Office and Administrative Support occupations are an important part of nearly every sector of the economy and encompass a vast range of positions, all of which are administrative in nature. The role of the office support professional has evolved significantly over the years, owing its growth and expansion to office automation, technological advancements, and organizational restructuring.
As a result, these professionals, depending upon the specific occupation and education level, have taken on responsibilities once handled by management or other professional staffers. Advances in technology have also led to a slew of additional responsibilities for many administrative professions who now must learn to utilize different types of technology, in addition to their other work responsibilities. Since the prevalence of technology in the workplace is only expected to increase, these tasks may play a bigger role in these worker's jobs in the coming years.
Office support professionals share much in common, including: supporting management in making a business run smoothly and efficiently; using a wide variety of office equipment, computers, and software in their daily tasks; working on tasks, projects, and programs with deadlines; and supporting or managing processes.
Most individuals work in clean and well-lit offices. Work weeks range from part-time to full-time depending upon the role and nature of the business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the more common characteristics and traits that are required and shared in office support roles include:
A wide range of positions are included within the realm of administrative and office support work, including these popular careers:
Top Office and Administrative Careers (BLS, 2013)
|Career||Number of Workers Nationally in 2013||Job Description||Degree Requirements|
|Customer Service Representatives||2,389,580||Customer service representatives assist customers as a representative of the business they work for. They perform a wide range of tasks including processing returns, answering questions, and handling complaints.||The BLS reports that customer service representatives typically need a high school diploma and learn their skills on the job.|
|Desktop Publishers||14,360||These workers use their computer skills and design expertise to create page layouts for print and online publications. They format graphics and text in a way that makes the content easy to read.|
The BLS reports that most desktop publishers learn their skills on-the-job or earn an Associate degree.
|Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||2,159,000||Secretaries and administrative assistants perform a wide range of administrative tasks. They may keep files or records, answer telephone calls, arrange meetings, and draft reports, although tasks vary greatly depending on where they work.||Many secretaries and administrative assistants learn their skills on the job. However, some pursue a certificate or diploma at a trade or technical school.|
|Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks||1,586,380||Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks assist businesses with their financial transactions. They use software to enter expenses and figures, update statements, check for accuracy, and create reports.||The BLS notes that these workers usually learn their skills on the job. However some employers prefer to hire candidates with some postsecondary training, particularly in accounting.|
|Financial Clerks||41,770||Financial clerks perform a wide range of tasks for businesses, including many that fall under customer service. They compute bills and charges, create reports, assist and oversee financial transactions, and provide clerical support.||Financial clerks usually learn their skills on the job. However, some financial clerks may be required to hold a two-year or four-year degree.|
Office Support Career Education
Education requirements vary greatly and are dependent upon the specific role, specialty area, and at times, the specific industry. While the majority of office support jobs do not require formal education, they do typically require a minimum of a high school diploma; on-the-job training is fairly common under close supervision of an experienced colleague or supervisor.
Some occupations require post-secondary, formal education along with specialized skills and knowledge. The following table uses 2013 BLS data to outline the different degree and certificate options in this field:
|Education Type||Timeline for Completion||Possible Careers|
|Certificate or On-the-Job Training||Although timelines vary considerably depending on the program you choose, many certificate programs can be completed in one year or less.||Customer Service Representatives, Insurance Claims and Processing Clerks, Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Supervisors and Office Workers, Bill and Account Collectors, Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks, Financial Clerks, Information Clerks, Material Recording Clerks, Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers, Postal Service Workers, Receptionists, Tellers|
|Associate||Associate degrees can typically be completed with two years of full-time study. However, programs completed on a part-time basis may take longer.||Desktop Publishers, Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Insurance Claims and Processing Clerks, Supervisors and Office Workers, Financial Clerks, General Office Clerks, Material Recording Clerks|
|Bachelor||Most Bachelor's programs take four years of full-time study to complete.||Desktop Publishers, Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Supervisors and Office Workers, Financial Clerks|
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Customer Service Representatives, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/customer-service-representatives.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Desktop Publishers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/desktop-publishers.htm
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerks.htm
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Financial Clerks, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/financial-clerks.htm#tab-1
Schools for Office Support are listed in the column to the left.
This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.
Click each Occupation title for more details.
|Bill and Account Collectors||251,330|
|Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks||1,530,430|
|Customer Service Representatives||2,871,400|
|Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||570,530|
|General Office Clerks||2,972,930|
|Insurance Claims and Processing Clerks||274,560|
|Material Recording Clerks||155,220|
|Office and Administrative Support Workers||196,570|
|Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers||95,020|
|Postal Service Workers||103,830|
|Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||2,165,310|
|Supervisors Of Office Workers||1,477,560|
|Word Processors and Typists||53,130|