Office secretaries, sometimes called administrative assistants, don’t need to go to college or university to get good jobs, but if you want to work in much higher paid positions and become a legal, medical, or executive secretary, the game plan can change completely.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers would rather their executive secretaries have a degree. So it’s wise to consider this at the start or when you are making career changes.
Still, the basic organizational and communication skills required to make a good secretary remain the same, whatever the job specifics.
We are going to cover all the bases so that the information we provide will help you write a killer resume whatever type of secretarial position you are looking for.
Resume objective for a secretary
While the job itself will determine the focus of any resume objective for a secretary, the idea is to show that you are the ideal candidate for the job they are advertising.
The industry you are going to work in will also make a difference to the way you craft your resume objective. You need to highlight this to show you appreciate the implications of this.
What you need to do is weave your skills and experience into an objective that meets the needs of the job.
To be a good secretary, at any level, you will need a good working knowledge of office equipment and computers, including an ability to work with software applications like Microsoft (MS) Word and MS Excel. You will also need to be well organized and competent.
As an example, let’s say you are going to apply for the position of executive secretary to the principal of a senior high school. While you will report to the principal you will also consult with teachers, managers, and other secretaries on the staff. The specific responsibilities you will have to take care of are detailed in the advert.
Experienced executive secretary with strong communication and human relations skills. Good working knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PowerSchool, and PowerScheduler. Adept at all administrative duties including filing, taking minutes, composing calendars, and writing letters. Enthusiastic and reliable.
Resume skills for a secretary
The skills secretaries need are varied and range from general office and computer skills to all-important personal skills including the ability to communicate well.
Whatever the job, a secretary will need administrative, planning, and organizational skills. But our reliance on office technology has grown exponentially over the past decade, and many secretaries today are expected to take on responsibilities that were once reserved for more senior staff and managers.
Of course, the skills required for every job will vary in detail, and when you list your skills on your resume, you need to match them as closely as possible to what is required.
For instance, the skills required for the job of an executive secretary to a school principal and those needed to work as an administrative associate in a leading financial institution will be very different from each other.
While an administrative associate is a secretary of sorts, the responsibilities, and therefore the innate skills required, will include ethical and confidentiality issues as well as all the other skills. Workflow and relationship management will also be important.
But just like the executive secretary, the administrative associate will need to be proficient in MS Office and other applications.
The sample skills below apply to a secretary who is applying for a job at a hospital. Choose the most appropriate skills for the job you are applying for.
MS Office | Fast and accurate typing | Extensive computer experience | Advanced letter writing | Shorthand | Knowledge of insurance packages | Good telephone manner | Can multi-task | Basic bookkeeping | Office management
Secretarial work experience
The opportunities for secretarial work are incredibly broad and cover every conceivable industry. You can choose the sector you want to work in and there will inevitably be a job for a secretary somewhere.
That said, according to the US Bureau of Labor, available jobs for secretaries and administrative assistants are projected to decline by 7% from 2018 to 2028. They say that most openings will be replacing secretaries who leave their jobs rather than offering new positions.
Of course, the COVID-19 crisis of 2020 has impacted this situation, with many people being retrenched and businesses closing down. In reality, this figure could be a lot higher by the time we get to 2028.
There will still be entry-level positions, but if companies are replacing an admin assistant or secretary who had valuable experience, chances are they will want someone with similar experience.
What this means is you need to be able to display experience in your resume. So include every bit possible. If you got a job during your college vacation, add it.
Sample Work Experience
University of Pennsylvania Health System
Senior Secretary, 2017 – 2019
Performed essential administrative duties in the Ophthalmology Department. Served as a clinic and admin secretary to physicians. Supported the delivery of high-quality care. Maintained and coordinated schedules, meetings, and reimbursements.
