How Do I Become an Office Assistant/Receptionist?

Dan Cavallari

The qualifications you will need to become an office assistant/receptionist can vary significantly because the actual job description associated with such a job can vary significantly as well. In some cases, you may need to get some on the job training, while in other cases, employers may expect you to have a specific level of education and training before you get hired. The best way to figure out how to become an office assistant/receptionist is to read various job descriptions and take note of the qualifications each employer cites as necessary for success on the job.

Many office assistants are expected to be familiar with copiers and other office equipment before they begin the job.
Many office assistants are expected to be familiar with copiers and other office equipment before they begin the job.

In most cases, you will need to complete a high school education or hold an equivalent qualification, but you may still be able to become an office assistant/receptionist if you can demonstrate that you possess basic math and computer skills, as well as exceptional communications skills. You will need to interact with clients as well as fellow employees, which means your communications skills must be exemplary; this includes typing e-mails and talking on the phone. Most employers will expect you to dress appropriately and greet clients as they enter the building; once you become an office assistant/receptionist, you will often be the first face clients see, so it is important to have a pleasant demeanor at all times.

Office receptionists must be able to communicate effectively on the phone.
Office receptionists must be able to communicate effectively on the phone.

It is possible to enroll in a training course offered by a community college or even a high school. Such courses will prepare you to become an office assistant/receptionist by teaching you the fundamentals of various computer programs, office equipment, and common job tasks such as filing and taking dictation. You will have to pay for these courses out of pocket, but having such credentials will usually make you a more valuable job candidate and will help you find work more easily.

Otherwise, you can become an office assistant/receptionist in some settings without previous experience, but you should expect to undergo job training for the first several weeks or months on the job. This often means working under the guidance and supervision of a more experienced receptionist or a manager who is familiar with the daily operations of the office. If you choose to get a job this way, it will be important to write a strong resume that you can submit to potential employers. This document should outline all of your strengths, past experiences, and education that qualifies you for a position as an office assistant/receptionist.

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Discussion Comments


@simrin-- Have you looked for virtual receptionist jobs online? You can do it from home and it's a great way to gain experience.


@simrin-- I know what you mean but don't give up. My advice for you is to take a receptionist course. Most community colleges offer them.

If you can't take a course, try interning with a company or business where you will gain some experience with office work. That's what most interns are required to do anyway. This way, you will have something to put on your resume and employers will be willing to hire you.

By the way, do you live in a city? I think that there is way more competition in the city for assistants. There are more jobs, but there are also more people who have years of experience in this position. Sometimes it's easier to start out and gain experience in a smaller place.

I was in the same situation as you five years ago in Chicago. I moved back home with my parents, took a course on office management and started working as a receptionist for a small insurance firm in my town. When I moved back to Chicago, I had experience and got a job much more easily.

I have a high school degree but I don't have any experience as receptionist. I applied for one position last week and I was not accepted. I think the market for receptionists/office assistants is very competitive and everyone has experience. How will I ever get experience, if I'm not given the job in the first place?
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