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The career title “business office assistant” can mean many different things. Job titles in this career may be secretary, office assistant, administrative assistant, and many more. They all have several things in common: computer software skills, organization skills, and English grammar skills.  

Duties and Responsibilities

Business office assistants work in just about any type of office where they are required to utilize a broad range of secretarial and computer skills. These positions can be entry level or higher depending on education and experience. Here is a list of duties and responsibilities found in many office assistant job descriptions:

  • Answers telephones, routes calls, takes messages, and provides general information; greets and directs visitors; answers routine inquiries.
  • Opens and routes incoming mail; distributes correspondence and other material to appropriate people.
  • Performs a variety of routine typing assignments as appropriate to the position; may draft basic correspondence, enter data, and print letters, labels, reports, and/or other materials; creates and mails form letters.
  • Copies materials as requested; sends facsimiles.
  • Establishes, maintains, processes, and/or updates files, records, and other documents.
  • Schedules appointments, meetings, and conferences.
  • Orders, stocks, and/or distributes office supplies.
  • Organizes meetings; takes minutes.
  • Uses spreadsheet software to assist with departmental budget reports.

Qualifications

Business office assistants must have knowledge of:  

  • Office procedures
  • Word processing software (usually Word)
  • Database software (usually Access)
  • Spreadsheet software (usually Excel)
  • Presentation software (PowerPoint)
  • Basic bookkeeping principles
  • Standard office equipment such as photocopy and facsimile machines
  • The Internet and email procedures
  • Telephone techniques
  • English grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Basic arithmetic

Abilities

Business office assistants must be able to:  

  • Compose, type, and assemble information in proper business form
  • Use word processing software to prepare correspondence and reports
  • Set up and maintain a wide variety of files, records, and reports
  • Follow oral and written instructions
  • Work effectively with other staff members
  • Work effectively with the public
  • Handle and prioritize multiple tasks
  • Analyze situations and adopt effective courses of action
  • Type at least 40 words per minute
  • Produce written documents with clearly organized thoughts using proper sentence construction, punctuation, and grammar
  • Use the Internet for email and research

Experience and Education  

Without prior office experience or education, most business office assistants begin in entry-level office assistant positions or as receptionists.  Office assistants with a college certificate or degree can expect to have a wider variety of jobs from which to choose with higher salaries.

Salaries 

Salaries will vary greatly depending upon whether you wish to work within Howard County/Columbia or in Baltimore or DC.  Typically, jobs within the Howard County area will pay less.  Part-time jobs are often available.  

Go to www.salary.com, where you can search for salaries for administrative, support, and clerical jobs in various geographical areas. 

How to Find a Job  

The best way to obtain a business office assistant position is to look in the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, the Columbia Flier, the Howard County Times, or any other local newspaper.  In addition, many people go to employment services to obtain temporary positions.  A temporary position gives you a chance to see “what is out there” and to decide on the type of business in which you would like to work.  Often temporary workers are hired as full-time workers.  

Many job ads will ask for experience.  Remember that no one would have a job if everyone needed experience before being hired.  Be sure to use your college education as part of your experience when applying for jobs.  

Networking is also an excellent source of potential jobs.  Tell everyone that you are currently taking courses to become an office assistant.  Often someone with whom you are speaking will know of jobs at his/her place of business.