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Information Receptionist

Significant Points

This job series includes all classes of positions the duties of that are to supervise or perform work involved in receiving and directing persons who call or visit Government agencies, installations, or offices, and giving them information in person or by telephone concerning the organization, functions, activities and personnel of such agencies, installations or offices.

Nature of the Work

Information receptionists are usually physically located at primary points of contact in or in access to Government buildings, offices, or installations (e.g., main public entrances, public information offices, etc.), where there is a demonstrated need to provide information, to give directions, to regulate visitor traffic, to facilitate security control procedures, to conserve staff time of technical personnel, or for a combination of these and other purposes.

Information receptionists are primarily responsible for giving information, usually in person but also frequently over the telephone, in response to inquiries concerning the identification, location and general responsibilities of organizations, functions, programs, activities, operations and personnel of agencies, installations and offices, and similar questions. The work sometimes includes the scheduling of appointments, the composition of routine request, transmittal, and acknowledgment letters and memoranda, and the performance of other clerical duties incidental to the information function.

Although inquiries cannot always be anticipated, the kinds of questions that are most often asked, the kinds of information that the information receptionist is most often called upon to give, and the kinds of service performed are determined in large measure by the nature, variety, and objectives of the programs that the agency, installation, or office administers, the major interests of its principal clientele, and the purpose for which the position was established. Although the information receptionist covered by these standards is required in the course of the work to give reasonable attention to details surrounding personal visits, the receptionist is not required to perform (nor is this series appropriate for), the hostess-type of receptionist duties that may be characteristic of secretarial or certain other kinds of positions (e.g., a "front-office" receptionist).

The work usually requires the maintenance of up-to-date locator records and directories, building layouts, and other similar guides; and frequently includes the maintenance of records of visitors, inquiry tallies, directories for other agencies (particularly those having similar or related functions), and such references as local commercial transportation schedules, housing registers, and miscellaneous bulletin board items.

In some work situations, information receptionists may also perform certain duties in connection with security control programs, for example: issuing identification badges and/or passes to visitors; providing simple instructions on security regulations, especially those relating to the necessity for wearing badges, showing passes and having them signed at time of departure; checking to see that all badges are turned in at the end of visits, with all appropriate information and all time accounted for; maintaining records and preparing recurring reports on numbers of visitors, badges issued, security clearances held, etc.; maintaining files of security clearance records for frequent visitors or visitors for whom notification of clearance has been received prior to arrival; and related types of duties. In "tighter" security control situations, the information receptionist may also be required to obtain certification of a "need-to-know" as well as evidence of appropriate security clearance; explain security regulations on restrictions on packages, briefcases, taking notes, etc.; applying specific instructions in the processing of other categories of visitors and issuing special types of badges to special categories of individuals; arranging for escort service, where required; based on standard procedures, refers unannounced visitors to officials in the organization; receives advance notices of meetings, conferences, etc., and follows up on requests for letters of clearance; periodically cancels, renews or obtains reauthorizations of "term clearances", as required; and other related types of duties.

Information Receptionist, GS-0304-02

Some positions that are classifiable at this level have the following characteristics:

  • The inquiries received and information given are consistently routine and repetitive, simple and specific, and usually relate to room numbers, telephone extensions, and names and locations of key personnel, and other similarly readily available and uncomplicated factual information;
  • Ordinarily the agency, office, or installation served has few organizational segments, elements or program units, and the number of key personnel and officials served is comparatively small;
  • The unit or units served are of relatively stable organization, having so few or such minor reorganizations or changes as to have little or no effect on individual information receptionist activities (i.e., only occasionally are there relocations of offices or changing of telephone and room numbers and key personnel);
  • The offices and buildings served are so laid out or physically located in relation to each other as to create no problems or few minor ones in directing visitors and providing information on the location and dispersion of activities or personnel.
Information Receptionist, GS-0304-03

Some positions that are classifiable at this level have the following characteristics:

Situation I:

  • The inquiries received and information given vary, are frequently routine and recurrent, but many cases consistently require development, through questioning on the part of the information receptionist, of the exact nature of the inquiry and the following through on inquiries that are indefinite, uncertain, or inaccurately stated, on the basis of the nature of inquiries and the judgment of the information receptionist in individual cases;
  • Ordinarily, the agency, office, or installation served has several organizational elements, segments, or program units, and the number of key personnel and officials served is relatively large;
  • There are occasional reorganizations and changes of a type requiring but few or minor adjustments in individual information clerical activities and services, or creating few or only minor recurrent problems in the direction of visitors and provision of information; or, where frequent major changes and reorganizations occur, they are of types that do not have a significant effect on individual information receptionist activities, do not require continuing adjustments in records or services, nor do they present significant problems in the direction of visitors and provision of information; for example, there are only occasional large-scale movements of personnel or offices with attendant changes in phone numbers, room numbers, and key personnel;
  • The offices and buildings served are so laid out or physically located in relation to each other as to create recurring problems of relatively substantial difficulty in the direction of visitors and the location of functions and personnel.

