What does a secretary do?

Secretaries are responsible for a number of clerical duties, all of which are focused toward keeping the organisational aspects of an office running efficiently. They deal with incoming mail and phone calls, coordinate the staff calendar, make appointments and maintain records. When working directly under a professional or executive, they are tasked with making sure their schedule and day-to-day workflow runs smoothly, coordinating meetings and travel arrangements on their behalf. Secretaries most often work in the legal and medical professions, and other large organisations such as government departments or multinational corporations.

Tasks:

  • Update appointment diaries and calendars
  • Schedule daily events
  • Process incoming and outgoing mail
  • Prepare reports, briefing notes and draft correspondence
  • Coordinating staff meetings 

What skills do I need to be a secretary?

Secretarial work requires someone who is highly organised, has immaculate communication skills, is able to meet strict deadlines and maintain an updated schedule day-to-day activities. Secretaries often demonstrate a versatility and ability to adapt which allows them to be involved in many aspects of the successful running of an office. When providing assistance to an executive or professional, having an intuitive and organised understanding of those you assist is crucial. Having IT skills is also expected as data-entry and retrieval and, increasingly, calendar coordination uses online systems.

Skills/attributes
  • Knowledge of data-entry and filing systems
  • Ability to multitask
  • Organisational expertise
  • Impeccable communication skills

Specialisations

There are a number of career options available to you are drawn to the challenges of administrative and secretarial work. You can use the skills you have as a secretary to take on a number of different positions in the administrative field.

Personal assistant

A personal assistant usually works for a single individual, usually of a high professional or executive status. They act as a gatekeeper and liaison, organising and planning the daily activities of their employer’s professional life, making sure they are focused towards giving this person the administrative and organisational assistance they need to perform their role.

Legal secretary

Legal secretaries have a level of understanding of legal terminology and a familiarity with different types of legal documents. They may be asked to prepare legal documents and reports, proofreading for errors or transcribing a draft text. This can be a good stepping-stone for someone considering a career in law.

Medical secretary

Medical secretaries work in hospitals, nursing homes and doctor’s surgeries. They help with the planning and scheduling patient appointments, arrange for call-backs and maintain a filing system which provides medical health professionals with the correct patient information. They are familiar with a range of medical terminology, procedures and documents.

Study pathways for secretaries

If you want to get a head start in your career as a secretary, there are a number of courses available to you. Depending on what area you would like to specialise in, there are courses that target industry specific skills and knowledge. 

Getting Started

Begin your career as a valued administrative professional with targeted training

Skill Building

Learn industry relevant skills and knowledge to help you pursue a career as a secretary

Professional Development

Equip yourself with the administrative knowledge you need to succeed

Industry Recognition

Some employers may require you to undertake further study to develop industry specific skills, particularly in a legal or medical context

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your administration career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed

Job Prospects and Salaries

Competition for secretarial positions is high, there are few job openings expected over the next five years