How to become a Secretary. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about Secretary careers.
What does a Secretary do?
As a secretary, you would provide administrative support in all kinds of companies and organisations.
Your exact duties and responsibilities might vary according to the type of company you worked for, but would typically include:
- typing letters and other documents
- updating records using computer database and spreadsheet software
- answering the telephone and dealing with enquiries
- making appointments and keeping diaries
- taking minutes at meetings, possibly using shorthand
- dealing with incoming and outgoing post
- drafting letters and other documents
- photocopying and printing.
With experience, you could take on extra responsibilities such as accounts, office management, or acting as personal assistant to a senior manager.
In a full-time job you would typically work around 37 hours a week either on fixed hours (anywhere between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday) or flexitime. Part-time hours and temporary work are widely available.
How much does a Secretary earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries for full-time work can be around £15,000 to £18,000 a year.
- With experience this can rise to between £16,000 and £23,000 a year.
- Personal assistants and secretaries with specialised duties could earn up to £29,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guide only.
You could become a secretary with various levels of qualification. Many employers will be more interested in your computer and telephone skills than your formal qualifications, although you should have a good standard of general education and you may have an advantage with some GCSEs (A-C) including English.
Employers may prefer you to have a recognised qualification in administration or secretarial skills, so you may find it helpful to take a relevant college course before you look for secretarial work. Colleges offer a wide range of full- and part-time courses, including the 14-19 Diploma in Business, Administration and Finance, or certificates and diplomas from awarding bodies such as:
- Education Development International (LCCI)
- City & Guilds.
You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Training and Development
When you start your job, you will usually be trained in company procedures and systems. Your employer may also give you the opportunity to work towards a secretarial qualification, either through work-based training or day-release at a local college.
Relevant qualifications include:
- NVQ Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in Business Administration at levels 1-4 (these replace NVQ 1-4 in Business and Administration from September 2010)
- Education Development International (LCCI) Diplomas in Business Administration Practice (levels 1,2 and 3)
- OCR Administration (Business Professional) Certificates and Diplomas at levels 1-4.
Many colleges also offer OCR or City & Guilds certificates in various individual skills including audio transcription, shorthand, text production, typewriting and word processing.
Skills and Knowledge
- good spoken and written communication skills
- excellent organisational and time-management skills
- good keyboard skills
- confidence with a range of computer software
- a good command of English grammar and spelling
- accuracy and attention to detail
- the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
- tact and discretion, for dealing with any confidential information
- the ability to work as part of a team.
Most types of company need administrative staff, so you could work for companies and public sector organisations anywhere in the UK. Jobs are advertised in the local press, Jobcentre Plus and with recruitment agencies.
With experience, you could be promoted to personal assistant or office manager, or move into other areas such as personnel work. Alternatively, you could take further training to become a medical or legal secretary.