Secretary Certification Program Overviews

Those interested in entering the secretarial field might consider a certification program, where students are taught the communication and interpersonal skills needed to best perform their job duties. Students enrolled in secretary certificate programs or associate's degree programs learn the importance of effective communication and strong word processing skills.

Essential Information

Secretaries, or administrative assistants, often make companies' first impressions, because they are usually the first employees encountered when a client comes through the door or contacts a company by phone. Most educational programs for secretaries are at the certificate level, and students can find these certificates for general, legal and medical secretary positions.

Certificate programs focus on helping students develop basic skills, such as keyboarding and word processing, while also allowing them to establish an understanding of various business disciplines, including accounting and business law. There are secretarial programs devoted to training both medical and legal administrative professionals. Passing certification exams can allow someone to earn professional credentials in general secretary or legal secretary work.

  • Program Levels: Certificates, associate's degree
  • Prerequisites: Certificate programs require students to have a high school diploma or GED
  • Program Specializations: General, legal, or medical secretarial specializations are available through many programs

Secretary Certificate

Students in certificate programs develop skills in maintaining company records and managing office calendars. They learn to take dictation and transcribe documents. Most secretary certificate programs also stress confidentiality and ethical behavior. Secretarial program students should have a high school diploma or a general education diploma (GED). Individuals enrolled in secretary certificate programs take the following classes:

  • Business law for secretaries
  • Economics and money management
  • Office administration
  • Accounting for administrative assistants
  • Behavioral science for the professional secretary
  • Office technology for office professionals

Secretary Certification

Secretarial certification is obtained by taking the CPS (Certified Professional Secretary) or CAP (Certified Administrative Professional) exams. The International Association of Administrative Professionals ( offers these credentials. Both exams cover office technology, office systems, administration and management. The CAP exam adds advanced organizational management material.

Office work experience, full-time or part-time, is required of all candidates. Less work experience is required of candidates with associate's or bachelor's degrees. A certified secretary needs to renew the credential every five years by participating in educational programs.

Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) certificate programs are designed to train individuals already working in the secretarial field to earn CPS certification. This could help them advance to higher administrative assisting or managerial positions.

Legal Secretary Certificate

Legal secretary certificate programs are designed to train individuals to work in legal and judicial offices. Students learn to type and proofread legal documents and reports, help research legal briefs and motions, use the proper formatting techniques for legal documents and process legal fees. They're also taught to transcribe legal depositions, schedule witnesses and other appointments, record trial dates and maintain office calendars for attorneys. Students wishing to enroll in a legal secretary certificate program or associate's degree program should have a high school diploma or a GED. Legal secretary certification programs typically contain the following classes:

  • Structures of federal and state court systems
  • Preparation of briefs, motions, wills, orders and other legal documents
  • Court filing procedures for legal secretaries
  • Law office managerial duties
  • Legal ethics
  • Law office filing and document processing

Legal Secretary Certification

A secretarial certification exam with a legal focus is offered by NALS ... the association for legal professionals (which was formerly known as the National Association of Legal Secretaries). The 3-hour exam leads to the ALS credential: Accredited Legal Secretary. The exam evaluates candidates' knowledge of office record-keeping and scheduling, business communication, law office protocols and legal terminology. Applicants must have completed a legal secretary certificate or degree program. The 5-year initial ALS certification may be extended by one year with continuing education. NALS has the PLS certification, Professional Legal Secretary, for advanced workers.

Medical Secretary Certificate

Medical secretary certificate programs train students to maintain medical records, schedule appointments, transcribe medical documents and perform light bookkeeping duties. Prior to enrolling in a medical secretary certificate program or associate's degree program, individuals need to have graduated high school or earned a GED. Some programs may help a practiced secretary transfer his or her skills to the hospital, clinic or doctor's office. Medical secretary certificate programs often include the following classes:

  • Medical transcription and terminology
  • Word processing in medical offices
  • Financial accounting and bookkeeping procedures
  • Medical assisting techniques
  • Medical insurance and billing procedures
  • Effective communications for medical secretaries

Popular Career Options

Students who have completed a secretary certificate program may hold the following career titles:

Students who have completed a legal secretary certificate program will likely pursue the following career options. They must be supervised by a lawyer and cannot conduct law-related business on their own.

  • Legal secretary
  • Judicial assistant
  • Clerk's office administrative assistant

Students who earn a medical secretary certificate can work in hospitals, physicians' offices or clinics. They may choose one of the following career options:

  • Medical secretary
  • Hospital receptionist
  • Medical office manager

Continuing Education

After completing a legal secretary certification program, students may wish to pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. Paralegals do more work with legal research teams, conduct deed searches, prepare medical chronologies and help their employers get ready for trial.

Students who enjoy the medical aspects of the medical secretary certificate program and would like more patient contact may wish to enroll in a medical assistant or medical technician program. These clinical classes would let the student assist doctors and nurses in a more hands-on way, providing patient care.

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