Receptionists perform administrative tasks, such as answering phones, receiving visitors, and providing general information about their organization to the public and customers.


Receptionists typically do the following:

  • Answer telephone calls and take messages or forward calls
  • Schedule and confirm appointments and maintain event calendars
  • Greet and welcome customers, clients, and other visitors
  • Check visitors in and direct or escort them to specific destinations
  • Inform other employees of visitors’ arrivals or cancellations
  • Enter customer data and send correspondence   
  • Copy, file, and maintain paper or electronic documents and records
  • Handle incoming and outgoing mail

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, which can affect the organization’s success.

The specific responsibilities of receptionists vary depending on where they work.

For example, receptionists in hospitals and doctors’ offices may gather patients’ personal information and direct patients to the waiting room. Some may handle billing and insurance payments.

In beauty or hair salons, they schedule appointments, direct clients to the hairstylist, and may serve as cashiers.

In factories, large corporations, and government offices, receptionists may also provide a security function. For example, they control access, provide visitor passes, and arrange to take visitors to the proper office.

When they are not busy with callers or visitors, receptionists perform other office tasks, such as processing documents or entering data.

Receptionists use telephones, computers, and other office equipment such as scanners and fax machines.

Work Environment

Receptionists held about 1 million jobs in 2012 and were employed in nearly every industry.

The industries that employed the most receptionists in 2012 were as follows:

Offices of physicians  19%
Offices of dentists  7
Offices of other health practitioners 5
Personal care services 5

Receptionists usually work in an area that is visible, such as a front desk of an office lobby or a waiting room, and easily accessible to the public and other employees.

The work that some receptionists do may be stressful, as they answer numerous phone calls and sometimes deal with difficult or irate callers.

Work Schedules

Although most receptionists work during regular business hours, about 1 in 3 worked part time in 2012. Some receptionists, including those who work in hospitals and nursing homes, may work evenings and weekends.

Education and Training

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


Receptionists typically need a high school diploma or its equivalent, and some employers may prefer to hire candidates who also possess basic computer skills. Courses in word processing and spreadsheet application at community colleges and vocational schools can be particularly helpful.


Most receptionists receive short-term on-the-job training, usually lasting a few days to a week. Training typically covers procedures for visitors and telephone and computer use. Medical and legal offices also may instruct new employees on privacy rules related to patient and client information.


Receptionists may advance to other administrative positions with more responsibilities, such as secretaries and administrative assistants. Advancement opportunities often depend on the employees’ computer skills, work habits, and work experience.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. The ability to communicate clearly is essential for receptionists because much of their job involves conveying information by phone or in person.

Customer-service skills. Receptionists represent an organization. As a result, they should be courteous, professional, and helpful toward the public and customers.

Integrity. In medical and legal offices, receptionists handle client and patient data. As a result, they must be trustworthy and protect the privacy of their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Good people skills are important because receptionists deal with the public. They should be comfortable when interacting with people, even in stressful situations.

Organizational skills. Because receptionists take messages, schedule appointments, and maintain employee files, they should have good organizational skills.


The median hourly wage for receptionists was $12.49 in May 2012. 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 $8.71 per hour, and the top 10 percent earned more than $18.16 per hour.

In May 2012, the median hourly wages for receptionists in the top four industries employing receptionists were as follows:

Offices of dentists  $14.67
Offices of physicians  13.09
Offices of other health practitioners 11.86
Personal care services 9.65

Although most receptionists work during regular business hours, about 1 in 3 worked part time in 2012. Some receptionists, including those who work in hospitals and nursing homes, may work evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of receptionists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment growth will result mainly from a growing healthcare industry. Specifically, offices of physicians and dentists are expected to add the most receptionist jobs as an aging population will demand more medical services. In addition, the number of individuals who have health insurance is expected to increase due to federal health insurance reform legislation, resulting in a greater need for office staff in healthcare facilities. Some receptionists’ tasks, such as checking patients in and coordinating patient care, are not easily automated.

Employment growth of receptionists in most other industries should be slower than the average for all occupations as organizations continue to automate or consolidate administrative functions, such as using computer software to interact with the public or customers. 

In addition, technology will continue to make organizations more productive with the use of automated phone systems, further reducing the need for receptionists.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects should be good, with the best job opportunities in the healthcare industry.

Many job openings will stem from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Those with related work experience and good computer skills should have the best job prospects.