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Word Processing – the Stenographer and the Secretary

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Wanted - ‘Qualified Stenographers And Secretaries With Good Typing, Shorthand, And Language Skills’. Companies located in communities throughout the country are experiencing difficulty in filling jobs at every level.

Secretarial responsibilities go far beyond typing, filing, and transcribing and extend into personnel administration, supervision, and management. The office as it is now and as it will evolve will require new secretarial skills, knowledge, and attitudes to meet the challenges created by technology. The two most common job titles in the word processing category are stenographer and secretary. The characteristic that distinguishes clerk from stenographer and secretary is the use of shorthand. Stenographers frequently are classified as junior (or general) and senior. The promotion ladder is usually from junior stenographer to senior stenographer to secretary.

According to the National Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Pay (Bulletin 2081, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics), the specific tasks performed by stenographers or secretaries are as follows.


Primary duty is to take dictation using shorthand and to transcribe the dictation, may also type from written copy, may operate from a stenographic pool, may occasionally transcribe from voice recordings.

NOTE: This job is distinguished from that of a secretary in that a secretary normally works as the principal office assistant performing more responsible and discretionary tasks.

A general stenographer takes and transcribes dictation and performs routine clerical tasks under close supervision. A senior stenographer performs stenographic duties requiring independence and responsibility; maintains follow-up files; assembles material for reports, memoranda, and letters; reads and routes incoming mail; and answers routine questions.


Provides principal secretarial support in office, is usually to one individual, and in some cases to the subordinate staff of the individual. He maintains a close and highly responsible relationship to the day-today activities of the supervisor and staff. Works fairly independently, receiving a minimum of detailed supervision and guidance. He performs varied clerical and secretarial duties requiring knowledge of office routine and understanding of the organization, programs, and procedures related to the work of the office.

The level of the secretary's responsibility (LR) dictates the nature of the work relationship between the secretary and the supervisor and to the extent to which the secretary is expected to exercise initiative and judgment.

LR-1. Works under general instructions and guidance; carries out recurring work of the office independently, performs a full range of procedural office duties that involve various related steps, processes or methods. Performs duties comparable to the following: maintains supervisor's calendar, makes appointments, reviews correspondence for procedural and typographic accuracy, makes travel arrangements, requisitions supplies, takes and transcribes dictation, files, and handles the telephone.

LR-2. Works independently and in addition to LR-I responsibilities, performs tasks requiring greater judgment, initiative, and knowledge of office functions.

The long-standing definition of secretary adopted by the Professional Secretaries International refers, more to the personal qualities required for success than to the specific tasks enumerated above.

Within this concept, a secretary is a highly qualified person who possesses not only "mastery of office skills" but also personality requisites of the highest order. The secretary discharges the responsibilities for which he or she has authority, and is a creative, responsible individual capable of making many decisions.

More recently, in response to requests from companies for a prototype secretarial job description, in cooperation with executives and personnel managers from small, medium, and large firms in both the private and public sectors, the following was developed:

A secretary relieves executive of various administrative details; coordinates and maintains effective office procedures and efficient work flows; implements policies and procedures set by employer; establishes and maintains harmonious working relationships with superiors, co-workers, subordinates, customers or clients, and suppliers.

Schedules appointments and maintains calendar. Receives and assists visitors and telephone callers and refers them to executive or other appropriate person as circumstances warrant. Arranges business itineraries and coordinates executive's travel requirements.

Takes action authorized during executive's absence and uses initiative and judgment to see that matters requiring attention are referred to delegated authority or handled in a manner so as to minimize effect of employer's absence.

Takes manual shorthand and transcribes from it or transcribes from machine dictation, types material from longhand or rough copy.

Sorts, reads, and annotates incoming mail and documents and attaches appropriate file to facilitate necessary action; determines routing, signatures required, and maintains follow-up. Composes correspondence and reports for own or executive's signature. Prepares communication outlined by executive in oral or written directions.

Researches and abstracts information and supporting data in preparation for meetings, work projects, and reports. Correlates and edits materials submitted by others and organizes material which may be presented to executive in draft format.
  • Maintains filing and records management systems and other office flow procedures.

  • Makes arrangements for and coordinates conferences and meetings. May serve as recorder of minutes with responsibility for transcription and distribution to participants.

  • May supervise or hire other employees; select and/or make recommendations for purchase of supplies and equipment; maintain budget and expense account records, financial records, and confidential files.

  • Maintains up-to-date procedures manual for the specific duties handled on the job, and

  • Performs other duties as assigned or as judgment or necessity dictates.

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