The Difference Between a Secretary and an Office Manager

by Mary Jane; Updated September 26, 2017

A single business may have several positions to keep the operations going smoothly and keep employees happy. Two of these positions are secretaries and office managers and they differ greatly in responsibilities, scope, education and salary. While an office manager works closely with internal operations, secretaries serve both managers and the company, especially if the secretary takes on general receptionist duties.

Secretary Job Description

Secretaries perform two essential roles, providing support to office managers or executives and performing basic receptionist tasks. They answer phones, schedule meetings and appointments and write reports or documents on behalf of managers and executives, handle incoming and outgoing postal mail, and update software documents when required. The actual duties may change depending on the position in question, as legal secretaries may handle inquiries from legal clients and update patient folders in a medical setting.

Office Manager Job Description

An office manager is responsible for supervising and guiding employees in the office environment. Office managers know the goals of the business and the given department, so they must ensure that all of the work performed by employees meets business guidelines, goals and standards. Some managers delegate tasks, assignments and projects to employees working in a specific department. Office managers must also adhere to budgets set by the accounting department and meet scheduled deadlines.

Educational Requirements

A secretary often has a high school diploma. Additional training on the job is provided, so the secretary learns the internal operations of the business and gets to use the computer system during the training period. Legal and medical secretaries may require additional certification from the National Association of Legal Secretaries or the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Office managers often have post-secondary training in office management or administrative services or support. Post-secondary education may include a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree.

Salary Differences

Since office managers have an extensive educational background and manage other employees in an office, they receive a higher salary than secretaries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ published salary information. As of 2008, office managers and employee supervisors earned around $45,790 per year, while secretaries earned a median of $25,240 as of 2010. Top-paid secretaries earn $36,910 yearly, still falling well below the average for office managers.

About the Author

Based in Toronto, Mary Jane has been writing for online magazines and databases since 2002. Her articles have appeared on the Simon & Schuster website and she received an editor's choice award in 2009. She holds a Master of Arts in psychology of language use from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.