Situation II:

  • The inquiries received and information given are consistently routine and repetitive, largely related to room numbers, telephone extensions, and names and locations of key personnel;
  • Ordinarily, the agency, office or installation served has numerous and extensive organizational segments, elements, or program units, and the number of key officials and personnel served is very large;
  • Frequent and extensive changes and reorganizations occur, involving relatively large-scale movements of functions and personnel, and presenting major or continuing problems in directing visitors, providing information, and adjusting individual information receptionist services;
  • The offices and buildings served are so laid out or physically located in relation to each other as to create relatively major problems in directing visitors and providing information.
Information Receptionist, GS-0304-04

Positions are classifiable at this level when:

  • The inquiries received and information given vary widely, include the range and variety of inquiries and information characteristic of lower levels, but in a majority of cases consistently require (a) the explanation in general terms of functions of the agency served, to distinguish for visitors and callers among and between functions related to the subject of the inquiry, or to resolve confusion surrounding the inquiry; (b) the evaluation of inquiries in order to provide the most useful and appropriate information or to suggest other productive sources of specific information applicable to the nature and subject of the inquiry; and (c) resolution, by personal inquiry, of inconsistencies in available information;
  • Ordinarily, the agency, office, or installation served has numerous and extensive organizational elements, segments, or programs units and the number of key personnel and officials served is very large;
  • Frequent and extensive changes and reorganizations occur, involving large-scale changes in functions, relocations of personnel and movement of offices, creating major and continuing problems in directing visitors and providing information, adjusting information receptionist services, and maintaining records;
  • The offices or buildings served are so laid out or physically located in relation to each other as to create relatively major problems in directing visitors and locating functions and personnel.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Word processing, writing, and communication skills are essential for all secretaries and administrative assistants. Employers increasingly require extensive knowledge of computer software applications, such as desktop publishing, project management, spreadsheets, and database management.

Education and training. High school graduates who have basic office skills may qualify for entry-level secretarial positions. They can acquire these skills in various ways. Training ranges from high school vocational education programs that teach office skills and typing to 1-year and 2-year programs in office administration offered by business and vocational-technical schools, and community colleges. Many temporary placement agencies also provide formal training in computer and office skills. Most medical and legal secretaries must go through specialized training programs that teach them the language of the industry. Virtual assistant training programs are available at many community colleges in transcription, bookkeeping, website design, project management, and computer technology. There are also online training and coaching programs.

Employers of executive secretaries increasingly are seeking candidates with a college degree, as these secretaries work closely with top executives. A degree related to the business or industry in which a person is seeking employment may provide the jobseeker with an advantage in the application process.

Most secretaries and administrative assistants, once hired, tend to acquire more advanced skills through on-the-job instruction by other employees or by equipment and software vendors. Others may attend classes or participate in online education to learn how to operate new office technologies, such as information storage systems, scanners, or new updated software packages. As office automation continues to evolve, retraining and continuing education will remain integral parts of secretarial jobs.

Other qualifications. Secretaries and administrative assistants should be proficient in typing and good at spelling, punctuation, grammar, and oral communication. Employers also look for good customer service and interpersonal skills because secretaries and administrative assistants must be tactful in their dealings with people. Discretion, good judgment, organizational or management ability, initiative, and the ability to work independently are especially important for higher-level administrative positions. Changes in the office environment have increased the demand for secretaries and administrative assistants who are adaptable and versatile.

Certification and advancement. Testing and certification for proficiency in office skills are available through organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals; National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS), Inc.; Legal Secretaries International, Inc; and International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). As secretaries and administrative assistants gain experience, they can earn several different designations. Prominent designations include the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP), which can be earned by meeting certain experience or educational requirements and passing an examination. Similarly, those with 1 year of experience in the legal field, or who have concluded an approved training course and who want to be certified as a legal support professional, can acquire the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) designation through a testing process administered by NALS. NALS offers two additional designations: Professional Legal Secretary (PLS), considered an advanced certification for legal support professionals, and a designation for proficiency as a paralegal. Legal Secretaries International confers the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) designation in areas such as intellectual property, criminal law, civil litigation, probate, and business law to those who have 5 years of legal experience and pass an examination. In some instances, certain requirements may be waived. There is currently no set standard of certification for virtual assistants. A number of certifications exist which involve passing a written test covering areas of core competencies and business ethics. The IVAA has three certifications available: Certified Virtual Assistant, Ethics Checked Virtual Assistant; and the Real Estate Virtual Assistant.

Secretaries and administrative assistants generally advance by being promoted to other administrative positions with more responsibilities. Qualified administrative assistants who broaden their knowledge of a company's operations and enhance their skills may be promoted to senior or executive secretary or administrative assistant, clerical supervisor, or office manager. Secretaries with word processing or data entry experience can advance to jobs as word processing or data entry trainers, supervisors, or managers within their own firms or in a secretarial, word processing, or data entry service bureau. Secretarial and administrative support experience also can lead to jobs such as instructor or sales representative with manufacturers of software or computer equipment. With additional training, many legal secretaries become paralegals.

