Marilyn Sullivan has seen a lot of changes over the course of the 35 years she has worked as an administrative professional. She laughs at the...

Share story

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Marilyn Sullivan has seen a lot of changes over the course of the 35 years she has worked as an administrative professional.

She laughs at the memory of mimeograph machines, manual typewriters and punch-button adding machines with cranks.

Times have changed for the better, she says.

Today she’s the assistant to the chief executive of a hospital, a job that requires her not just to keep track of and support the CEO but also to supervise other staff, stay abreast of changing technology and do whatever else it takes to keep the office on task.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“The administrative professional is not just the secretary anymore that answers the phone,” she said.

“We’re expected to be project managers, office managers, supervising staff — a lot more leadership roles,” she said.

The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers continuing education like the certified-professional secretary rank Sullivan earned in 2003, a designation most colleges recognize for completion of 32 to 35 undergraduate credits.

The certification was a big step toward Sullivan’s goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in office management and human resources from Colorado Christian University.

“This is a great way to use that work experience toward something that I’ve always wanted to get,” she said. “That’s one of the goals of IAAP, to promote the profession and turn the attitude that you’re not just a secretary. It’s a career and a career to choose that’s very profitable, and responsibilities and leadership skills are growing in this field.”

It’s been years since the title “secretary” went out of vogue.

Now mostly known as administrative assistants, executive assistants, coordinators or associates, “secretaries” are still generally found only in the legal and medical fields, said Karen Policastro of Robert Half International, a specialized-staffing firm.

But given the increasing demand for administrative staff to keep abreast of changing technology and computer skills, “techretary” may be a more appropriate moniker.

“Many companies now are looking for the administrative staff to be the first to try out new technology tools, potentially assist their teams in learning new technology tools and potentially providing feedback,” Policastro said. “As far as technical skills, we are looking for people with high levels of technical abilities.”

Administrative staffers also are taking on more supervisory responsibilities such as managing file clerks, Policastro said.

Pay is increasing to keep up with the new demands, Policastro said, and the IAAP survey backs her opinion.

Base salary for 45 percent of the organization’s members is more than $40,000, compared with 2002 when 33 percent earned that wage.

In 1997, 8 percent earned that much.