What Is a Desk Receptionist? A Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what a desk receptionist position entails, the different types of desk receptionist jobs, the expected salaries, and more.

[Featured image] Desk receptionist sitting at a workstation.

To become a desk receptionist, you’ll need your high school diploma or GED; a college degree may often not be required. Many employers may prefer that you have prior experience working as a receptionist, customer service representative, or in another related administrative position. Employers may also have specific skill requirements to be considered for the role. Earning a certification in a specific area to learn these skills can improve your chances of being hired.

What is a desk receptionist?

A desk receptionist works at the front desk of an office, business, or medical practice. You would typically be the first person customers, or clients see as they enter the building or office. In addition to greeting customers and clients, you might handle phone calls, answer emails, and perform other administrative tasks. 

What does a desk receptionist do? Tasks and responsibilities

A desk receptionist’s job ​​description includes various administrative tasks.  Your

responsibilities as a desk receptionist will vary based on the type of company and industry that employs you. 

As a desk receptionist, you'll have many job duties to keep your work interesting. 

Typically, your duties and responsibilities will include: 

  • Greeting customers

  • Answering and transferring phone calls

  • Taking messages

  • Making copies

  • Responding to emails

  • Scheduling appointments

  • Accepting payments

  • Scanning paperwork

  • Entering customer or client data

  • Order gifts for coworkers

  • Organize small in-office parties and gatherings

You'll also be the first person employees see when arriving at work. This allows you to get to know fellow employees, which some employers may rely on. 

Desk receptionist salary and job outlook 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average desk receptionist's salary is about $29,950 a year [2]. In the decade spanning 2021 to 2031, the number of employed receptionists is expected not to change, with an expected 142,300 job openings each year [3]. Most of the projected job openings will be in the health care industry.

Desk receptionist qualifications

To succeed, desk receptionists need to be organized, highly motivated, and have good communication skills. To perform this job effectively, learn about the requirements to qualify.

Educational requirements 

Typically, a desk receptionist job requires a high school diploma or a GED. While you don’t need a college degree to work in this role, an estimated 28 percent of desk receptionists have bachelor’s degrees, and 22 percent have associate degrees [1]. Appropriate degree options for an aspiring desk receptionist include administrative studies, office management, communications, or business.

Professional certification

Though not always a requirement, earning a professional certification focusing on topics like doctor's office management, dental receptionist training, or special types of software can make you a more competitive candidate. You may also see a boost in income holding these optional certifications and more possibilities for career advancement. 

While there is no national certification board for desk receptionists, certification programs are available from different schools and organizations. A few examples of programs that may help you land a desk receptionist position include:

  • Certified Front Desk Representative (CFDR) Online Program from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI)

  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

  • Hotel Reception Certification from New Skills Academy

Key skills for desk receptionists 

As a desk receptionist, you'll ensure that day-to-day operations run smoothly. This requires a combination of workplace and technical skills. Workplace skills are used when interacting with others, and technical skills are needed to complete job tasks or operate certain job tools. Here are some examples of workplace skills and technical skills that might benefit you as a desk receptionist.  

Workplace skills 

Because a desk receptionist acts as the liaison between the company and the customer, it's important for you to have excellent communication skills. It's also helpful to be friendly, professional, and patient. Being able to stay calm under pressure might also be a valued asset as a desk receptionist. More workplace skills that can be useful include: 

Technical skills 

Working as a desk receptionist often requires using computers, phone systems, and photocopiers, making it essential to be comfortable with these tools and devices. Some familiarity with the following software may be helpful:

  • Microsoft Office

  • Google Docs

  • Calendar software

  • Experience with data entry 

Examples of desk receptionist jobs 

Different types of desk receptionists depend on the industry you work in and your company's specific needs. You could be a visitor-focused receptionist that mainly tends to the needs of customers or an office manager receptionist responsible for overseeing the administrative staff, physical office space, and company filing systems. More types of desk receptionists include:

  • Hotel receptionists: These desk receptionists work in hotel-type settings. Typical duties include greeting guests, managing reservations, attending to guest needs, and fielding any issues that may arise.

  • Medical receptionists: These desk receptionists work in health care settings. Typical duties include scheduling appointments, processing paperwork, and handling patient billing.

  • Administrative receptionists: These desk receptionists usually work in a business setting. Typical duties include maintaining the reception area, taking and fielding calls, performing data entry, and ordering office supplies.

Possible career paths 

Working as a front desk receptionist is an excellent entry-level job that provides many pathways for career advancement. Here are some possible career paths that you may transition into:

  • Office manager: This position will likely not require additional education requirements; instead, it may involve additional on-the-job training.

  • Human resources (HR) manager: Some duties as a desk receptionist may be similar to an HR manager, like payroll or onboarding new employees.  Before being considered for this role, your employer may prefer you earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, or HR management. 

Next steps 

Once you've completed the educational requirements for your desired position, you can take the next steps on your career path. To fine-tune your administrative skills, consider the wide selection of course offerings available on Coursera. 

Offered by Macquarie University out of Sydney, Australia, the Excel Skills for Business Specialization on Coursera includes four courses designed to take learners from beginners to advanced Excel users. To polish your resume, consider the Build a Professional Resume Using Canva course offered by the Coursera Project Network. Once you’ve refined your skills and perfected your resume, start applying for desk receptionist positions. 

Article sources


Zippia. "Receptionist Demographics and Statistics in the U S, https://www.zippia.com/receptionist-jobs/demographics/." Accessed November 8, 2022.

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