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What does an administrator do?
An administrator is sometimes also known as a secretary, a clerical assistant, an office administrator or an admin. They provide clerical and administrative support and assistance to businesses or specific departments. It goes without saying that an administrator has to be organised, able to multitask, and proficient in IT.
Administrators can work in various sectors and for employers of different sizes. Their role and responsibilities may involve general administrative work. Alternatively, they may specialise in something more specific, such as human resources, legal, medical or accounts. Therefore, what administrators do will depend on where they work and their specialisms.
An administrator’s main aim is to carry out various administrative duties to help businesses or departments run smoothly. Their role is important, as they coordinate, organise and help businesses perform efficiently. A good administrator underpins company operations and allows management to function optimally.
Administrators will carry out many tasks, including greeting visitors, dealing with enquiries, answering phones, redirecting calls, scheduling meetings, taking meeting minutes, typing various documents, printing, photocopying, ordering office supplies, updating computer records, etc. They may also work on specific projects and supervise new and junior staff.
Administrators will work with many people internally, e.g. managers, supervisors, other administrators and staff in various departments. They may also liaise with external stakeholders, such as customers, clients, suppliers, visitors, etc.
Administrators typically work in office environments, and homeworking opportunities may be available for some roles. They can work for different-sized companies, from large national organisations to small/medium family businesses. There may be self-employed/freelance opportunities and temporary positions with recruitment agencies, but most tend to be employed jobs.
An administrator’s responsibilities will depend on many factors, including who they work for, the type of administration they specialise in and the sector in which they work.
Some examples of their day-to-day duties may include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Greeting and looking after visitors at reception.
- Creating and maintaining filing systems, databases and paperwork.
- Dealing with enquiries, e.g. via telephone, email or social media.
- Answering phones and redirecting calls, sometimes via a switchboard.
- Typing documents, such as letters, reports, procedures and other business documents.
- Dealing with incoming and outgoing post.
- Printing and photocopying documents.
- Keeping diaries and arranging appointments.
- Booking rooms and arranging for facilities for meetings or conferences.
- Scheduling meetings, creating agendas and taking meeting minutes.
- Ordering and procuring office equipment and supplies.
- Organising travel arrangements and accommodation for staff.
- Updating and maintaining computer records.
- Organising various events in-house and externally.
- Liaising with internal staff and external contacts.
- Other administrative tasks as needed.
An administrator can expect to work between 35-40 hours a week, usually Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm. However, they can do more or fewer hours depending on the requirements of their role.
It is unusual for administrators to work unsociable hours, but some roles may require them to work evenings, weekends and bank holidays.
Most jobs are full-time and permanent. However, some employers allow employees to work flexibly, i.e. part-time, job share, hybrid and remote. Temporary admin roles with recruitment agencies are common.
It is uncommon for administrators to travel or work overseas as part of their role, but some jobs may require this depending on the sector.
What to expect
There are many positives to being an administrator, especially if individuals are organised and love working in an office environment with various people. It can be exciting to take on different projects and multitask.
It can be a rewarding career choice and give individuals a sense of purpose in their jobs. They support and help businesses and departments to run smoothly and can go home at the end of the working day knowing they have made a positive difference.
There are plenty of administrator roles, with jobs available nationally across the UK and with different areas and sectors in which to specialise. There is decent job security with this career, as jobs are so numerous, and almost every industry needs administrators. Also, administrative skills are transferable, giving individuals more career options.
Boredom will never be a problem for administrators, as their work can be varied, and there will be different tasks and demands. There are also plenty of opportunities to specialise, so if an individual finds a specific area they are really interested in, they will enjoy their work.
Even though there are positives to being an administrator, there are challenges and cons, e.g.:
- Fast-paced and demanding – being an administrator can be stressful at times. They will often have to juggle different demands and meet tight deadlines. Administrators will need to be able to multitask and prioritise.
- Computer work – being an administrator involves considerable time at the computer, e.g. maintaining policies, procedures, forms, records, etc.
- It’s a supporting role – if an individual wants to lead projects, this might not be a suitable role for them. An administrator’s job is a support role, so it can be frustrating not being able to take the lead. However, there may be senior administrator roles where this is a possibility.
- Female-dominated – most administrator roles are held by women. However, this shouldn’t put men off from applying for jobs.
Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is for them. It is a fast-paced role, and juggling different demands can be challenging and stressful. However, there are many positives too, and those who become administrators enjoy their work, as they are an integral part of the smooth running of businesses.
