A man and woman discussing a career as a secretary.

How to Become a Secretary

Secretaries play vital roles in the business world and are in constant demand in some of the most important industries, such as medical, legal, education, and general business of all types. Selecting a career that is best suited for you requires a certain amount of introspection to decide if a certain job or career is right for you. It is also important to determine which secretarial field you want to pursue and give yourself a competitive edge by specializing in a particular area. Explore all relevant possibilities that will help you gain the essential skills needed to be successful in this career.

Educational Requirements

A high school diploma is sufficient for most entry-level secretarial positions, if you are knowledgeable in the required basic skills. Some businesses hire secretaries who have completed general high school courses in basic office skills or have taken vocational programs while in high school. Community colleges offer programs in office administration that require one or two years to complete. The courses for these programs include classes in bookkeeping, word processing, office management, and business communications. Courses are also available for more specialized training.

If you are looking to become an administrative assistant, which have more responsbilities and duties than a secretary, a bachelor’s degree is generally preferred.

Personal Requirements and Skills

Because a secretary gives clients the first impression of a business, it is important to project a professional image at all times. You must keep a positive attitude and know how to interact with all types of people. Excellent communication skills, knowledge of spelling, grammar, and punctuation are necessary, as well as a thorough knowledge of computers. All secretaries are responsible for learning how to use copiers, fax machines, and other office equipment in an efficient manner.

To enhance these skills, you should also look into signing up for online classes. Free typing lessons are highly recommended for secretaries because they help you to increase productivity - the less time you spend typing, the more time you have for other tasks. To find out where to sign up for free typing lessons, check out our article "Best Websites for Free Typing Lessons."

Medical Secretary Training

If you are interested in working in the medical industry, you must be knowledgeable of the procedures associated with this specialty. This position requires essential skills not required for general secretarial duties. You must take courses and receive training specifically designed for medical secretaries. You must learn basic medical terminology by completing courses in transcription and filing health insurance claims. Medical secretaries must understand the sensitive nature of confidential medical records.

Legal Secretary Requirements

Attorneys only hire highly qualified secretaries to work for their law firms. A legal secretary must learn the fundamental legal terms of the profession and how they apply to a specific branch of the law. Successful legal secretaries must possess excellent communication skills when interacting with clients on the phone or in person. Some law firms require that legal secretaries are fluent in at least one foreign language. 

Virtual Secretary Responsibilities

This secretarial position requires the same basic office skills, plus the added responsibility of understanding computer technology and designing and maintaining websites. This has become one of the most competitive secretarial positions in recent years.

Last Updated: July 21, 2015