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Detailed Guide for

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive in California

May also be called: Administrative Secretaries; Office Assistants; Clerk Typists; Office Managers; Administrative Technicians; Administrative Associates; Administrative Support Assistants; Department Secretaries; and Personal Secretaries

What Would I Do?

Secretaries help managers and workers make sure an office runs smoothly. Their duties vary depending upon the size and organization of the office. They use many types of office equipment and computer software to prepare reports and messages for staff and clients. In addition, they may edit work done by others using their knowledge of grammar and spelling. Secretaries handle telephone calls and mail. They also organize and maintain paper or electronic files.

Some Secretaries make travel reservations for office personnel. Others may set up their supervisor's schedule and keep the supervisor's calendar up to date. They may arrange, prepare materials for, and take notes at meetings. Additionally, they may establish work procedures and schedules. In small offices, they may handle the billing, payroll, bookkeeping, equipment, and supplies. In larger offices, they may specialize in one or more of these areas.

Many Secretaries have experience in special areas such as in engineering or real estate. In most cases, they are familiar with the language, the forms, and the procedures for working in that type of office.

Various office equipment used by Secretaries include scanners, phone systems, computers, and videoconferencing systems. Secretaries typically access various database software including word processing, spreadsheet, e-mail, and presentation software.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

TaskSkill Used in this Task
Operate office equipment such as fax machines, copiers, and phone systems, and use computers for spreadsheet, word processing, database management, and other applications.Computers and Electronics
Answer telephones and give information to callers, take messages, or transfer calls to appropriate individuals.Active Listening
Greet visitors and callers, handle their inquiries, and direct them to the appropriate persons according to their needs.Customer and Personal Service
Set up and maintain paper and electronic filing systems for records, correspondence, and other material.Clerical
Locate and attach appropriate files to incoming correspondence requiring replies.Written Comprehension
Open, read, route, and distribute incoming mail and other material, and prepare answers to routine letters.Reading Comprehension
Complete forms in accordance with company procedures.English Language
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET) at online.onetcenter.org

Working Conditions

Secretaries work full-time or part-time in offices under one or more managers or administrators. They often have to juggle priorities while dealing with deadlines and interruptions such as the breakdown of equipment. They also work with many people who have different, sometimes difficult, personalities. These pressures can cause stress at times.

Secretarial work is usually not physically hard, but the job sometimes requires lifting heavy boxes or supplies which involves stooping or bending. For instance, they may have to load and care for equipment like printers. Those who spend many hours at a computer must take regular breaks to avoid eyestrain or repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. An ergonomic work station can reduce health issues.

The Secretarial occupation is generally not unionized. However, Secretaries in some areas may belong to their local Office and Professional Employees International Union of the AFL-CIO.

Will This Job Fit Me?

This occupation will appeal to those who like following set procedures and routines. The job of Secretary will satisfy those with conventional interests which can include working with data and details more than with ideas, such as using correct spelling and grammar. An ability to work well with people and be flexible is very helpful in this occupation. Also, conventional jobs usually have a clear line of authority to follow.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive in California was $45,805 annually, or $22.02 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/wages.html Wages do not reflect self-employment.

Hourly Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/wages.html. Wages do not reflect self-employment.


Benefits for Secretaries often include vacation, sick leave, health and life insurance, profit sharing, and a pension plan. Some may get reimbursement for continuing education courses.

What is the Job Outlook?

Increased office automation and organizational restructuring will continue to make Secretaries more productive in coming years. Use of automated equipment is changing the distribution of work in many offices. In some cases, traditional secretarial duties such as typing, filing, photocopying, and bookkeeping are done by clerks in other departments or by the professionals themselves. However, many secretarial duties are of a personal, interactive nature and, therefore, are not easily automated. Because technology cannot substitute for personal skills, Secretaries will continue to play a key role in most organizations. In addition to jobs resulting from growth, numerous job openings will result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave this very large occupation for other reasons each year.

