Office Administrator Career

Office administrators direct and activities of office workers within vise office clerks and other workers in their tasks and plan department activities with other supervisory personnel. Admin­istrators often define job duties and develop training programs for new workers. They evaluate the progress of their clerks and work with upper management officials to ensure that the office staff meets productivity and qual­ity goals. Office administrators often meet with office personnel to discuss job-related issues or problems, and they are respon­sible for maintaining a positive office environment. There are approximately 1.5 million office administrators employed in the United States.

Office Administrator Career History

The growth of business since the industrial revolution has been accompanied by a corresponding growth in the amount of work done in offices. Records, bills, receipts, contracts, and other paperwork have proliferated. Phone calls, e-mails, and other communications have multi­plied. Accounting and bookkeep­ing practices have become more complicated. The role of the office admin­istrator has also grown over time. They supervise and coordinate the work an office.

In the past, such supervisors were responsible mainly for ensuring productivity and good work from their clerks and reporting information to management. Today, office administrators play a more active part in the operations of busy offices. They are responsible for coordinating the activities of many departments, informing management of departmental performance, and making sure the highly specialized sectors of an office run smoothly and efficiently every day.

Office Administrator Job Description

Office Administrator CareerAs modern technology and an increased volume of busi­ness communications become a normal part of daily business, offices are becoming more complicated places in which to work. By directing and coordinating the activ­ities of clerks and other office workers, office administra­tors are an integral part of an effective organization.

The day-to-day work of office administrators, also known as office managers, involves organizing and over­seeing many different activities. Although specific duties vary with the type and size of the particular office, all supervisors and managers have several basic job respon­sibilities. The primary responsibility of the office admin­istrator is to run the office; that is, whatever the nature of the office’s business, the office administrator must see to it that all workers have what they need to do their work.

Office administrators are usually responsible for interviewing prospective employees and making recom­mendations on hiring. They train new workers, explain office policies, and explain performance criteria. Office administrators are also responsible for delegating work responsibilities. This requires a keen understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each worker, as well as the ability to determine what needs to be done and when it must be completed. For example, if a supervisor knows that one worker is especially good at filing business cor­respondence, that person will probably be assigned important filing tasks. Office administrators often know how to do many of the tasks done by their subordinates and assist or relieve them whenever necessary.

Office administrators not only train clerical workers and assign them job duties but also recommend increases in salaries, promote workers when approved, and occa­sionally fire them. Therefore, they must carefully observe clerical workers performing their jobs (whether answer­ing the telephones, opening and sorting mail, or input­ting computer data) and make positive suggestions for any necessary improvements. Managers who can com­municate effectively, both verbally and in writing, will be better able to carry out this kind of work. Motivating employees to do their best work is another important component of an office administrator’s responsibilities.

Office administrators must be very good at human relations. Differences of opinion and personality clashes among employees are inevitable in almost any office, and the administrator must be able to deal with grievances and restore good feelings among the staff. Office administra­tors meet regularly with their staff, alone and in groups, to discuss and solve any problems that might affect people’s job performance.

Planning is a vital and time-consuming portion of the job responsibilities of office administrators. Not only do they plan the work of subordinates, they also assist in planning current and future office space needs, work schedules, and the types of office equipment and supplies that need to be purchased.

Office administrators must always keep their supe­riors informed as to the overall situation in the cleri­cal area. If there is a delay on an important project, for example, upper management must know the cause and the steps being taken to expedite the matter.

Office Administrator Career Requirements

High School

A high school diploma is essential for this position, and a college degree is highly recommended. You should take courses in English, speech and communications, math­ematics, sociology, history, and as many business-related courses, such as typing and bookkeeping, as possible. Knowledge of a wide variety of computer software pro­grams is also very important.

Postsecondary Training

In college, pursue a degree in business administration or at least take several courses in business management and operations. In some cases, an associate’s degree is considered sufficient for a supervisory position, but a bachelor’s degree will make you more attractive to employers and help in advancement.

Many community colleges and vocational schools offer business education courses that help train office admin­istrators. The American Management Association has a Self-Study Certificate Program in several areas, including customer service management, human resources manage­ment, general management, strategic leadership, and oth­ers.

Colleges and universities nationwide offer bachelor’s degrees in business administration; a few may offer pro­grams targeted to specific industries, such as medical administration or hotel management.

