How Do I Become a Secretary/Receptionist?

Florence J. Tipton

The requirements to become a secretary/receptionist vary, largely due to the type of company where the position is found. Most companies require a minimum amount of education with little to no training. Because of the duties associated with this position, however, other companies could require a certain level of education. Still others might expect you to have an undergraduate degree and a few years of work experience.

Becoming a secretary requires possessing a range of knowledge, skills and abilities.
Becoming a secretary requires possessing a range of knowledge, skills and abilities.

Typically, a secretary/receptionist is responsible for administrative support duties within a company. Secretarial duties may entail office support responsibilities. You might support one manager of a department or provide general office support for the entire company.

Secretaries should be familiar with common pieces of office equipment.
Secretaries should be familiar with common pieces of office equipment.

There are several duties often associated with fulfilling the receptionist role. One primary duty is telephone answering and routing calls to the appropriate department. Greeting clients and guests in the waiting area is another duty commonly associated with being a receptionist.

Medical receptionists should be approachable and friendly.
Medical receptionists should be approachable and friendly.

Other duties could be necessary, depending on the functions that support office activities. Within some companies, you might have to prepare mail for delivery services. In addition, you might also distribute incoming mail to company staff.

To fulfill become a secretary/receptionist, you will need a range of knowledge, skills and abilities. Most companies expect you to have a comprehensive understanding of office procedures. Since a primary duty in this position is answering the telephone, having pleasant verbal skills is generally an added benefit. An ability to operate office equipment is also desirable for most companies.

A few technical schools offer business and office administration courses to help you develop the necessary skills to become a secretary/receptionist. Typical courses may include training in the use of word processing and spreadsheet applications. Writing business correspondence and office etiquette are additional courses offered at most schools.

In addition, some companies may prefer hiring a person with an undergraduate business degree. Obtaining a business or related degree from a four year academic institution can help you meet this requirement. This type of degree might also prepare you for a promotion within the company.

Besides the formal training necessary to become a secretary/receptionist, you may also need time to learn the standard operating procedures of a company. Generally, you will receive training in industry-specific procedures that affect the variation of your duties after being hired. For example, working for a medical facility might involve scheduling patient office visits. Before the patient arrives, office procedures could include verifying health insurance and creating a medical file.

Receptionists have to have good communication skills.
Receptionists have to have good communication skills.

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Discussion Comments


@turquoise-- It's important to be positive and friendly. You should be able to multi-task between different types of tasks and duties. I highly recommend good computer skills, especially internet, Microsoft Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, PowerPoint and perhaps some basic image editing as well.

As for networking, it certainly doesn't hurt to know someone but I wouldn't say that it's essential. If you are qualified for the job, you should be able to get it simply by applying and interviewing with the employer. If you do know someone, they can hand in your resume for you which might put your resume on top of the list of applicants. That does increase your chances of getting hired.


Aside from the education and experience, which exact skills and qualifications are necessary? And what about networking? Is it necessary for me to know someone at that workplace to get my foot in the door?


From my personal experience, the bigger and more prestigious a company, the more education and training expected for this position. Although no company will require a degree beyond a bachelor's degree, both education and experience is essential for those who want to be a secretary receptionist at a large, well paying company. Smaller companies that require less expertise will hire high school graduates with a few years of experience or even less. But I've not come across many that are willing to settle for no experience.

The job market is becoming increasingly competitive. Jobs that one could easily bag with a high school degree decades ago are now reserved for college graduates. So it's important to keep up with the requirements if one wants a career as a secretary or office assistant.

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