Job opportunities should be best for applicants with extensive knowledge of software applications, particularly experienced Secretaries.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive is expected to decline between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/employment-projections.html

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A high school diploma is sufficient for many graduates who have basic office skills to qualify for entry-level secretarial positions. However, employers increasingly require extensive knowledge of software applications, such as word processing, spreadsheets, and database management.

Secretaries should be proficient in keyboarding, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They should have good customer service, oral communication, and organizational skills. Discretion, good judgment, and the ability to work independently are increasingly important as the Secretary moves up to higher-level administrative positions. Versatility is also helpful to deal with all the office changes brought on by new technology.


Since Secretaries build knowledge and experience to make good judgments on the job, many employers will not hire applicants until they have two to three years of experience.

Early Career Planning

Those planning on entering the secretarial field should develop competency in general business skills, language, and computer use. Classes in English, business, and computers will help to prepare for this career. Candidates should also be familiar with office machine operations and computer software, such as word processing and spreadsheet programs. Clerical jobs held while in school and during vacations provide good experience and often lead to full-time employment after graduation. Some employers and local high schools have work study programs that give students a chance to learn on the job.

Work Study Programs

Training can be obtained through high school vocational education programs, business schools, vocational schools, and community colleges. California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for Secretaries. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site at www.carocp.org/carocps.html.

Continuing Education

California does not require Secretaries to complete continuing education to perform their duties. Secretaries tend to acquire more advanced skills through on-the-job instruction by other employees. Secretaries also must learn to operate new office technologies as they are brought into their work setting. They may attend classes or use online education to learn how to operate new office technologies such as scanners or software. Or, they may receive training from equipment and software vendors. In addition, Secretaries may opt to join professional associations and take advantage of the workshops and courses offered there for professional development.


There are no mandated licenses or certificates required to perform the duties of Secretary. However, there are certifications Secretaries can obtain to show proficiency in various computer software programs and other secretarial functions. Certification is also a means to advance in the career.

The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) certification. A candidate must meet a combination of work experience and educational requirements, pass a test, and pay a fee to achieve either certificate. In order to recertify every five years, they must complete ninety continuing education hours. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site at www.acinet.org and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" at www.acinet.org/certifications_new/default.aspx and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/resources/training-and-apprenticeships.html

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Elementary and Secondary Schools9.9%
Employment Services5.3%
Colleges and Universities5.1%
Local Government4.9%
Individual and Family Services4.7%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/employment-projections.html

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Secretaries are employed in organizations of every type from service-providing industries to manufacturing and construction. Students can register with their school placement center for job leads. Professional associations and personnel departments of government agencies advertise job opportunities on the Internet as well. Those interested in working on a temporary basis may seek assignments through a temporary agency specializing in office administrative positions. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive.

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, use "Find Employers" on the LaborMarketInfo Web site at http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/aspdotnet/databrowsing/empMain.aspx?menuChoice=emp

Where Could This Job Lead?

Office support positions serve businesses of every size and field possible, making it a good entry-level position to break into the field of one's choice. Office professional positions provide valuable preparation for moving up within a company for the Secretaries who broaden their knowledge of the company's operations. The next step up from Secretary might be Executive Secretary or office manager. Other potential positions a Secretary could move into are supervisory, middle management, instructor, or even sales representative. In smaller offices, promotions may be limited to pay raises based upon assuming increased responsibility.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive.

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification at www.bls.gov/soc/43-6014
O*NET - Occupational Information Network at online.onetcenter.org/
   Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive43-6014.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC) at online.onetcenter.org/find/descriptor/browse/Interests/#curCES
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs at nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/cip2000/
   Administrative Assistant and Secretarial Science, General 520401
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs at www.ccccurriculum.info/ (California Community Colleges)
   Office Technology/Office Computer Applications051400

The California Occupational Guides are a product of:
The California Employment Development Department
Labor Market Information Division

Printed on Saturday, June 25, 2022