Certification and Licensing

The International Association of Administrative Profes­sionals offers voluntary certification to administrative professionals. Applicants who meet experience require­ments and who pass an examination may use the des­ignation, certified administrative professional (CAP). The Institute of Certified Professional Managers offers the certified manager (CM) designation to applicants who pass examinations that cover the foundations of management, planning and organizing, and leading and controlling.

Other Requirements

Offices can be hectic places. Deadlines on major projects can create tension, especially if some workers are sick or overburdened. Office administrators must constantly juggle the demands of their superiors with the capa­bilities of their subordinates. Thus, they need an even temperament and the ability to work well with others. Additional important attributes include organizational ability, attention to detail, dependability, and trustwor­thiness. Since many offices promote administrators from clerical work positions within their organization, rel­evant work experience is also helpful.

Exploring Office Administrator Career

You can get general business experience by taking on clerical or bookkeeping responsibilities with a school club or other organization. Volunteering in your school office is an ideal introduction to office work. This will allow you to become more familiar with computer pro­grams often used in offices and practice business skills such as opening and sorting mail, answering telephones, and filing documents.

Community colleges and other institutions may offer basic or advanced computer training courses for students of all ages. After high school, you may want to explore work-study programs where you can work part time and gain on-the-job training with local businesses while earning your degree.


Approximately 1.5 million office administrators are employed in the United States. Administrators are needed in all types of offices that have staffs large enough to warrant a manager. The federal government is a major employer of office administrators. Other job opportuni­ties are found in private companies with large clerical staffs, such as banks, telecommunications companies, wholesalers, retail establishments, business service firms, health care facilities, schools, and insurance companies.

Starting Out

To break into this career, you should contact the person­nel offices of individual firms directly. This is especially appropriate if you have previous clerical experience. Col­lege placement offices or other job placement offices may also know of openings. You can also locate jobs through help wanted advertisements. Another option is to sign up with a temporary employment service. Working as a “temp” provides the advantage of getting a firsthand look at a variety of office settings and making many contacts.

Often, a firm will recruit office administrators from its own clerical staff. A clerk with potential supervisory abilities may be given periodic supervisory responsibili­ties. Later, when an opening occurs for an administrator, that person may be promoted to a full-time position.


Skilled administrators may be promoted to group man­ager positions. Promotions, however, often depend on the individual’s level of education and other appropriate training, such as training in the company’s computer system. Firms usually encourage their employees to pursue further education and may even pay for some tuition costs. Supervisory and management skills can be obtained through company training or community col­leges and local vocational schools.

Some companies will prepare office clerks for advance­ment to administrative positions by having them work in several company departments. This broad experience allows the administrator to better coordinate numerous activities and make more knowledgeable decisions.


According to OfficeTeam, an administrative staffing company, office managers earned between $27,500 and $34,500 a year in 2004. Senior office managers earned between $33,250 and $42,000.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, office administrators earned median annual salaries of $42,400 in 2005. Fifty percent earned between $32,910 and $54,630 a year. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $25,950, and the top 10 percent earned over $69,730.

The size and geographic location of the company and the person’s individual skills can be key determinants of earnings. Higher wages will be paid to those who work for larger private companies located in and around major metropolitan areas. Full-time workers also receive paid vacations and health and life insurance. Some companies offer year-end bonuses and stock options.

Work Environment

As is the case with most office workers, office administra­tors work an average of 35 to 40 hours a week, although overtime is not unusual. Depending on the company, night, weekend, holiday, or shift work may be expected. Most offices are pleasant places to work. The environ­ment is usually well ventilated and well lighted, and the work is not physically strenuous. The administrator’s job can be stressful, however, as it entails supervising a variety of employees with different personalities, tem­peraments, and work habits.

Office Administrator Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of office administrators is projected to experience little change or grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. The increased use of data processing and other automated equipment as well as corporate downsiz­ing may reduce the number of administrators in the next decade. However, this profession will still offer good employ­ment prospects because of its sheer size. A large number of job openings will occur as administrators transfer to other industries or leave the workforce for other reasons. Since some clerical occupations will be affected by increased auto­mation, some office administrators may have smaller staffs and be asked to perform more professional tasks.

The federal government should continue to be a good source for job opportunities. Private companies, par­ticularly those with large clerical staffs, such as hospitals, banks, and telecommunications companies, should also have numerous openings. Employment opportunities will be especially good for those trained to operate com­puters and other types of modern office machinery.

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