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  • A woman sits at a small desk.  She is looking at some information on a computer screen.

    Computer records are updated on a regular basis.

  • A woman uses a fax machine in an office.  There is a noticeboard on the wall, containing many posters and notices.

    Sending faxes means being able to use the machine properly and (sometimes) using a 'logging' system so people can see what has been sent and received.

  • A woman is kneeling down while placing a piece of paper into one of several labelled pigeon holes.  She has more papers in her other hand.

    There are many different filing systems to get used to.

  • A woman sits at a desk in front of some shelves full of paper files.  Another woman stands at her side, pointing to something on a piece of paper.  They are both looking at the paper.

    It's important to check instructions if they seem unclear.

  • An Administration Assistant

Administrative Assistant - Civil Service

Introduction

Civil Service administrative assistants work in government departments and agencies. They help to make sure that offices run smoothly.

For example, they update, record and store information/documents, answer enquiries, deal with the post and keep accounts up to date; they might also have some reception duties.

Also known as

  • Civil Service Administrative Assistant

Work Activities

The Civil Service is made up of a large number of government departments and agencies. The departments formulate policies, for example:

  • the Department for Education
  • the Department of Health
  • the Department for Transport

The agencies carry out the policies, for example:

  • the Food Standards Agency
  • the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • the Identity and Passport Service

You could work in any department or agency. Your duties vary widely depending on the place of work, but often include:

  • updating records
  • dealing with customers
  • using IT

Some might carry out duties such as:

  • opening and sending off mail
  • sending emails
  • photocopying
  • filing
  • answering telephone enquiries and taking messages
  • ordering supplies
  • arranging meetings
  • providing cover on a reception desk

You often process and record information by updating computer files or databases. Some are responsible for filing systems and for making sure that important documents are properly recorded and stored.

Some are responsible for making calculations, perhaps preparing figures for accounts or statistical information, or processing payments. You might be responsible for employees' records, such as time sheets, staff absences and annual leave dates, and claims for expenses.

Many have word-processing duties, for example, preparing letters, reports, press releases or newsletters.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become an Administrative Assistant, you will need:

  • writing and number skills
  • IT and keyboard skills, often including email, word-processing, spreadsheet or database skills
  • communication skills
  • to be able to use standard office equipment such as photocopiers

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £19,000 - £20,000
  • With experience: £21,500 - £25,000
  • Senior Administrative Assistants earn £28,000 - £30,500

Hours of work

You work 36-42 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Flexible working arrangements include part-time work and job-sharing.

Where could I work?

More than 40 government departments and agencies employ Administrative Assistants, for example, the Jobcentre Plus network, the Identity and Passport Service, and HM Revenue & Customs.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on the Civil Service Jobs website, in local/national newspapers, on Find a Job, and at Jobcentre Plus.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

You can enter this career by applying directly for trainee posts.

To work as an Administrative Assistant in the Civil Service, you might need to meet certain nationality requirements, depending on the post and the department.

You might need to pass a written or online test.

An Intermediate Level Apprenticeship is also great place to start. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

Training

Most of the training is done on-the-job by more experienced staff. You might also go on some training courses, for example, in IT.

If you would like some training, BTEC offer a level 2 qualification in business administration. This course has a range of units, which include:

  • communication in a business environment
  • handling mail
  • providing reception services
  • providing administration support in meetings
  • managing diary systems
  • collating and reporting data
  • producing minutes in meetings
  • using email
  • participating in a project

Other courses could be available in your area.

Work Experience

Previous experience working in office administration or clerical work would be really useful for this career.

Progression

Administrative Assistants might gain internal promotion to Administrative Officer grade after gaining relevant experience.

Qualifications

Civil Service departments and agencies usually look for relevant competencies in written and verbal communication, managing workloads, using IT, building working relationships, self development and, sometimes, customer service.

To get onto an Intermediate Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs.

Some might ask for at least 2 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English language. Some might also ask for maths at GCSE, depending on the post. For some posts, you might need up to 5 GCSEs or equivalent. Some offer a written or online test, whether or not the applicant meets the academic entry requirements.

For some posts, word-processing qualifications might be needed.

However, each department has its own entry requirements. Alternative qualifications might be acceptable, such as a BTEC level 2 qualification.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Entry

Some entrants have a background in office administration or clerical work. Relevant work-related qualifications in business and administration can be helpful.

You might be able to take an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship or an Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Business and Administration.

Departments usually ask for at least two GCSEs at grade C or above including English and sometimes Maths, or equivalent. Some offer a written test as an alternative for those without the required qualifications.

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400

Email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

Website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 9178000

Email: info@skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk

Website: www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships

Civil Service Jobs

Website: www.civilservice.gov.uk/jobs

Institute of Administrative Management (IAM)

Tel: 020 7091 2600

Email: info@instam.org

Website: www.instam.org

Work for Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Email: recruitment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Website: www.work-for-scotland.org

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) Recruitment

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Website: irecruit-ext.hrconnect.nigov.net/default.aspx

People Exchange Cymru (PEC)

Public sector recruitment portal for Wales

Email: peopleexchangecymru@gov.wales

Website: www.peopleexchangecymru.org.uk/home

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