What Skills Do You Need to Be a Secretary?

Working as a secretary requires some basic skills, including interpersonal and communications skills, along with knowledge of some software and computer programs and good organizational and time-management abilities. Although most employers expect all secretaries to have these basic skills, the specific requirements for secretarial work vary according to the job performed. Legal secretaries, for instance, might need additional training in the field of legal administration while medical secretaries may need a working knowledge of medical terms and codes, necessitating additional specialized training.

Secretaries find employment in many offices and fields with a high school diploma. However, having additional training in a field of specialization or at a vocational school improves the likelihood of finding a higher-level and higher-paying job. After graduating high school, some secretaries find jobs requesting good personal skills, a positive attitude, and ability to understand basic requests. Others receive advanced training, undergoing formal education in 1-2 year administrative programs.

These programs often culminate in vocational or associate degrees. Secretaries specialize in areas, such as Microsoft Windows, Word, Excel and bookkeeping. In addition to formal education, many secretaries learn requisite skills through on-the-job training, provided by employers. Sometimes, employment agencies and larger firms, such as the National Association of Legal Secretaries, offer unique secretarial training.