Personal Assistant Certification and Diploma Programs

Aspiring personal assistant can complete certificate or associate's degree programs. Keep reading for information on admission requirements and common courses in these programs, and take a look at your career options following graduation. Explore ways to continue your education beyond an associate's degree program, and discover paths to professional certification.

Essential Information

A personal assistant (PA), also known as an executive assistant or administrative assistant, facilitates the day-to-day operations of an employer by prioritizing correspondence, scheduling activities, screening phone calls and running errands. Becoming a PA doesn't always require completion of formal education, but students who earn a relevant certificate or an associate's degree in personal assisting or administrative assisting may see better job prospects than those with only a high school diploma. Certificate programs may take roughly one year to complete, while associate's programs typically take two years of full-time study. Both programs cover business software applications, office administration and general business topics.


Certificate of Proficiency-Virtual Assistant

A certificate of proficiency - PA program prepares an individual to act as a personal assistant. In this capacity, they might very well work as independent contractors. Virtual assistants 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 their homes by way of a virtual office that they have created on their computers.

Program Coursework

Programs generally assume that the student already possesses strong written and communication skills as well as computer proficiency and knowledge. The 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

This 2-year, 4-semester program is intended to 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. Upon graduation, students could be prepared to pursue full-time employment.

Program Coursework

Students take general education courses like composition, mathematics and physical education. The program may allow students to transfer subject-specific credits toward a bachelor's degree and may prepare graduates to sit for certification exams. Courses may include:

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

Administrative Assistant - Associate in Arts

Geared toward preparing individuals for careers in upper-level administrative support or office management, this program consists of core credit requirements along with general education credits. The program focuses on the development of advanced skills in communication, organizational management and the effective use of computer technologies.

Program Coursework

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 may take include:

  • Electronic spreadsheets
  • Management functions
  • Business procedures
  • Web page creation
  • Presentations
  • Office technology
  • Accounting
  • Database management

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) 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 2010-2020. As of May 2012, the BLS determined the mean annual salary for secretaries and administrative assistants to be $33,560, while the mean annual salary for executive salaries was $50,220 in the same year.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Although the education received through a certificate, associate's or even a bachelor's degree program in an appropriate 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 should consider earning a bachelor's degree in the field in which they wish to work.

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