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Receptionist Job Description, Career as a Receptionist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school

Salary: Median—$21,840 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Most people form an impression of a company the instant they walk through the front door. If visitors are greeted by an alert and pleasant receptionist and are then efficiently directed to their destination, they will have the feeling that the company is well run. On the other hand, if the receptionist is indifferent or rude, visitors may get the idea that the company is not properly managed.

In addition to greeting visitors, receptionists frequently answer phones, compose documents and letters, and perform other clerical tasks around the office. In many firms the receptionist keeps a log of each day's visitors, noting arrival and departure times. Other duties may include taking down client's personal information, sorting mail, maintaining a log of employee attendance, proofreading outgoing letters, reports, and e-mails, and keeping the reception area neat.

All kinds of businesses employ receptionists, from beauty shops to factories to doctors' offices. In these and many other businesses, the pleasant demeanor of an efficient receptionist is an asset.

Education and Training Requirements

Many companies prefer applicants who are high school graduates. However, intelligence, a pleasant personality, and a neat appearance can be more important for the job than a formal education. Good word processing and computer skills are also a plus. A receptionist must be patient and enjoy working with people. Receptionists are sometimes trained on the job.

Getting the Job

A high school placement office may be able to help a student find a position as a receptionist. Jobs may be listed with state and private employment agencies, on Internet job sites, and in the classified ads of local newspapers. If candidates are interested in a government job, they should apply to take the necessary civil service test.

Visitors form their first impressions about a company from the appearance and attitude of the receptionist. (Photograph by Kelly A. Quin. Thomson Gale. Reproduced by permission.)

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Receptionists are in an excellent position to get to know all the aspects of their company's business. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a receptionist who handles the job well will go unnoticed by management. Receptionists often become secretaries or take on other positions of responsibility.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1.1 million people were employed as receptionists in the United States in 2004. Roughly 90 percent of all receptionists worked in the service-providing industry. One third of all receptionists were employed by the health-care and social assistance industries. Employment of receptionists was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Because of the expansion of business and professional services, many new jobs will be created. The high turnover rate of receptionists will also ensure ample job opportunities. Because reception jobs require many interpersonal skills, office automation will not likely have too negative of an impact on the field. Employment prospects will be best for those with word processing and other office skills.

Working Conditions

Receptionists are usually seated in the most attractive area of the company. Even in a factory, a receptionist's office is clean and quiet. While receptionists have limited contact with fellow employees, dealings with the public are frequent. As representatives of their company, receptionists should get along well with people.

Earnings and Benefits

The receptionist's experience and the size and location of the employer affect earnings. Receptionists earned a median salary of $21,840 per year in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those with more experience and skills earned more. Receptionists working for the federal government earned from $22,937 to $27,818 per year. Most receptionists receive benefits that included paid vacations and holidays as well as health insurance. Some employers provide educational assistance for their receptionists.

Where to Go for More Information

International Association of Administrative Professionals
10502 NW Ambassador Dr.
PO Box 20404
Kansas City, MO 64195-0404
(816) 891-6600

Office and Professional Employees International Union
265 W. 14th St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(800) 346-7348

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesBusiness