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The first person people see and meet when entering an office is the receptionist. They greet people entering an office or calling on the telephone, answer questions, offer beverages, direct visitors to the appropriate people or services and transfer callers on a switchboard to the proper extensions.

Depending on where the receptionist works, the work load and responsibilities will vary. For example, in hospitals, receptionists may also book appointments, obtain information from patients, direct people to the appropriate treatment areas, and keep admission records. However, receptionists working in huge companies may only be required to answer phones, operate a switchboard and greet clients that enter the building. The clerical duties will vary from one organization to the next. Some receptionists will screen phone calls, pass on telephone messages, schedule appointments, distribute mail and even provide visitors with identification tags.

Email communication has changed the traditional process of communication therefore fewer phone calls are made and meetings can now take place online. This is why the number of receptionist jobs in the future are declining.
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  Average Earnings  
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Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Receptionist must possess good verbal and written communication skills, good listening skills, a friendly, outgoing personality and smile and the ability to keep calm when it gets busy or callers are persistent or rude. They should also have computer experience and knowledge of general office procedures, tact and exceptional telephone etiquette, and a genuine interest in people.

Multi-tasking is an important quality as receptionist often must do a few things at once. For instance, they can be on the phone, dealing with a client in person and the other lines are ringing. Since receptionists are the first person that people see when they come in, they must maintain a neat appearance in order to give a good impression.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Answer, screen and forward telephone calls
  • Take messages and provide information
  • Schedule appointments
  • Maintain a current record of staff members' whereabouts
  • Accept messenger and courier deliveries
  • Perform other clerical duties such as word processing, compiling and recording data, maintaining files and inventories, operating office equipment, sorting mail, stuffing envelopes or proofreading
  • Receptionists usually work in pleasant, well-lit, comfortable lobbies or reception areas. Most work regular office hours, but those in hospitals and other establishments open for extended hours may have to work some evenings and weekends. Working with people and answering telephones can be hectic and stressful. Many receptionist work part-time or for temp agencies, in which case, they may be called at any time to fill in for receptionists on holiday, maternity or sick leave.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Receptionists work in both the public and private sectors, for banks, universities and colleges, law firms, government departments, medical and dental offices, veterinary offices, hospitals, real estate and insurance offices, small and large businesses and food delivery companies. Any business that requires someone to answer phone calls and greet customers requires a receptionist.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Receptionists with experience have been known to move up into administrative positions, such as a data entry clerk, with more responsibility. Once they have proved they are organized, they could even become executive assistants and office managers.

  Educational Paths  
The educational requirements for receptionist positions vary a great deal from one employer to another. Employers prefer to hire job candidates who have at least a high school diploma, plus related training or experience dealing with the public in a similar position. Receptionist-clerk certificate programs are offered at many community colleges across the country.

Human resources hiring teams look for specific personal qualities in potential receptionists including a polite, friendly and courteous nature, the ability to stay calm under pressure, a neat personal appearance and good organizational skills.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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