Should I Become a Certified Office Assistant?
|Education Required||High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary coursework, associate, or bachelor's degree preferred by employers|
|Training and Experience||On-the-job training typically provided; 1-2 years experience for post entry-level positions|
|Key Skills||Verbal and written communication, interpersonal, organizational, decision-making and problem-solving skills; ability to use standard office equipment|
|Salary||$35,200 (2015 average salary for office and administrative assistants)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online Job Postings (August 2015), International Association of Administrative Professionals
Certified office assistants help businesses complete everyday clerical and administrative duties in an office setting. They also complete special projects, conduct research and enter data. Some of these professionals work remotely. Virtual office assistants work from home and often work for multiple employers on a part-time, contract basis.
The need to deal with the demanding customers or other employees may arise in this position. For that reason, the skill set for these assistants include strong verbal and written communication, interpersonal and problem solving skills. They must also have organizational and decision-making skills as well as the ability to use standard office equipment. Earnings generally depend on the industry in which you work but, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, certified office assistants and other administrative assistants earned an average yearly salary of $35,200, as of May 2015. Are you interested in entering this career? Let's take a look at the steps toward becoming a certified office assistant.
Step 1: Consider Postsecondary Training
A high school diploma or GED is the minimum educational requirement for office assistant positions. However, office assistants may have better job prospects with postsecondary training. Many vocational schools and community colleges offer office assistant certificates and administrative assistant associate's degrees. These programs may include programs in word processing, keyboarding, office systems, communications and office technology. Such postsecondary training may help qualify assistants for professional certification later in their careers. Keep in mind that employers in some industries prefer applicants with specialized training. So, you might want to gear your postsecondary training toward your desired industry. For example, aspiring legal office assistants may consider completing coursework in legal terminology, correspondence, documentation and software.
Step 2: Get Work Experience
With the proper skill set, you may start applying for office assistant positions. Common employers of office assistants include elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools, government agencies and hospitals. But these employees are necessary in all industries, from real estate and health care to politics and the arts. Once employed, office assistants generally receive on-the-job training, lasting a few weeks, though specialized positions, such as in legal or medical offices, may require months of training. Keep in mind that you may need to accumulate several years of experience before qualifying for certification.
Step 3: Obtain Certification
After working as an office assistant for some time, you can pursue certification to demonstrate expertise and commitment to excellence. A major certifying organization for these professionals is the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which offers the Certified Administrative Professional credential. This designation requires education, experience or a combination of both. The eligibility requirements include either four years of experience with no college degree or three years of experience with an associate's degree or two years of an experience with a bachelor's degree. Eligible office assistants must then sit for a certification exam, which tests knowledge in office procedures and practices as well as communications and human relations principles. The exam is offered twice per year, and there is a discounted examination fee for association members. Continuing education and recertification is required every five years to keep the CAP certification.
There are no strict requirements for a career as a certified office assistant, but certification generally requires a postsecondary education, office assistant experience or a combination of both.