How to Become a Receptionist

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Although hiring requirements vary by industry and employer, receptionists typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and good communication skills.

Education

Receptionists typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, and employers may prefer to hire candidates who have experience with certain computer software. Proficiency in word processing and spreadsheet applications may be particularly helpful.

Training

Most receptionists receive short-term on-the-job training, usually lasting a few days up to a month. Training typically covers procedures for greeting visitors, answering the telephone, and using the computer.

Advancement

Receptionists may advance to other administrative occupations with more responsibilities, such as secretaries and administrative assistants.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Receptionists must speak and write clearly when providing information and corresponding with customers.

Computer skills. Receptionists should be adept at using computers.

Customer-service skills. Receptionists represent the organization, so they should be courteous, professional, and helpful to customers and the public.

Integrity. Receptionists may handle confidential data, especially in medical and legal offices. They must be trustworthy and protect clients’ privacy.

Interpersonal skills. Receptionists should be comfortable interacting with people in different types of situations.

Organizational skills. Receptionists take messages, schedule appointments, and maintain employee files. They need good organizational skills to manage their diverse responsibilities.

What Receptionists Do

Receptionists do administrative tasks, such as answering phones, greeting visitors, and providing general information about their organization.

Duties

Receptionists typically do the following:

  • Answer the telephone and take messages or forward calls
  • Schedule and confirm appointments and maintain calendars
  • Greet customers, clients, and other visitors
  • Check in visitors and direct or escort them to their destinations
  • Inform other employees of visitors’ arrivals or cancellations
  • Enter customer information into the organization’s database
  • Copy, file, and maintain paper or electronic documents
  • Handle incoming and outgoing correspondence

Receptionists are often the first employee of an organization to have contact with a customer or client. They are responsible for making a good first impression for the organization.

Receptionists’ specific responsibilities vary by employer. For example, receptionists in hospitals and doctors’ offices may collect patients’ personal information and direct patients to the waiting room. Some handle billing and insurance payments.

In large corporations and government offices, receptionists may have a security role. For example, they may control access to the organization by issuing visitor passes and escorting visitors to their destination.

Receptionists use telephones, computers, and other office equipment, such as shredders and printers.

Pay

The median hourly wage for receptionists was $14.45 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.16, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $20.86.

In May 2019, the median hourly wages for receptionists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Healthcare and social assistance$15.08
Professional, scientific, and technical services14.70
Administrative and support services14.49
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations13.38
Personal care services12.13

Most receptionists work full time. Receptionists who work in hospitals and nursing homes may work evenings and weekends.