When considering whether to be an administrator and the type of role, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be an administrator
Some of the personal qualities an administrator requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Enjoys working with people.
- A methodical approach.
- Assertive, confident, self-disciplined, responsible and has initiative.
- Tenacious, determined and motivated.
- Discrete, sensitive, understanding and confidential.
- Approachable, honest, trustworthy, reliable, ethical and professional.
- Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written.
- Administrative skills.
- IT skills.
- Active listening skills.
- Planning skills.
- Customer service skills.
- Technical skills.
- Teamworking skills.
- Presentation skills.
- Strong time management and organisational skills.
- Being thorough, accurate and having attention to detail.
- The ability to understand and follow instructions.
- The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
- The ability to juggle different demands, prioritise and multitask.
- The ability to work to tight deadlines and meet targets.
- The ability to work well under pressure and remain confident and calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to use IT equipment, e.g. computers and hand-held devices, and relevant software packages.
- The ability to work well with others in a team and alone using their own initiative.
Some roles may require other skills, e.g. speaking a foreign language.
Qualifications and training
There are many routes to becoming an administrator. Individuals could go to university or college, enrol on a private training course, do an apprenticeship or apply directly. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.
An individual does not need a degree to become an administrator. However, having a degree can help individuals stand out, especially for specialist admin roles with more responsibility.
The degree topic needed will depend on the type of administration an individual wants to work in and the industry.
Some examples of topics that may be helpful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):
- Business administration or management.
- Public administration.
- Secretarial studies.
Any courses relating to administration are likely to be beneficial. Having a degree in other subjects may also help. For example, if an individual wants to be an administrator in health & safety, healthcare, law, finance or human resources, having a degree in these subjects or a relevant one may increase their chances of success.
The entry requirements and the number of UCAS points needed will depend on each university, and individuals should check before applying.
They will typically require the following:
- A minimum of 1 A Level for a foundation degree.
- 2 or 3 good A Levels for an undergraduate degree.
- 2:1 or 2:2 relevant undergraduate degree subject for a postgraduate degree.
Some institutions may also invite applicants for an interview as part of the selection process.
Undertaking a college course can help individuals become administrators. Some companies ask individuals to have at least A Levels or a Diploma.
Some example courses that may be useful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):
- Level 2/3 Diploma in Business or Business and Administration.
- A Level in Business Studies.
- T Level in Business.
- T Level in Management & Administration.
Individuals usually need:
- Level 2 – two or more GCSEs grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or equivalent.
- Level 3/A Levels – four/five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent.
- T Levels – four/five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent (including English and maths).
Private training companies and business schools may also offer courses. It may also be worth enrolling on low-cost online short administration courses to see if a career as an administrator would be of interest. That way, if not, it will save an individual a lot of time and trouble. Even college and community courses can count.
Some companies offer free Level 2 business and administration courses to those eligible. Individuals can find free courses on the National Careers Service.
Courses and qualifications do not guarantee a role in administration. However, it will demonstrate to employers and companies that an individual is keen on the job and may give individuals a competitive edge. Always check the entry requirements before applying.
There is an apprenticeship route to help individuals become administrators, e.g. business administrator advanced apprenticeship. Individuals usually need five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, or equivalent.
Opportunities are found on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed.
If individuals have some qualifications, they could apply for administrator jobs directly. They usually need GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent qualifications, including English and maths.
If individuals have further qualifications in IT, typing or telephone work or relevant experience, it will help. Administrator roles are on various job websites.
Some employers may decide to take on individuals as interns and train them as administrators if they have the necessary personal qualities and enthusiasm for the role. It would help individuals to have previous experience. However, the requirements will depend on each employer.
Individuals may be able to work with recruitment agencies on temporary contracts in administration roles, which could lead to something more permanent. They may also be able to apply for a job as an administrative assistant and move into an administrator role. Having a business and administration qualification will help.
Volunteering can also help people gain valuable experience and develop skills. Individuals could volunteer with charities to help them with administrative tasks and other office work. They could also work in a customer-facing or telephone role, e.g. fundraising. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.
Training courses to become an administrator
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training companies can provide relevant training courses.
Some examples of courses that may be useful for individuals looking at a career in administration include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Equality and diversity.
- Work-related stress.
- Conflict management.
- Display screen equipment (DSE).
- COVID-19 awareness.
- Office health and safety.
- Health and safety for homeworkers.
- Minute taking.
- Data protection and the GDPR.
- Complaints handling.
- Customer service skills.
- Time management skills.
- Business management.
- Resilience training.