Employment

Secretaries and administrative assistants held about 4.3 million jobs in 2008, ranking it among the largest occupations in the U.S. economy. The following tabulation shows the distribution of employment by secretarial specialty:

Secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive 2,020,000
Executive secretaries and administrative assistants 1,594,400
Medical secretaries 471,100
Legal secretaries 262,600

Secretaries and administrative assistants are employed in organizations of every type. Around 90 percent are employed in service-providing industries, ranging from education and healthcare to government and retail trade. Most of the rest work for firms engaged in manufacturing or construction.

Job Outlook

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as the average. Secretaries and administrative assistants will have among the largest number of job openings due to growth and the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave this occupation. Opportunities should be best for applicants with extensive knowledge of computer software applications.

Employment change. Employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is expected to increase by 11 percent, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations, between 2008 and 2018. Projected employment varies by occupational specialty. Above average employment growth in the healthcare and social assistance industry should lead to much faster than the average growth for medical secretaries, while moderate growth in legal services is projected to lead to faster than average growth in employment of legal secretaries. Employment of executive secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations. Growing industries—such as construction; educational services; healthcare and social assistance; and professional, scientific, and technical services—will continue to generate the most new jobs. Slower than average growth is expected for secretaries, except legal, medical, or executive, who account for about 46 percent of all secretaries and administrative assistants.

Increasing office automation and organizational restructuring will continue to make secretaries and administrative assistants more productive in coming years. Computers, e-mail, scanners, and voice message systems will allow secretaries and administrative assistants to accomplish more in the same amount of time. The use of automated equipment is also changing the distribution of work in many offices. In some cases, traditional secretarial duties as typing, filing, photocopying, and bookkeeping are being done by clerks in other departments or by the professionals themselves. For example, professionals and managers increasingly do their own word processing and data entry, and handle much of their own correspondence. In some law and medical offices, paralegals and medical assistants are assuming some tasks formerly done by secretaries. Also, many small and medium-sized organizations are outsourcing key administrative functions, such as data entry, bookkeeping, and Internet research, to virtual assistants.

Developments in office technology are certain to continue. However, many secretarial and administrative duties are of a personal, interactive nature and, therefore, are not easily automated. Responsibilities such as planning conferences, working with clients, and instructing staff require tact and communication skills. Because technology cannot substitute for these personal skills, secretaries and administrative assistants will continue to play a key role in most organizations.

As paralegals and medical assistants assume more of the duties traditionally assigned to secretaries, offices will continue to replace the traditional arrangement of one secretary per manager with secretaries and administrative assistants who support the work of systems, departments, or units. This approach means that secretaries and administrative assistants will assume added responsibilities and will be seen as valuable members of a team.

Job prospects. In addition to jobs created from growth, numerous job opportunities will arise from the need to replace secretaries and administrative assistants who transfer to other occupations, including exceptionally skilled executive secretaries and administrative assistants who often move into professional occupations. Job opportunities should be best for applicants with extensive knowledge of computer software applications, with experience as a secretary or administrative assistant, or with advanced communication and computer skills. Applicants with a bachelor's degree will be in great demand to act more as managerial assistants and to perform more complex tasks.

Earnings

Median annual wages of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive, were $29,050 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $23,160 and $36,020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $43,240. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive in May 2008 were:

Local government $32,610
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 31,530
General medical and surgical hospitals 30,960
Elementary and secondary schools 29,850
Employment services 28,340

Median annual wages of executive secretaries and administrative assistants were $40,030 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $32,410 and $50,280. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,070. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of executive secretaries and administrative assistants in May 2008 were:

Management of companies and enterprises $45,190
Local government 41,880
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 39,220
State government 35,540
Employment services 33,820

Median annual wages of legal secretaries were $39,860 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,870 and $50,930. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,290. Medical secretaries earned median annual wages of $29,680 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $24,530 and $36,090. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $42,660.

Virtual assistants set their own rate structure and billing terms based on the type of work, skill level, cost of living in their area, experience, and personal financial needs. Those who bill using an hourly rate can range anywhere from $25 to $100 per hour. Some also bill on a per page or project rate.

Related Occupations

Workers in a number of other occupations also type, record information, and process paperwork. Among them are:

A growing number of secretaries and administrative assistants share in managerial and human resource responsibilities. Occupations requiring these skills include:

Sources of Additional Information

State employment offices provide information about job openings for secretaries and administrative assistants.

For information on the latest trends in the profession, career development advice, and the CPS or CAP designations, contact:

  • International Association of Administrative Professionals, P.O. Box 20404, Kansas City, MO 64195-0404. Internet: http://www.iaap-hq.org
  • Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals, 900 South Washington St., Suite G-13, Falls Church, VA 22046. Internet: http://www.theaeap.com

Information on the CLSS designation can be obtained from:

Information on the ALS, PLS, and paralegal certifications is available from:

  • National Association of Legal Secretaries, Inc., 8159 East 41st. St., Tulsa, OK 74145. Internet: http://www.nals.org

Information on virtual assistant certification can be obtained from:

  • International Virtual Assistants Association, 561 Keystone Ave., Suite 309, Reno, NV 89503. Internet: http://www.ivaa.org

Information on obtaining Information Receptionist positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.gov or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

Sources:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
  • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

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