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Personal Assistant Certification and Diploma Programs

A personal assistant, also known as an executive assistant or administrative assistant, facilitates the day-to-day operations of an employer. Though formal education is not always required, certificate and associate's degree programs in personal or administrative assisting are offered.

Essential Information

Personal assistants (PAs) can gain skills in prioritizing, scheduling and coordinating through work experience and various training programs. Certificate programs that take approximately one year to two-year associate's degree programs provide basic information and foundational skill sets to gain efficiency and a competitive edge in this position. Both programs cover business software applications, office administration and general business topics.

  • Program Levels: Certificate; associate's degree
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma
  • Program Lengths: One year for certificate; two years for associate's degree

Certificate of Proficiency-Virtual Assistant

A certificate of proficiency -personal assistant program prepares an individual to act as a personal assistant. In this capacity, PAs are often considered independent contractors. Another type of assisting covered in this certificate includes virtual assistants, who provide creative and technical aid and support to clients entirely via the Internet, in what is known as a virtual environment. Most often, they work from home offices. Strong writing and communicating skills are important when completing coursework in this program, in addition to computer proficiency. Coursework concentrates on developing and adapting those talents to office administration tasks. Possible courses include:

  • Business management
  • Business ethics
  • Marketing
  • PowerPoint and Excel applications for business
  • Business use of the Internet
  • How to create a virtual office

Associate of Applied Science in Administrative Support Technology

Associate's degree programs in administrative support fulfill the demand for individuals who can perform office duties competently and without direct supervision. In the administrative support technology program, individuals take courses that survey and define the duties of administrative or personal assistants. Students also take general education courses like composition, mathematics and physical education as part of the degree program. Subject-specific credits can often be transferred toward bachelor's degree. Courses studies in this program may include:

  • Editing and proofreading
  • Accounting
  • Technical writing
  • Macroeconomics
  • Office technology
  • Business law

Associate of Arts in Administrative Assisting

This associate's degree program prepares students for upper-level administrative support or office management. This program consists of core administrative credits, along with general education requirements. The focus of this program is on the development of advanced skills in communication, organizational management and the effective use of computer technologies. In this program, students are exposed to a variety of tasks, all of which contribute to the accomplishment of goals. Emphasizing sound business ethics, students learn that teamwork in an office situation is vitally important to the successful completion of a project. Courses that students take include:

  • Management functions
  • Business procedures
  • Presentations
  • Office technology
  • Accounting
  • Database management

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places administrative assistants and executive secretaries in one category. Although job opportunities will fluctuate because of the varied nature of the profession, employment for these occupations was projected to increase at about 12% during the period of 2012-2022. As of May 2014, the BLS determined the mean annual salary for secretaries and administrative assistants to be $34,500, while the mean annual salary for executive salaries was $53,590.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Although the education received through a certificate, associate's or even a bachelor's degree program in a related area like business administration can advance an individual's career as a personal assistant, certification signifies competence, seriousness and professionalism. After the completion of training at a college or technical school, graduates may be qualified to sit for a certification examination that is administered by an independent agency. The International Association of Administrative Professionals offers several different certifications, such as Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) or Certified Administration Professional (CAP). The International Virtual Assistants Association offers the designation, Certified Virtual Assistant (CVA).

A personal assistant may take additional training to specialize as a medical or legal PA. Those with legal training may go on to become paralegals. Additionally, a PA who is interested in becoming an executive secretary can earn a bachelor's degree in the field in which they wish to work.

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