What does an Office Assistant do?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Office assistant is a vague term that can describe many different types of jobs worked in an office. It can sometimes be used synonymously with words like administrative assistant, or it can refer to office support staff who help the work of administrative assistants, executive assistants, or secretaries. The average office assistant may work a variety of jobs in the office setting, and generally needs basic office skills for the job.

An office assistant may be tasked with taking messages.
An office assistant may be tasked with taking messages.

An office assistant of this last type might do any of the following jobs:

Office assistants may be required to have a working knowledge of copiers and other office equipment.
Office assistants may be required to have a working knowledge of copiers and other office equipment.

An office assistant should have excellent phone skills.
An office assistant should have excellent phone skills.
  • Answer phones
  • File and organize information
  • Take messages
  • Run errands
  • Type
  • Do data entry or word processing
  • Work to support other office staff
  • Operate office equipment like copiers or fax machines
  • Use specific programs like Microsoft Word®, Excel®, or Access®
  • Provide customer support
  • Help with office accounting
An office assistant may be responsible for arranging coworkers' schedules.
An office assistant may be responsible for arranging coworkers' schedules.

More advanced office assistants could be responsible for running an office, directly supporting executives, and supervising other office employees. Typically when support to executives or high level employees is more direct, the office assistant can be termed an administrative or executive assistant. If the office assistant supervises other employees, he or she may be called an office manager.

Frequently, office assistants must be “jack of all trades” employees. They must have good typing skills, be willing to take orders from other employees, be ready to work in a variety of capacities, and have at least beginning knowledge of typical office software. Work can vary from day to day and may depend upon the current needs of the office. You might be inputting data one day, filing the next, and faxing or mailing promotional materials on another day. Sometimes if the office is customer-service based, the extent to which you are busy may depend upon customer traffic.

An office assistant may have completed certificate programs through trade schools or community colleges. Others have high school diplomas, and few lack even that. The main skills that are sought after are ability to type quickly and accurately, good phone manners, good people skills, and demonstrated ability to be organized. Other companies want to make sure you can work with office software, and some companies require you to take tests on such software to demonstrate capability.

When office assistants are really direct assistants to professionals, their jobs may be more focused. They will essentially do whatever office tasks are needed so that the professional doesn’t have to. Administrative and executive assistants tend to have more experience with office software and often act as go betweens for clients and their executives. They may manage offices and hire and fire office assistants who can assist them with their work in supporting the professional.

Since the term may mean so many things, pay range can also be variable. The office assistant with minimal office skills may make little over minimum wage. Administrative assistants may command a higher salary, with an average salary in the $30,000 US Dollar (USD) range. Many make much more than this, depending upon their experience and job responsibilities.

An office assistant might order more supplies from vendors.
An office assistant might order more supplies from vendors.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Wow. We do get paid a lot, but we don't really get enough credit. We do so much for our bosses but sometimes get treated like crap -- or I do.


Since reading this article, I now keep strategically placed large empty binders within reach at all times. My boss has noticed my new found initiative and is giving me a raise at the end of the month.

Thank you wisegeek for showing me a real office assistant in her natural form. Without you I would still be blundering around my office like a blind, angry and drunken silverback.


I am getting a position of office assistant. As of now I am a clerk, so basically my title change but I'll still do the same thing I am doing. And I agree we are doing more than other people and taken for granted. All I know is that without us they won't manage right.


Why is it so common that the job of an office assistant is being undermined by the superior staff? I think they need to be more appreciated because of the enormous responsibilities assigned to them. Without a qualified office assistant in an organized office, then setbacks are bound to happen to the customer services.


I agree with all the aforementioned comments. As a person going out for a transfer to this type of position, I realize that the office assistant is the background of their foregrounds however invaluable. So to all other office assistants, keep your heads up and know you are great!


Yes, i think that the office assistants are not given credit for the hard work they do. something should be done about it.


What is the basic salary for an office assistant or office administrator for an 8 to 9 year experience candidate?


Not all admin assistants get paid a lot. I am an admin. assistant and my pay is only $10.30 an hour! We don't have an office assistant though, so I do it all.


Seems like we do it all but still get the pay of an "office assistant." why is the pay so much lower than an administrative assistant?


yes, god help us. I'm not one of the lazy ones, unfortunately. I work too hard for very little and take the crap from higher ups that are unable to do the work we do.

They have decided to move my location, so i use this "mutation" to keep them in need for a few days, so they can realize all of the things that are getting done when i'm around.


Some are the laziest of them all.


Its rather unfortunate. We are always the last to leave the office and the first to come in. We are "inferior and they are superior." they have forgotten that without us they can't manage their time, office, appointment, meeting nor even expedite work. The worst of it is we are not well paid. God help us.


Office assistants are often overlooked and underpaid. We're the ones who make things happen for others but rarely appreciated. --abrown


I don't think office assistants are given enough credit for their work. Sure, we pass by and sneer like we are much better than they are. We think they're less uneducated, paper pushers, and underachievers. But, who is really in power? When you want something done or need a meeting to be setup, who does it? Who knows your schedules, your contacts, your appointments and deadlines? Will they be completed on time the next time there due.

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