Administrative Assistant: Overview of Career Education

Administrative assistant training is usually offered as certificate or associate's degree programs. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Administrative assistants work to ensure the efficient and effective operation of a company or organization, and they may only need a high school diploma to secure a position. However, some employers prefer to hire assistants with postsecondary education.

Essential Information

Administrative assistants assist in running the operations of a business or department. Most administrative assistants have completed one- or two-year programs in office administration; career education in this field can bring individuals many employment opportunities.

Career Titles Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Executive Secretary Medical Secretary
Education Requirements High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent; some employers prefer those with a bachelor's degree High school diploma or equivalent; medial terminology courses may be useful
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% -6% 21%
Median Salary (2015)* $33,910 $53,370 $33,040

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Educational Overview

Administrative assistants may be high school graduates who have received on-the-job training, although most have completed one-year or two-year programs in office administration. Administrative assistant training programs are usually offered at vocational, technical or community colleges. In addition to learning administrative duties, students also learn to work with office equipment, and various software and word processing programs.

Courses in the Field

Students learn to operate a variety of office machines, including copiers, printers, facsimiles, typewriters, calculators and telephones. Additionally, they learn business practices, and develop problem-solving and leadership skills. Administrative assistant programs may include courses, such as business law, intro to computer technology, keyboarding, bookkeeping, business applications, business math, databases and Microsoft Office applications.

Certification and Advancement

Developing proficiency in office skills is a major aspect for administrative assistants. Positions of advancement often come after experience on-the-job and by completion of continuing education or training. Although administrative assistants are typically not required to obtain certification, many organizations offer certifications for secretaries and administrative assistants.

Obtaining certification may require experience on-the-job and passing specific competency tests. Some organizations or certifications include International Association of Administrative Professionals, Certified Professional Secretary, Legal Secretaries International and Certified Virtual Assistant.

Career Information

Job Description

Administrative assistants provide various office support services. The level of responsibility and exact duties may vary greatly depending upon job title and place of employment. Some administrative assistants specialize in specific fields, such as medicine or law. Administrative assistants take care of the day-to-day operations of an office or business, while often performing clerical work and training new employees.

Economic and Salary Outlook

Employment of administrative assistants and secretaries was predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to grow 3% between 2014 and 2024. Medical secretaries would see a better-than-average growth of 21% during that time and employment of executive administrative assistants and executive secretaries was expected to decrease by 6%. In 2015, the median annual wage for executive administrative assistants and executive secretaries was $53,370, according to the BLS.

While a high school diploma or GED may suffice to land you a position as an administrative assistant, many of those working in this field complete one- to two-year office administration programs at community colleges or vocational schools. Employment opportunities for executive secretaries are expected to decrease during the 2014-2024 decade, while those for secretaries, administrative assistants, and medical secretaries are projected to increase.

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