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Chartered or Company Secretary

Chartered or Company Secretary

Chartered or Company Secretary

Tell me about it
Despite the name, this is not secretarial work in the normally accepted sense. A chartered or company secretary plays a senior, central role in the administration and management of an organisation.  The work includes advising the directors/trustees of their legal obligations, administering finances, communicating with stakeholders, preparing agendas, taking minutes of meetings and maintaining the statutory records.  All of this requires a wide knowledge of the law, accounting and business organisation.

As a bridge between the management board, stakeholders and other organisations, the company secretary needs to be fully aware of every aspect of the organisation, including the nature of its business and its overall direction, the functions of employees and the current finances.

Depending on the size of the organisation, the chartered or company secretary may also be responsible for accounting and finance (including payroll, budget and internal audits), health and safety, property and general management.

Entry level
Most company secretaries have substantial business experience, and many have degrees or professional qualifications in business, law, accountancy or public administration.

To be the secretary of a public limited company, you must by law either qualify with the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA), or be an accountant, solicitor or barrister.

Making the grade
Some people start their career in a secretarial assistant role and study for the ICSA qualification at the same time, gaining valuable professional experience as well as earning an income and achieving a professional qualification.

The ICSA Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme (CSQS) comprises two levels, each with four modules. You may need to study all eight modules or, depending on your existing qualifications, you may be exempt from some. 

You can study for the CSQS via a variety of routes, including self-study, distance-learning, part-time, or full-time on a collaborative Masters course at a partner university.

Personal qualities
You would need to be good at administration as this is the core of the work. You would be co-ordinating departments and would therefore need to be good at prioritising and seeing the overall picture. Your management responsibilities would require you to be tactful and discreet. You would also be dealing with financial and legal matters, requiring you to be numerate and also able to work under pressure to comply with legal deadlines.

Minute-taking would require the ability to write clearly and accurately, while explaining technical matters to a non-expert audience would demand excellent speaking skills. This is a very responsible job demanding the highest standards of professional integrity. Looking ahead

As all public limited companies must by law have a company secretary, there is plenty of scope for career progression. You could work for a registered company in any industrial or commercial sector, or you could work in the public sector for a local authority, charity, university or NHS hospital trust.

With experience you could become a company's chief executive or managing director. Alternatively, you could choose to work freelance as a consultant or a part-time company secretary for several smaller businesses.

Alternative suggestions
You may also wish to consider becoming an accountant, barrister, civil servant, human resources officer or a solicitor.

Take-home pay
Salaries vary greatly depending on your job role and the type of organisation you work for. As a guide, the latest ICSA survey shows that a fully qualified Chartered Secretary working in the private sector earns anything between £55,000 and £180,000 on average, with top company secretaries for a FTSE 100 company earning up to £305,600 basic.

A company secretarial assistant earns on average between £28,000 and £42,000, with top roles offering £45,000 working in the private sector.

You could expect to work usual office hours unless there is a deadline to meet, which could mean working unsocial hours. There may be some evening meetings to attend. You would be expected to observe a strict code of personal and professional conduct.

Sources of information
Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators:





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