- Incorporated financial and operational targets not in my initial job description
- Created and implemented a scheduling system that increased our front office productivity by more than 40%
- Upgraded my MS Office certification to MO Specialist 2019
- Received an additional bonus every year as a reward for good service
Santa Maria High School
School Support Secretary, 2016 – 2017
Performed various clerical and secretarial functions to support school departments and programs. Acted as receptionist and primary contact for parents, students, staff, and the public. Operated office machines and equipment.
- Learnt, interpreted, and explained school policies to visitors
- Upgraded the computerized report-recording system
- Participated in registration and enrolment activities
- Monitored student accounts for the bookkeeper with 100% accuracy for the whole of 2017
Junior Administrative Assistant, 2018 – Present
Managed meetings and scheduled events. Prepared the required documentation. Coordinated information for regular reports. Tracked incoming and outgoing staff. Reconciled electronic receipts and credit card statements.
- The Best New Employee Award in 2018 proved I had excellent motivation and was driven to succeed
- Studied and achieved the Microsoft Office 2016 Specialist certification
- Maintained a positive relationship with all staff members
- Haven’t missed a single deadline since I joined the company
Generally, the minimal formal training that a secretary will need is a high school diploma, although this presupposes that you have taken courses like business math, computers, bookkeeping and so on.
Schools and colleges offer business programs that provide the varied skills a secretary will find invaluable. There are also several online schools and universities that offer basic secretary education requirements.
Diploma programs generally take a year or two, and they are offered by community colleges and vocational schools.
Secretaries who want executive positions or jobs in highly specialized fields like medicine and law will find it a lot easier to get a job if they have a college degree. This is often a prerequisite for executive secretaries, though it is a fact that most secretaries acquire more advanced skills on the job, over time.
Those who opt for formal secretary training can study for a bachelor’s degree with majors in business disciplines or in fields that are related to specific industries or sectors. These generally take four years to complete.
Associate degrees are another option. They only take one or two years to complete.
When you list your education, keep it short and relevant to your secretary resume.
Lake Superior College, 2016 – 2017
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Administrative Office Specialist Degree
- Completed an internship as part of the degree course
- Developed a job search plan with the appropriate documents, and interview skills
- Maintained budgets and other accounting applications
International Career Institute (ICI), 2015 (6 months)
Executive Secretarial Diploma
- Coordinated a sample project
- A+ result for Workplace OH&S
If you have a degree or diploma, you should have a good, broad knowledge of the technical, personal, and ethical requirements for a secretarial position. If not, there are lots of courses available for you to build on the knowledge you acquired at high school.
Courses are vast and varied, and they range from basic word processing (MS Word) and spreadsheets (MS Excel) to effective communication, workplace occupational and safety (OH&S), business communication, and administration.
There are also courses that will train you to write complex documents and/or implement information systems in the workplace.
Sometimes secretaries decide to change direction mid-stream, either moving to a job in another industry or a job in a specialized field. If you’ve got a good secretarial grounding and suitable experience, your resume will help you get there, though you might be required to attend training programs specific to the field.
Alternatively, there are short six-month courses that result in a diploma in a specialized field, some of which are available online.
- Medical Secretary – USA (1CI 6-month course)
- Paralegal Secretarial (ICI 6-month course)
- MS Office
- Professional Secretary short course – focus on business communication and computer skills
Certifications are not the norm for secretaries, but there are a few that are available to those who specialize.
For instance, there are certifications that legal secretaries can get from the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) and the Texas-based Legal Secretaries International Inc.
The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers certification for “professional secretaries”.
Most NALS certifications are for paralegal and legal professionals, but if you’ve worked as a secretary in a law firm for at least three years, you can establish your credentials with the Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) certification.
Legal Secretaries International offers several certifications in specialist fields including probate, criminal law, as business law, as well as certification as an executive legal secretary.
You will need a degree to get the International Association of Administrative Professionals certification as well as at least five years of law-related experience.
IAAP certification, Certified Administrative Professional (CAP), caters for graduates of two-year office professional degrees but who don’t have sufficient experience. In a nutshell, it looks good on a resume and will make you stand out. It’s currently a computer-based multiple-choice exam that is available worldwide.
