What Skills Do You Need to Become an Administrative Assistant?

Updated February 2021.

Administrative assistants work in every sector of the economy.

From schools and healthcare organizations, to big corporations, banks, charities, government, and local businesses—admin assistants are the engines that keep daily operations running smoothly. 

Administrative assistants don’t make leadership decisions. But they do perform the clerical work and communications tasks that businesses need to thrive.

In fact, no growing company can be successful without the help of a good administrative team. 

So what do employers look for when hiring for these roles? Exactly what skills do you need to become a valued admin assistant?

Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to qualify for more advanced positions, you will need to prove your abilities in several key areas.

Here's what every employer is looking for when hiring a new administrative assistant.

 

Office computer software 

No matter what type of company or organization you want to work for, you will not get hired as an admin assistant without strong computer skills.

Proficiency in MS Office is absolutely essential for this role. 

You need a good grasp of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Access. You must understand functions and commands for each application, and be completely comfortable with tasks like: 

☑️ Setting up and managing a database 

☑️ Data entry 

☑️ Spreadsheets 

☑️ File management 

☑️ Generating reports 

☑️ Linking with other programs 

 

These skills do not come naturally to most people. You may be comfortable with Word, but feel lost when it comes to managing a database with Access.

Or, maybe you’ve never worked with Excel spreadsheets and formulas? 

If you want to become an administrative assistant, you may need some training to expand your computer skills—or learn them from scratch.

A good office assistant course will focus strongly on MS Office. 

You need confidence using every feature and preparing every type of document used in administrative work. For most people, a training course is the fastest way to develop those skills. 

 

Document preparation 

One of your main tasks as an office assistant is to write, edit, and prepare a variety of documents. These include: 

☑️ Emails 

☑️ Memos 

☑️ Reports 

☑️ Presentations 

☑️ Forms 

☑️ Graphs 

☑️ Charts 

☑️ Spreadsheets 

 

In some cases, you will create the document yourself. In other situations, you’ll be asked to proofread, edit or finalize a document your manager created.

This is why solid knowledge of MS Office is so important (these applications are used to create most kinds of documents).

But you will also need a good eye for detail to catch errors—and know how to present documents professionally (with company branding, letterhead, style guides, etc.). 

Whether you’re sending an email on behalf of your boss or finalizing a PowerPoint presentation for a client meeting: each document is a representation of the company and must be flawless. 

 

Customer service 

Many office assistants answer client questions, deal with complaints, and work the reception desk. In this role, you’re often the “face” of the company.  

If you’re sitting at reception, you are the first person a client or visitor sees when they enter the office. If someone calls or emails to inquire about services, you will likely be the person who responds. 

Customer service skills like patience, politeness, listening, and diplomacy are key to getting hired as an administrative assistant.

You also need good conflict resolution skills, and the ability to respond well to feedback and criticism.  

 

Good written and verbal communication  

If you look at any list of administrative assistant skills, you will see “communication” right at the top (see examples herehere and here). 

Why is this skill so crucial for administrative staff?

Because preparing documents, responding to clients, greeting office visitors, and working with a team all require good written and verbal communication skills. 

Almost every task admin assistants do relies on their ability to communicate effectively and professionally.

Employers are looking to hire assistants who are friendly, articulate, and mature, with a solid grasp of spelling, grammar, and business writing. 

 

Independent problem-solving  

Let's say an important package you mailed out goes missing.  Or a client arrives at the office without an appointment and wants a meeting with your boss. 

Maybe the printer is jammed, and you need documents printed right away. Meanwhile, your boss wants a last-minute flight and hotel room to attend a conference... 

Administrative assistants deal with all kinds of unexpected situations and challenges.

There are definitely times when you have to ask for help. But, in many situations, you’ll be expected to resolve the issue on your own. 

That’s why traits like adaptability, resourcefulness, and independent problem-solving are considered very valuable among admin assistants.  

Employers want people who can stay calm, think fast, and handle whatever the day may bring. 

 

Time management and multitasking 

Deadlines are a fact of life for every business and organization. There are deadlines for taxes, proposals, forms, presentations, and projects. Almost every task has a timeline and a due date. 

Part of your job as an admin assistant is to ensure those deadlines are met. This means you need good time management, project management, and multitasking skills.  

On a daily basis, you’ll be checking the calendar, monitoring upcoming events and projects, and keeping track of approaching deadlines.  

If you want to become an administrative assistant, you must be able to prioritize tasks, organize your time, and plan ahead.

 

See a Quick Overview of Herzing's Office Assistant Program

 

Anticipating needs 

A great admin assistant doesn’t wait to be asked to complete a project or do an important task.

Notice office supplies are running low, the company contact list is out of date, or the filing system could be better organized? 

Take the initiative and get it done. Employers really appreciate assistants who anticipate needs and don’t require constant direction.

 

continuous learning 

Businesses must evolve if they want to survive. The same is true for the people who run them, including administrative assistants. 

Take office software, for example. There are new project management tools, filing systems, and communications technologies coming out every year.

Just think about how many office assistants now work remotely! 

Many administrators are updating the company website, responding to questions on social media, and scheduling Zoom meetings on a regular basis.

If you want to become an administrative assistant, you must be open to change and prepared to learn new skills.

This is particularly true if you’re hoping to advance to an office supervisor or manager role. 

 

Getting started with administrative assistant training

Think you're a great fit to become a successful administrative assistant? Your first step is to ensure you have the complete skillset needed to get hired. 

Do you need help learning office software? Want to know more about preparing and editing documents, managing projects, or running reception? 

Consider your goals and find an administrative assistant program that teaches the skills you need.

Get started by exploring the Office Assistant program offered at Herzing College. This diploma program takes just 6 months to complete and is offered in several different formats:

☑️ On campus

☑️ Online

☑️ Full-time (6 months)

☑️ Part-time (11 months)

 

Click below to learn more and chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We’re here to help! 

Explore the Administrative Assistant Program