what is an administrative assistant?

As an administrative assistant, you provide general support in the office. You perform various admin tasks, including scheduling appointments, preparing reports and scheduling travel arrangements. You also perform a range of secretarial duties, such as taking notes during meetings, answering phones and overseeing the logistics in the workplace.

The administrative assistant role can be found in every industry. If you want to work in a specialized field or seek promotion to an executive administrative position, additional training or education is vital. These positions require duties beyond secretarial tasks, such as restocking office supplies, sending and opening mail, and coordinating schedules.

In this role, you are the face of the organization when meeting clients and the public. You also act as their main source of information. You collaborate with other team leaders, oversee and complete the performance reviews for staff, and help induct new employees. Therefore, it is important to remain calm and professional in all situations.

You manage a complex calendar, which includes the schedules of managers, supervisors, personal appointments and professional meetings. Researching industry-specific topics, preparing upcoming meetings, and proofreading reports are some of your daily tasks.

Would working as an administrative assistant suits your organizational skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an administrative assistant role.

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average administrative assistant salary

How much you can earn as an administrative assistant in Canada comes down to your experience, qualifications, and the region you choose to work in. According to the Randstad 2023 Salary Guide, a trainee administrative assistant can expect to earn between $35,000 and $66,000. After four years, administrative assistants can earn between $39,000 and $71,000, while a senior position can earn between $44,000 and $76,000. The highest-paying regions for administrative assistants are Northern Alberta, Chaudière-Appalaches, Montréal and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.

If you are an administrative assistant with bilingual skills, you can expect to earn even more in industries where this is required. Bilingual administrative assistants earn between $37,000 and $73,000 in a trainee position, then between $40,000 and $87,000 after a few years. Senior administrative assistants with bilingual skills earn between $46,000 and $99,000. The highest-paying regions for bilingual administrative assistants are New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Would you like to know what an administrative assistant earns? Where the highest salaries are paid for an administrative assistant? Then download our Randstad salary guide and find out all about the salary of an administrative assistant in Canada.


types of administrative assistant

You can find specialized administrative assistant positions in several fields, including the following:

best jobs skills and certifications for administrative professionals
best jobs skills and certifications for administrative professionals

working as an administrative assistant

Your role as an administrative assistant revolves around ensuring all operations run smoothly for the organization you work for. Here are some of the typical aspects of working as an administrative assistant.


administrative assistant skills and education

To get ahead in an administrative assistant career, the following qualifications are useful:

  • according to the Canadian government's National Occupational Classification, completion of secondary school education is a prerequisite to study. From there, a one- or two-year college qualification in a relevant course, such as a diploma or certificate in business administration, is required to give you the basic knowledge you require for the role. Further courses in management and administration are available if you are aiming for an executive role. In addition, if you plan on entering specialized fields, such as a legal administrative assistant position, pursue further courses relating to these fields.
  • work experience is a great way to gain skills and knowledge to help you get ahead of the rest. You gain experience working in an office setting at an entry-level position, which may lead to a secure job. Sometimes, a paid apprenticeship program may be available for administrative assistant positions.

competencies and characteristics of administrative assistants

The skills and competencies you need for this role include:

  • technical skills: you must be able to perform basic data entry tasks, manage calendars, and prepare reports. It is important to be familiar with software such as spreadsheet programs, customer relationship management systems, and virtual help desks. Having the right technical skills will help you perform your duties effectively.
  • communication skills: the administrative assistant is the organization's voice when handling client correspondence. Therefore, it is vital to have exceptional communication skills for this role. You act professionally at all times and display a friendly and positive attitude when liaising with clients and guests.
  • organizational skills: keeping your schedules and office well organized is important. This includes organizing team schedules, files and events so that team members can easily find what they need. Good organizational skills help minimize the risk of important documents being misplaced or missing.
  • time management skills: administrative assistants are a resource used by workers throughout the organization, and as such, your time is always stretched. Good time management skills mean you can properly allocate and plan schedules to assist each department equally. It also helps boost their productivity and performance, making you an even more invaluable resource.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of administrative assistant.


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