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Job Title:
Staff Assistant, IS-301-09; $67,743 – $88,065 per year*
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:


AREA OF CONSIDERATION:   This position is open to all eligible candidates.                                                       

*Salary range reflects CY2024 pay schedule effective January 14, 2023

Note:  First consideration may be made 14 days of the opening of this vacancy. This vacancy position is open until filled.

INTRODUCTION:  This position is that of Administrative Staff Assistant Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO).  SAO is part of a joint institution known as the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) in conjunction with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO). SAO is a diverse astrophysical institution at which more than 600 scientists are engaged in a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, and earth and space sciences. Within the broader Smithsonian mission, SAO scientists are dedicated to increasing knowledge about the physical processes that shape the natural world and to the diffusion of this knowledge to the scientific community, teachers and students, and the public. 

SAO is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. Its multiple programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch and use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriation or the form of contracts and grants from other agencies while Institution funds are made available to SAO in the form of grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities, and non-Federal contracts and grants. 

PURPOSE OF THE POSITIONThe purpose of the position is to provide administrative, office, and other technical support to the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and serve as a resource to other members of the Office of the Director, including the SAO Director, the Deputy Director, and other SAO members of the CfA Executive Management team and their staff in similar roles.  


  1. Reports to and performs tasks as directed by the COO to enhance the operations necessary to execute the mission and strategic vision of the CfA. 
  2. Provide day-to-day management of the COO’s schedule, adjusting and modifying it as needed in a timely and diplomatic fashion.     
  3. Manage all aspects of meetings logistics, including proactively working with the COO and other administrative staff on agenda-setting, creating, or acquiring data and content to inform meeting discussions and decisions, securing space, sending meeting reminders with pre-reading materials, as well as attending meetings to record, draft, and distribute minutes, as well as tracking deliverables. 
  4. Provides administrative and technical assistance on special projects, including, but not limited to, collecting data and information for consolidation and display in various formats, including presentations.  This may include conducting internal surveys, internet searches, or reviewing files and other available resources. 
  5. Prepares and submits various administrative documents, including but not limited to travel authorizations, purchase requisitions, and human resources/requests for personnel action.
  6. Monitors and processes documents that require COO approval and signatures.
  7. Works closely and harmoniously with other administrative staff within the DO, serving as a resource to the team to ensure efficient workflow, consistent with available resources, and completion of time-sensitive tasks. 
  8. Complies with all laws, regulations, and agency policies regarding treating and accepting all individuals.
  9. Other duties as assigned.


Experience: One year of specialized experience equivalent to the next lower grade level in the normal progression for this occupation that has equipped the candidate with the particular knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the duties of the position successfully.  The experience may include activities such as those described above.
Education: master's or equivalent graduate degree or two full years of progressively higher-level graduate education leading to a master's or equivalent degree related to the position may be substituted to meet the experience requirements.
Combination of Experience and Education: Education and experience may be combined to meet the basic qualifications.

Knowledge, Skills Abilities required:

  • Knowledge of general office and administrative practices to maintain accurate, up-to-date, comprehensive records and electronic files with the highest attention to detail.
  • Ability/experience managing a high volume of administrative workflow in a timely, expeditious manner.
  • Knowledge and skill in applying general principles and practices in travel, fiscal, contract, and procurement. 
  • Ability to effectively communicate orally and written and present the written materials in clear and convincing presentations with excellent knowledge of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and standard business correspondence format to ensure the accuracy of documents. 
  • Demonstrated knowledge of enterprise applications and desktop software, including spreadsheets, databases, project scheduling, workflow management, communication, and document preparation tools. Examples include but are not limited to MS Word, MS Excel, Google Suite applications, Smartsheet, Adobe Acrobat, and electronic communication systems. 
  • Knowledge of integrated financial and travel systems. Experience with ERP Financial systems such as Peoplesoft is desirable. 

APPLICATION PROCEDURE:  We are only accepting applications online for this position. To apply please submit your resume and cover letter detailing how you meet the requirements of the position at:

The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact the Human Resources Specialist listed. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Conditions of Employment

  • Successful completion of pre- and post-employment background investigation, as required.
  • May be required to serve a one-year probationary period.
  • Direct Deposit/Elect Funds Transfer required for salary payment.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.

Visit the SAO website at

The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We believe that a workforce comprising a variety of educational, cultural, and experiential backgrounds supports and enhances our daily work life and contributes to the richness of our exhibitions and programs. For more information on the Smithsonian EEO program please see


Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website