How to become a secretary: Gemma's story

Are you interested in becoming an apprentice? Meet Gemma, 18, and find out more about her life as a team secretary at KPMG in London. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

"My organisation skills have developed a lot – I’m able to organise other people and myself."

How would your describe your job?

I'm doing an apprenticeship at KPMG. I'm a secretary for the audit team. An audit is a review of a company's finances by an independent organisation.

The main thing I do in my job is manage other people's time, for example by organising meetings and arranging travel. Arranging a meeting might sound easy, but there's lots of factors to consider. I have to find out what's important and prioritise that.

What skills do you use in your workplace?

Diary management and organisation are skills I use every day. My organisation skills have developed a lot in this job, as well as my confidence. KPMG is a large organisation and I have to be able to speak to lots of different people at all levels of the business.

Teamwork is another important skill because we understand that responsibilities are shared and we help each other when things are very busy.

I use English and grammar when writing emails and note-taking, and I have to take care to make sure things are clear, with no mistakes.

I'm on the computer all day so IT skills are also essential in this job.

Gemma is the only person she knew from school who didn't go on to do her A-levels.

Did you always know you wanted to do an apprenticeship?

I didn't. When I was doing my GCSEs, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next. I found this opportunity at KPMG by doing some research online. My dad actually drove me to my interview on the same day I did my last GCSE!

I was the only person I knew to think outside the box and do something different. It's been a great opportunity and has definitely shown me how large organisations work.

Top tips

  • Research is key. Research jobs that interest you and the different options available to you
  • Working in a large organisation can give you great experience of how businesses work
  • There might be ups and downs in your first job, but you can learn so much through the difficult periods.

What to expect if you want to be a secretary

Once Gemma has completed her apprenticeship, she's interested in looking at how her skills and experience might apply to other teams at KPMG. If she decided to continue in a secretarial role, she will carry on being responsible for administrative support.

  • Secretary salary: £14,000 to £25,000 per year
  • Secretary working hours: 37 to 39 hours per week
  • Typical entry requirements: An apprenticeship like Gemma’s is a common way to become a secretary. For an advanced apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), usually including English and Maths. You may find it useful to take a college course in administration or secretarial skills, such as Business Administration.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Gemma: school administrator
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