Personal assistants (PAs) can gain skills in prioritizing, scheduling and coordinating through work experience and various training programs. Certificate programs and 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.
Certificate of Proficiency-Personal 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, and 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
- 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
- Technical writing
- 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. Emphasizing sound business ethics, students also 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
- Office technology
- 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 3% during the period of 2014-2024. As of May 2015, the BLS determined the mean annual salary for secretaries and administrative assistants to be $35,200, while the mean annual salary for executive assistants was $55,460.
Continuing Education 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.
In order to become a personal assistant, students can complete a certificate of proficiency for a personal assistant program, an associate's in administrative support technology, or an associate's in administrative assisting program. With these degrees, students can advance in their career by adding in a degree program in a related field to widen their opportunities.