The Job and What's Involved

A receptionist is often the first point of contact people have with an organisation. Their main role is to welcome and assist members of the public, who could be customers, clients or visitors of the company, both in person and over the telephone.

A receptionist's role may involve:

  • Answering the switchboard or telephone.
  • Screening telephone calls and transferring callers to other members of staff.
  • Dealing with enquiries regarding basic information, such as company contact details and office locations.
  • Taking telephone messages for staff.
  • Meeting and greeting visitors, and directing them to their meeting or appointment.
  • Looking after visitors, including offering them a drink.
  • Ensuring that the visitors' book is kept up to date.
  • Issuing visitor/security passes and ensuring these are returned on departure.
  • Taking receipt of recorded post and courier deliveries.
  • Sorting incoming mail for distribution and outgoing mail for collection.
  • Dealing with email enquiries.
  • Arranging travel plans for staff and visitors, including booking taxis and train tickets.
  • Keeping staff updated with any company announcements.
  • Keeping the reception area tidy.
  • General administrative tasks.

Receptionists may also take responsibility for first aid, and health and safety.

To carry out their role successfully, receptionists are expected to develop an excellent knowledge of their organisation's structure and personnel.

In larger organisations, there may be more than one receptionist. In buildings that house more than one company, a receptionist may be responsible for supporting and dealing with a number of different organisations.

A receptionist usually works between 37 and 40 hours a week, from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Some organisations may require them to work a shift pattern to provide an extended service, covering evenings and weekends. There may be part-time and job share opportunities.

The role is office based. It may involve long periods of sitting and working at a desk. Smart-casual or business dress is usually expected.

Starting salaries may be between £10,000 and £12,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employment opportunities exist throughout the UK, with large organisations and small enterprises. Opportunities are found within a number of sectors, including retail, government, education, hotels, banking and media.

Temporary job opportunities are common and often lead to permanent job offers. A number of recruitment agencies specialise in office work.

Vacancies are advertised in the local press and Jobcentre Plus offices, and on internet job boards.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry requirements, although employers are likely to ask for five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths. Some office work experience may also be useful.

Various colleges and training bodies offer courses in reception work. Examination boards and local colleges can provide further details. An Apprenticeship in Business Administration is also available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is on the job, and is likely to cover areas such as:

- First impressions
- Telephone manners
- Developing listening skills
- Customer care

Employees may also be encouraged to attend training programmes to assist in their development. They may be able to work towards NVQ's/SVQ's in:

  • Reception at Levels 1 and 2
  • Business Administration at Levels 1 to 4
  • Customer Service at Levels 2 and 3

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A receptionist should:

  • Have strong interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Be friendly and confident.
  • Have good organisational skills.
  • Be able to prioritise their workload.
  • Be able to use their initiative when screening calls.
  • Be flexible and adaptable.
  • Be discreet and tactful.
  • Be patient.
  • Be presentable.
  • Be courteous but firm.
  • Be able to work well on their own and as part of a team.
  • Be computer literate.

Your Long Term Prospects

Prospects are generally good. Work as a receptionist is often regarded as a good way of breaking into a particular industry or field and, although there is no structured career path, the skills of a receptionist are transferable.

With experience, a receptionist may be promoted to senior receptionist and take on responsibility for managing a team of junior staff.

In smaller organisations, there may be limited opportunities for promotion, and it may be necessary to change employers in order to progress.

Many receptionists use the experience they have gained to move into other areas, such as administration, finance or human resources.

Get Further Information

Council for Administration (CfA), 6 Graphite Square, Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5EE
Tel: 020 7091 9620

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