- Anti-bribery awareness.
Additional IT skills, e.g. in Office packages and other software, and training in customer relations can also be beneficial.
Professional bodies and institutes relevant to the industry that individuals want to work in may also advise on reputable training courses, e.g. the Chartered Association of Business Administrators, the Institute of Administrative Management, etc. Some also provide memberships, events and support to help individuals become administrators and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.
The type of training required will depend on who an individual works for and their specialisms. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for roles. Jobs are on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, jobs.ac.uk and many other sites. Also, look at recruitment agencies for administration roles.
More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities for individuals. Refresher training is also advisable as it keeps an individual’s knowledge and skills up to date.
Criminal records checks
Some administrators may need to undergo a criminal record check. A criminal record, caution, warning, or conviction may put off prospective employers. However, the employer should account for the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred and its relevance to the role.
The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:
Where do administrators work?
Administrators can work in many industries, such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- Education, e.g. schools, colleges and universities.
- Private companies.
- Financial services, e.g. banking.
- Legal services.
- Aerospace and defence.
- Transport and logistics.
- Information technology.
- Advertising and marketing.
- Energy and utilities.
- Public relations.
- Pharmaceutical and biotechnology.
They can also work for recruitment agencies and choose to work freelance.
Administrators typically work in office environments. However, some employers offer work-from-home jobs.
Administrators spend a significant amount of their working day on the computer.
How much do administrators earn?
An administrator’s salary will depend on their role, qualifications, experience, geographical location, employer, working hours, contract and specialist area.
Some examples of salaries include the following (these figures are only a guide):
Some administrators earn up to £40,000 with more seniority, experience and responsibilities.
As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.
Types of administration roles to specialise in
Individuals can work in a general administration role or they can choose to specialise, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
- Accounts administrator – carries out administrative duties in accounts departments, e.g. processing sales and purchase invoices and accounts payable duties.
- Customer service administrator – typically works in customer service departments and deals with customers directly. They must be comfortable interacting with customers daily, i.e. online, on the phone and via email.
- Departmental administrator – provides administrative support to specific departments within an organisation. Their tasks can vary.
- Human resources (HR) administrator – works in human resources (HR) departments and helps with personnel files, HR procedures, recruitment and employment contracts.
- Office administrator – ensures an office runs effectively and smoothly by providing general administrative support.
- Operations administrator – provides administrative support for all day-to-day operations in a company or department.
- Legal administrator – provides administrative support to lawyers and paralegals at law firms. They are sometimes known as legal secretaries, and their tasks will depend on the type of law firm in which they work.
- Medical administrator – carries out administrative duties in medical facilities, such as hospitals and clinics. Some examples of duties for these types of administrators are on NHS Health Careers.
- Sales administrator – works in sales and can carry out duties such as handling enquiries, quotations, sales orders, etc.
There are many different administrator roles to choose from and far too many to include here.
All specialist administrator roles require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All administrators must have excellent administrative, time management and organisational skills. They will also need to be competent in IT and juggle different demands.
Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what a company is looking for and an administrator’s intended specialist areas. Further qualifications and training may be necessary for specialised roles, e.g. legal and medical administration.
If administrators do not do their roles correctly, they could miss important deadlines, cause project issues and increase customer complaints. Therefore, whatever the type of role, administrators must have the necessary competence to carry out the work professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency, i.e. asking for help when something is beyond their expertise.
Products, services, laws and technologies are regularly changing. Therefore, administrators must keep ahead of the latest developments and changes to ensure they carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives administrators the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, and progress in their careers.
Joining a professional body can help prospective and current administrators enhance their skills and overall career. They may offer different levels of membership, CPD, support and access to industry contacts and networking events.
There is ample opportunity for career progression for administrators. With more qualifications and experience, they can become a senior administrator, a supervisor or an office manager. They can also decide to specialise in specific departments, e.g. payroll or IT. Alternatively, they may become freelance or work for agencies.
Knowledge, skills and experience gained from working as an administrator can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could move into specialist administration, such as medical or legal. They could also use their transferable skills to move to a sales, business development, customer service, executive officer or personal assistant role.
Get started on a course suitable for becoming an administrator
Minute Taking£20 + VAT View course
Equality and Diversity£15 + VAT View course
Workplace Stress Awareness£20 + VAT View course
Conflict Management£20 + VAT View course
Office Health and Safety£20 + VAT View course
Customer Service Skills£20 + VAT View course
Health and Safety for Homeworkers£20 + VAT View course
DSE Awareness£20 + VAT View course