Several years ago an IAAP chapter hosted a breakfast for the executives and supervisors of IAAP members. I remember having a fairly spirited conversation with a local well-known CEO about what defines an administrative professional?
How do we define our field? Is the category reserved only for the clerical realm? What about mail room staff or if your firm has an in-house print shop? What about meeting planners? What about the Executive Assistant that pulls together an entire I expressed my beliefs politely yet firmly that administrative professionals cover a much wider spectrum of support staff than perhaps he believed. He’s not alone. Reviewing a few sources reveals a wide range of approaches to quantifying and defining the field.
Office Team supplied the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) with a list of job titles and definitions for what they feel covers the scope of the field.
Now, take a look at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics approach to our field. Are you a 43-6010? 43-6000 -New definitions of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for the administrative profession were released on March 10, 2010. (See http://bit.ly/cX1MHJ)
for the breakdown by job area.
A glimpse of this information is provided below.
43-6011 Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants
Provide high-level administrative support by conducting research, preparing statistical reports, handling information requests, and performing clerical functions such as preparing correspondence, receiving visitors, arranging conference calls, and scheduling meetings. May also train and supervise lower-level clerical staff. Excludes “Secretaries” (43-6012 through 43-6014).
IAAP uses this definition:
Q. Who qualifies as an administrative professional?
A. Many people who contribute to the workplace in a variety of settings. IAAP defines administrative professionals as “individuals who are responsible for administrative tasks and coordination of information in support of an office-related environment and who are dedicated to furthering their personal and professional growth in their chosen profession.”
Research shows that many workers around the world still hold the “secretary” job title; however, many alternative titles have become more popular, such as administrative assistant, office coordinator, administrative specialist, executive assistant, and office manager.
If you have a chance to go to the site and look at the vast categorization that Office and Administrative Support covers– Seven different categories with about sixty subcategories- some that seem very relevant and others.. not so much.
And by the way.. how does one define the engineering equivalent portion of our jobs? — You know, the engineering part of taking apart copiers to find jams- or replacing toner cartridges or taking apart the coffee machine and putting it back together. Silly, yes? Time consuming? Yes. Vital to the continued smooth functioning of our company? Absolutely. But these are skills learned on the job…and rarely documented within a job description or review. It is assumed that the administrative support staff member will inherently be able to address or take on- the small breakdowns of office and kitchen equipment.
One more page to look at -the 2008 statistics for Administrative Professionals (in the BLS category of Secretaries and Administrative Assistants) shows our field at 4.3 million strong in 2008 and the field was expected to grow 11% by 2018.
I digress. Those of us already employed in the field, we already know how much territory we cover and just how tricky it is to define our daily work accurately. We define it more by the title(s) of our supervisor, the number of years of experience, level of education and/or certifications. There is no doubt though- just as in every other occupation- there are those that hold the title- but obviously not the expertise or experience.
For the number crunchers and category makers- It is their task to generalize definitions to get the bulk of our work into neat columns of data. It is encouraging to me to see their efforts to sub categorize the field and to truly make an effort to quantify our contribution to the workforce contribution to the United States of America. As for me.. I think I’ll place myself in this category: 43-9190 Miscellaneous Office and Administrative Support Workers. I just cover too many task areas to fit neatly into any single description.