regional and national newspapers and their online equivalents.

Qualifications and training required

Formal academic qualifications are not always needed, although a degree in English, business, IT, languages, information science, administration or management may be beneficial. Previous office or commercial work experience can also be helpful. It is vital to have good IT and administrative skills.

Key skills for secretaries

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Teamworking skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Assertiveness
  • Time management
  • Decision making and problem solving skills
  • Communication skills
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