The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the Occupational Handbook which currently reflects employment projections for the 2019 to 2029 decade. The Occupational Handbook covers 324 occupational profiles including the Office and Administrative Support Occupations profile. The profile describes what workers do, where they work, typical education and training requirements, wages, job outlook, state and area data and contacts for more information. The OOH is updated every 2 years by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and is a useful resource for those seeking career guidance.
According to bls.gov, the overall Office and Administrative Support Occupations profile is projected to decline 5 percent, with a loss of about 959,700 jobs from 2019 to 2029. Technology is expected to substitute or supplant some functions that workers in office and administrative support occupations do. Despite projected employment declines, however, openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. Also, certain factors have changed such as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which has increased the demand for “Work at Home” staff which not only requires the knowledge of new technology, but also a command of certain soft skills such as the ability to be adaptable and flexible. Here is the 2021 and beyond job outlook for some of the Office Administrative Occupations.
Receptionists – According to bls.gov, employment of receptionists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. While less than previous years, overall job opportunities are expected be good, especially in healthcare industries, particularly in the offices of physicians, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners. Of the 1.1 million receptionist jobs held in 2019, the Healthcare and Social Assistance industry employed 46% of those positions.
As with customer service representatives, employment growth of receptionists in other industries is expected to be slower due to organizations continuing to automate many functions. However, there will still be job openings that will stem from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Those with related work experience, proficiency using computers and a command of valuable soft skills, especially in the area of communication skills, should have the best job prospects.
Customer Service Representatives – According to bls.gov, employment of customer service representatives is actually projected to decline 2 percent from 2019 to 2029. One of the reasons for less demand, they state, is due to automation. For example, internet self-service or interactive voice-response systems, social media, and mobile applications are increasingly popular because they enable customers to perform simple tasks without speaking to a representative. Despite the projected decline in employment, job prospects for customer service representatives are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation and also the need for in-house customer service representatives who handle complex inquiries such as refunding accounts or confirming insurance coverage.
Secretaries, Administrative Assistants job outlook is predicted to decline 9 percent and General Office Clerks 5% from 2019 to 2029 with many job openings resulting from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. According to bls.gov, those with existing work experience, particularly experience using word processing and spreadsheet software, should have the best job prospects. As secretaries and administrative assistants interact with clients, customers, or staff, they should also possess exceptional soft skills such as the ability to communicate effectively and be courteous when interacting with others. In addition, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, adaptability is now a sought-after soft skill in the 21st Century as it shows that the administrative professional can adapt to new technology trends and ever-changing company processes and customer needs. Adaptability rates right up there along with other highly desirable hard and soft skills and some employers state that people who are highly adaptable are actually considered more valuable employees than those who are highly skilled but less adaptable.
Virtual Assistants – While, according to bls.gov, the employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, the demand for virtual assistants and work at home staff has never been greater. While many companies are having their workforce return back to work after the mandatory shutdowns, many others are not so quick to welcome employees back to the office, creating more of a demand for virtual assistant services and work from home staff than ever before. According to the Global WorkPlace Analytics website, 75 million U.S. employees (56% of the non-self-employed workforce) could work-from-home or currently hold jobs that are compatible with remote work. Many of these skilled individuals may not be eager to return to the workplace or have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and these individuals are now exploring the world of working remotely.
Medical Secretaries – Employment growth is projected for medical secretaries, primarily due to the growth of the healthcare industry. For example, baby boomers will require more medical services as they age. Medical secretaries will be needed to handle administrative tasks related to billing and insurance processing of Medicare and other claims.. The reasons stated is the continuing growth of the aging baby-boom population which will continue to increase demand for preventive medical services, which are often provided by physicians. As their practices expand, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients, the handbook notes.
One of the Office and Administrative occupations whose job outlook projections are still declining are desktop publishers, which are projected to decline 19 percent from 2019 to 2029. The handbook notes the reasons are because employers are expected to hire fewer desktop publishers as other types of workers—such as graphic designers, web designers, and editors—now increasingly perform desktop-publishing tasks.
Other occupations projected to decline from 2019 to 2029 are bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks (-6%) and bill and account collectors (-6%). Reasons cited for these declines are technological changes that are expected to reduce demand for these workers. Also, consolidation in the collections industry should continue to limit employment growth for bill and account collectors.
Employment in office and administrative support occupations is projected to decline 5 percent, with a loss of about 959,700 jobs from 2019 to 2029. According to the occupational handbook, technology is expected to substitute or supplant some functions that workers in office and administrative support occupations do. Although not mentioned in the occupational handbook, the trend towards using virtual assistants, where employers only pay for actual services performed, may also be contributing to the decline in the projected job outlook for many of the traditional full time office and administrative support occupations. The last median annual wage for office and administrative support occupations was documented as $37,580 in May 2019.
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