For administrative assistants, it’s a good time to be a job seeker. Candidates for this role are in high demand in multiple cities across the country, with companies competing for — and sometimes offering higher-than-market salaries to attract — the most skilled people.
Job descriptions often vary, but employers always have common wants for admins, including prior experience and a strong work ethic. Companies also want professionals who are proficient with industry-specific applications, which can give an applicant a leg up over others and a potential advantage when it comes to salary negotiation.
Of course, salaries are relative to location — a fat paycheck in Memphis might be barely enough to get by in Manhattan. But the following cities, where administrative assistants are in high demand, offer some of the best opportunities for experienced candidates.
“The biggest need in our market is for professionals with three to five years of experience,” says Kim Garstein, a branch manager at Robert Half in Southern California, “but available people in this sweet spot are extremely hard to find.”
She also notes that hiring managers in the Los Angeles area look for a wider variety of skill sets than they used to. “An increasing number of employers here want people experienced with accounting and finance software like QuickBooks and Concur,” Garstein says. “We’re also getting requests for people experienced with CRM systems like Salesforce.”
The midpoint administrative assistant salary in Los Angeles is $45,850, and highly experienced candidates or those with specialized certifications can earn $61,570 or more at the high end. Keep in mind, though, that Los Angeles is known for its high cost of living, coming in last place among the 25 cities ranked in that category in the Robert Half Career City Index
New York City
“New York City is a very competitive hiring market,” says Daryl Pigat, a Robert Half division director here. Top job candidates can field multiple offers, he says, and employers need to be ready to act quickly. “Before many employers can get to a job seeker, they’ve already started a new job.”
Employers here seek candidates with a support background and familiarity with Microsoft Excel. According to Pigat, many hiring managers also demand social media and marketing knowledge, but struggle to find candidates with the right amount of experience for their roles — the same three- to five-year “sweet spot” as in the LA market.
Though it’s a candidate-driven environment, job seekers still compete with one another for the most desirable positions. Pigat says candidates can gain a competitive edge in the New York market by doing their research on potential employers. “Learn about the company and the person interviewing you. Come prepared to ask educated questions,” he says.
Salaries in New York City trend 40.5 percent above the national average, due partly to the high cost of living here — which ranked 24th in our Career City Index. The midpoint administrative assistant salary here is $49,175. Senior candidates with eight or more years of experience can surpass $66,035.
While demand for administrative assistants ebbs and flows in Memphis, top applicants typically find jobs quickly, according to Chris Compton, a Robert Half branch manager in the city. “When a candidate has really good experience and a great work ethic, I can usually find a position for them quickly,” he says.
Beyond technical skills, employers also consider attitude and other soft skills more than in the past. “Employers are homing in on when a candidate’s personality fits with the office dynamic,” Compton says.
The current midpoint administrative assistant salary in Memphis is $33,250, with compensation reaching $44,650 or more for highly seasoned candidates. While that’s significantly lower than New York and Los Angeles, the cost of living here is also much lower.
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