Administrative assistant in the Civil Service

An administrative assistant helps to provide administrative support to a specific branch of government.

The Civil Service is a unique organisation. Its function is to help the elected government develop its policies and carry out these policies. All employees are expected to uphold the values of the Civil Service. The Civil Service is committed to promoting and ensuring equality and valuing diversity.

Work Activities

Administrative assistants are to be found in all departments of the Civil Service. Typical activities include:

  • Answering the telephone, passing on calls and taking messages
  • Handling all queries, referring on when unable to resolve them
  • Keeping records in line with local procedures
  • Filing and archiving old records
  • Data input
  • Setting up spreadsheets
  • Typing documents
  • Opening incoming post and distributing post
  • Collecting and franking outgoing post
  • Keeping diaries and making appointments
  • Photocopying and scanning
  • Ordering stationery
  • Other duties as needed

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for administrative assistants

  • You must be organised and methodical in your approach to work
  • You must be accurate
  • You must be helpful and patient
  • You must have good communication skills
  • You must be discreet in your dealings with the public.

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of administrative assistants in the service

There is a wide variety of departments with offices across the country. Some are well known, like the Home Office and Ministry of Defence. Others may be less obvious, like the National Archives and the Ordnance Survey.

Jobs in some departments require a higher level of security clearance than others.

Jobs in some departments involve more contact with members of the public than others.

The Welsh language must be treated no less favourably than English in Wales and this has an impact on government services delivered in Wales.


Qualifications and training

Opportunities for training and promotion are excellent. All recruitment must be conducted on the basis of fair and open competition. All applicants should subscribe to the Civil Service Code of honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity.

There are several routes into the Civil Service.

  • 1. Advertisements for jobs.
    Jobs for administration assistants may require office experience or 2 GCSEs A*-C/grades 9-4

    In Scotland admin assistants will require 2 subjects at National 4 or 5 including English and usually Maths. Many applicants have more. An interview will be required and there may be entrance tests covering communication skills, teamwork and numeracy. You would also require PVG Disclosure Record from Disclosure Scotland for security purposes.

  • 2.Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeships.
    These schemes last 2 years.

    5 GCSEs A*-C/ 9-4, including English and Maths, are required for applications to the Business, Commercial or Finance streams. In Scotland 5 National 5s including English and Maths.

    2 A levels at grade C and above plus 5 GCSEs A*-C/9-4, including English and Maths, are required for the Digital and Technology stream. This equates to 2 Advanced Highers in Scotland at C or above and the 5 National 5s including English and Maths.

    2 A levels at grade D and above plus 5 GCSEs A*-C/9-4, including English and Maths, are required for the Project Delivery stream.

  • 3. Movement to Work scheme.
    The Civil Service takes part in this programme to give work experience to unemployed young people age 16-24.

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