Today is National Administrative Professionals Day, which recognizes the contributions of 2.8 million workers in a profession that is overwhelmingly female and paid significantly less than the average U.S. worker, according to federal data released this week.
Julia Beckhusen, an economist in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division, says 94% of administrative professionals are women, from secretaries and medical or legal administrative assistants to executive secretaries and administrative assistants. As a group they earned an average $41,150 a year compared to the average U.S. worker who was paid $50,078.
However, the average salary figure is skewed by the fact that executive and legal secretaries earn significantly more than other types of secretaries and assistants. While executive secretaries and legal secretaries earn on average $60,394 and $51,478 a year, respectively, 83.6% of all secretaries and assistants are working in other fields and paid only $39,193 a year on average.
“Not only were secretaries and administrative assistants more likely to be women and have lower median earnings than the average worker in the United States in 2019, they were also older, had less education and were less racially and ethnically diverse than the average U.S. worker,” Beckhusen said.
In 2019, the share of secretaries and administrative assistants aged 55 and older exceeded the age of the average worker by at least 10 percentage points. This difference was greatest among legal secretaries and administrative assistants — 46% of whom were over age 55.
The Census Bureau data found that 70.7% of secretaries and assistants had only a high school education, compared to 55.3% of all U.S. workers. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants had the highest share of workers with a bachelor’s degree — 33.9% compared to 22.0% for other secretaries and administrative assistants and 22.5% of all U.S. workers.
Secretaries and administrative assistants as a group were also less racially diverse. About 80% were white compared to 73% of all U.S. workers. Medical secretaries and administrative assistants, who as a group are the lowest paid ($36,114 a year), were more likely to be Black or African American.
Working as a secretary or administrative assistance ranked as the top occupation for women as recently as 2014, but by 2019 it had dropped to third, behind nursing and teaching, the bureau said.