What Are Some Secretary Career Paths?

The job of secretary has changed a lot with the advent of technology. These workers are not longer the “office wives”, bringing coffee to executives and running errands. These workers are now given much more responsibility in daily tasks and the career is increasingly being taken up by men. This rising trend is expected to continue as the economic shakeout has had a stronger impact on the largely male dominated financial industry.

The term secretary is rarely used in today’s business environment. Instead, secretaries are called administrative assistants. The career path for secretaries is also changing. No longer will one expect to always be an assistant to someone else. In fact, today’s administrative assistants seek to learn and someday acquire the jobs of those they assist.

Administrative assistants can move onto many different careers. They can be office managers or administrators, administrative coordinators, and executive secretaries or assistants. They may also move onto careers in project management and human resources. The career path will depend on the type of secretarial position.

Office Secretary


The office secretary or administrative assistant has the broadest range of possible career paths. Administrative professionals support managers and other middle-level professionals in their daily work. This means that administrative assistants learn a lot about many different jobs. In many cases, the office secretary knows more about the inner workings of a company that top level managers do.

Administrative assistants are expected to field phone calls, manage schedules and handle documents. When time allows, those seeking to advance their careers should offer to take on additional roles as appropriate. When additional work is offered, take on the job gratefully and see it as a challenge. Your good attitude and work ethic will make you stand out and give you more opportunity to take part in advanced tasks.

Taking on additional responsibility, whether by volunteering for more work or gladly accepting new tasks that may be assigned, makes the administrative professional shine in the eyes of management. See the new responsibilities as learning experiences that will help you reach the next level in your career. Make special efforts to master the technology in your workplace to jump start your advancement.

Always communicate clearly, concisely and in a friendly manner with everyone you come in contact with. By networking, you will open up more potential avenues for advancement. Ensure that everyone you speak to each day sees you as an intelligent, composed and industrious worker. Even if this does not get you promoted at your own work, it will help you get a reference for a better job elsewhere.

Continuing education is also important for administrative professionals who wish to advance their careers. By learning more about the field you wish to enter, such as human resources, it will be easier for you to fill job openings as they come up. It is vital that you know what job you want so that you can train for it outside of work and so you can let your employer know what your goals are. Many employers will work with you to help you secure the training you need to fill the position you seek.

Legal Secretaries

Legal secretaries have a wide range of roles and duties within the attorney’s office. They may handle simple daily mail tasks or do the work of a paralegal. Duties include answering the phone, email communications, filing, and court document preparation. A good legal secretary is highly organized and good at dealing with clients. While they do not need to have degrees, many larger law firms prefer it. Specialized degree programs are available for legal assistants and can be very beneficial for anyone looking to enter this field.

At one time, the terms “legal assistant” and “paralegal” had essentially the same meaning. In fact in legal definitions, they do mean the same thing. However, when it comes to real world law practices, there is a growing divide between the definitions of these jobs. A legal secretary performs administrative functions while a paralegal does all the same work an attorney does behind the scenes. By hiring more paralegals, firms can keep attorneys hours in the court room and have the paralegals perform the research and brief preparation. An office can get by with one or two legal secretaries but will need many paralegals.

This means that legal secretaries are expected to do much less research and legal document preparation than in the past. Their work is more likely to support a paralegal. By working as a legal secretary by day and training to become a paralegal by night, legal secretaries can advance in their careers. They may also move on to become law clerks, title examiners and claims adjusters.

Medical Secretaries

While the growth in demand for medical secretaries is along industry averages, healthcare is still a growing field and jobs will continue to become available. Medical secretaries often attend school part time to secure degrees in nursing, often moving on to become physician’s assistants.

Medical secretaries who wish to advance in their fields are advised to focus on improving their strengths, rather than bolstering their weaknesses. Those who can find solutions to problems are highly prized. Rather than bringing problems to the attention of superiors, find a potential solution first and bring both to the table. Even if your solution is not the best one, it shows that you have a positive attitude and seek to improve the workplace rather than just complain about it. Those who make their boss’s goals and priorities their own will also succeed. You may find a solution or a new viewpoint on a problem superiors are struggling with. Your input will be welcome and valued in working towards a solution.

Addressing concerns over patient safety is another way to shine in healthcare. However, these topics can be controversial. The best way to address them is to ask why certain procedures are in place and allow a conversation to develop naturally, exploring better ways to address the situation. It is important to always be diplomatic in dealing with other medical professionals, patients and their families.

While all these things will make you shine, the medical field requires training and certification. You will need to attend school and get a nursing degree if you wish to move on to patient care. When you do acquire your certificate or degree, it will be easy to move up within the organization because you have already laid the groundwork to show your ability to succeed in healthcare.