Increasing Stature and Changing Roles for Admins and Assistants

March 30, 2015


From scribe to secretary to Administrative Professional…what comes next?
No one knows when the secretarial profession first came into existence, but we do know that in ancient Egypt “scribes” were entrusted with documenting and transmitting private and confidential matters. The word secretary itself, from the Latin word secretum, means "secret."

In modern times, as secretaries took on various levels of responsibility, researchers in 1934 began to distinguish between different clerical roles, namely secretary, clerk, typist, stenographer and personal assistant. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the explosion of new automated office technologies and equipment, including fax machines, word processors, spreadsheets, databases and desktop publishing, expanded the secretary's skill set, role and value. NSA changed its name to the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) to "encompass the large number of varied administrative job titles and recognize the advancing role of administrative support staff in business and government."

In 1992 the first U.S. Administrative Professionals Conference (APC) was held in Chicago, and in 2005 the American Society for Administrative Professionals, known as ASAP, was founded to focus on disseminating professional development resources and opportunities for administrative professionals. In honor of the 8 millio+ Administrative Professionals in North America, ASAP proclaimed the entire month of April as Admin Appreciation Month. In 2012, the APC event added the EA Summit in recognition of the specialized role EA’s play in organizations.

Admins have played essential roles in the workplace for a very long time, and recognition of their value has increased. According to a Manpower survey, 98 percent of employers consider their admins and assistants to be more tech-savvy and better strategic thinkers than 5 to 10 years ago. Inc. magazine, has called Administrative Professionals, “the most important people in the office.” Admins and assistants are the gate-keepers, lynch pins and information center of every office. 40% of employers said these professionals are now in charge of team engagement, and 35 percent task admins with project management.

Today’s admins and assistants have redefined their roles and responsibilities multiple times. With rapid changes in technology, business and globalization, administrative job descriptions and titles are changing quickly. The admin and assistant may be acting as tech guru, project manager, meeting planner, team leader, or chief of staff. They are the lifeblood that keeps the office pumping at full speed. And they have frequently inherited responsibilities once handled by middle managers. In 2008, only 7 percent of APC attendees held non-traditional admin job titles. Five years later, in 2013, more than 22 percent of APC attendees held titles like manager and project coordinator.

“The admin professional is being utilized to manage projects, manage direct reports, and even make decisions on behalf of their executives on a more routine basis,” says Jen Bogle, an administrative assistant at The Kroger Company, one of the world’s largest grocery retailers. ASAP outlined these diverse skills in a 2013 study: Meet the New Middle Manager: Today’s Administrative Professional.

Because the profession has so clearly advanced and evolved, even within the past decade, the Administrative Professionals Conference and Executive Assistants’ Summit have taken Adapt & Advance as their 2015 theme with more than 75 learning sessions tailored to the new roles admins and assistants play!

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American Society of Administrative Professionals

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