All certifications add credibility to a secretary applying for specialized or very senior jobs. They show that you have the real-world knowledge and ability to do the work.
Complete secretary resume sample
The best way to test your resume skills is to try and put one together for the kind of job you are chasing. Have a look at what’s available and give it a try. It will probably give you the confidence to put the real thing together.
It will also give you a good idea of what skills, experience, and education you will need for your dream secretary job.
The job posting we are going to explore is for the position of a legal administrative assistant, which is essentially the same as a legal secretary.
The requirements in terms of education and skills are very clear. You will need good personal skills to get the job as well as being able to do the things that any good secretary should be able to do in terms of office duties.
Committed legal administrative assistant with seven years of experience working for law firms. Experience includes litigation. Strong communication skills. Happy to work alone or in a team.
Document management | MS Office | Outlook Express | Shorthand | Dictation | Fast, accurate typing | E-filing experience | Clerical scanning, filing, and file maintenance | Good with deadlines | Excellent communication skills | Keen to learn new skills
Cooltani & Wemmer LLP
Legal Secretary, 2015 – 2019
Supported the team of attorneys in the firm by investigating facts, preparing legal documents, and researching legal precedents. Proofed documents and submitted these to the attorneys to approve.
- Set up and maintained a new, and still ongoing, litigation database
- Sourced and successfully reviewed legal publications and found significant information that was relevant to the pending cases we were dealing with
- Organized and prioritized case loads for seven attorneys
- Instigated an innovative system for tracking deadlines
Dorsley & White LLP
Legal Secretary, 2013 – 2015
Worked in a corporate environment preparing transaction documents. Filed paper and electronic documents. Undertook time entry and assisted with monthly billing.
- Invited to participate in several special projects over and above general specified duties
- Provided back-up to senior legal secretaries
- Maintained court schedules for senior secretaries without any hitches
- Volunteered to track and submit attorney expenses
Smith & Smith LLP
Junior Legal Secretary, 2012 – 2013
Prepared outgoing correspondence to clients and the US Patent and Trademark Office. Assisted with electronic filings and clearing daily attorney dockets. Assisted with client inquiries.
- Was given a workload that proved I had superior organization skills
- Demonstrated strong communication and computer skills
- Implemented a new client-base filing system
- Drafted and typed office memos that were always 100% correct
Penn College of Technology, Williamsport, PA
AAS Administrative Assistant, 2010 – 2011
- B in most subjects
- Professional Secretary short course
When you submit a secretary resume, it is important to identify exactly what skills and experience are required. The career is diverse, and as such, every resume is likely to be very different.
You need to show what value you can add to the business, organization, company, or institution you want to work with. Your resume is the showcase you can use to share this information.
- Secretarial jobs are very varied and they are also valued by the full spectrum of industries.
- Secretaries have a vital role to play and have been described as the glue that keeps organizations and businesses together.
- Secretary objectives are as varied as secretarial jobs. You will need to craft your resume objective to show that you know what they want and you know that you can fulfill their needs.
- There are loads of possibilities when it comes to learning the skills to be the best secretary ever. But there is also a certain skill in identifying those that you have that mirror the needs of your next employer.
Tips from Experts
“An administrative office professional is the glue that keeps an organization together.” – Marcia Nieman, Alum/Administrative Office Specialist Program at Lake Superior College, Michigan
“Although secretaries and administrative assistants work in nearly every industry, many are employed in schools, hospitals, and government, legal, and medical offices. Most work full time.” – Occupational Outlook Handbook, US Bureau of Labor
It’s impossible to give a definitive resume example for a job like a secretary. There are so many opportunities and so many different paths that a secretary or administrative assistant can take, you need to be totally open-minded when you craft your own.
Every person is unique, and everyone offering secretarial and administrative skills will have something different to bring to the table. The secret when you are writing your resume is to cater to the demands of the job that you want. If you do that, you are halfway there.