The administrative assistants and secretaries have many similarities in the nature of job they do. They are associated with high ranking officials of companies or institutions. Their job is to literally assist their bosses into effectively discharging their responsibilities. Though the nature of work they do is similar in many respects, there are many differences too in the nature of duties they perform which can be enumerated as follows.
History of the term:
The post of a secretary has a much older existence as compared to that of the administrative assistant which is a much recent terminology.
Nature of job they perform:
Secretary: A secretary has a purely clerical nature of job to perform. He/She has to take down dictations from the bosses and do jobs like typing out letters as well as attending telephone calls and fixing appointments. He/She does not have any independent authority and does not have any major role to play in the organization. The job of a secretary is restricted to these activities only and the boss may not share responsibilities with the secretary. The secretary is a person who usually assists the administrative assistants in performing their duties.
Administrative assistant: He/She performs all the duties that a secretary has to do. In addition he/she has the liberty to take certain independent decisions and judgments. He/She has to establish a more personal rapport with the boss and should have knowledge of the personal preferences of the boss. He/She may also be entrusted with jobs involving higher responsibilities of long term projects of interest to the boss. The administrative assistants have an added responsibility of supervising the junior staff. He/She is also entrusted with the job of arranging conferences, meetings, reviewing submissions, issuing memos and preparing important reports. The role of the administrative assistants is a vaster one as compared to the secretaries. He/She has to arrange for meetings between the executive members as well as their managing committees. The administrative assistants are also entrusted to prepare statistical reports which the secretaries are not allowed to do.
Qualifications for the job:
Secretary: The secretary need not be a highly qualified person. A high school graduate with additional vocational skills such as typewriting, shorthand and ability to use the computers for basic jobs is enough to qualify as a secretary.
Administrative assistant: As the job of an administrative assistant is more complex in nature, a college degree is usually preferred in addition to the above mentioned vocational skills. It is expected that the administrative assistants should have much higher computer skills as compared to the secretaries.
Secretary: A secretary is supposed to have knowledge about shorthand as well as operating telephone exchanges.
Administrative assistant: The nature of the job of an administrative assistant is such that he/she need not possess short hand skills etc. His/her job is more of a supervisory one and thus should have man management qualities as he/she may have to handle jobs which require knowledge of human relations.
Secretary: The secretary takes home a lesser remuneration as his/her job is mostly of a clerical nature.
Administrative assistant: As his/her job involves taking independent decisions and has higher responsibility levels, the remuneration should be better than that of a secretary.
In recent times with the advent of the mobile phones as well internet etc, the job of the secretary and the administrative assistant have merged to a great extent and the general dividing line which was present earlier has been erased. They should be able to blend together and thus the post offered nowadays is of a secretary cum administrative assistant.