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How Has The Role Of the Secretary Changed Over the Last Century?

19 NOV 2013
Career Path : Career

In media set in the first two-thirds of the 20th century, most secretaries are portrayed as being little more than a pretty face. While this is far from the truth, the job duties that secretaries have taken on over the last 100 years have evolved into what modern administrative professionals experience today.

In the early 20th century, the latest secretarial technology was still limited to typewriters. A well-trained secretary required nothing more than typing and interpersonal skills. IT training had not been invented yet, nor had specialized computer programs. As technology improved, dictation devices became commonplace. While the technology may have developed, the skills and job responsibilities remained the same.

Even so, the secretaries 100 years ago had many duties that today’s secretaries share. Taking care of correspondence, both typing letters and filing documents, as well as maintain organization for either a single employee or group. You will see today’s secretaries still regularly undertaking these tasks, although they now have acquired additional responsibilities. Now, secretaries are commonly in charge of coordinating travel arrangements, managing budgets, or even maintaining a website.

In 1942, the National Secretaries Association was established. The main goal of this organization was to encourage and develop professionalism among office assistants. The association itself has also developed, and is now known as the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Their goal is still the same: to serve as a font for professional networking and education.

Today, there are many opportunities available for professional development. In addition to conferences and seminars, there are many offerings for office administration courses throughout the nation. With more corporations requiring post-high school education, these courses fill the need for an advanced education. 100 years ago, it would have been unlikely for a secretary to manage budgets or accounts. Now, administrative professionals are able to use computers for bookkeeping, and can gain the specific knowledge in a low-pressure classroom setting.

Ten years after the formation of the National Secretaries Association, then President Mary Barrett, created National Secretary’s Day in conjunction with the president of Dictaphone. It too has been renamed, and now, Administrative Professionals’ Week is celebrated in the fourth week of April. The week is in recognition of all the hard work that office administration staff put in every day. The term ‘secretary’ conjures to some an image of unskilled work, which is actually a quite dated idea.

With the role of secretary constantly changing, it has become much more prevalent to have administrative staff attending IT training to gain knowledge on the subject. Since telecommunications have advanced to where it does not require an entire undergraduate degree to construct websites, many secretaries have begun taking on this duty. This is in addition to bookkeeping and other duties which have also been streamlined by the use of computers.

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