Students enrolled in an office administration program learn to use computer applications and office machines and develop interpersonal skills applicable to an office setting. Certificate programs consist of a year or less of study. These programs cover a variety of office technology skills, or students specialize in a particular area, such as office support, medical office, legal office, desktop publishing, or data entry.
Diploma programs take about a year to complete. The coursework builds on what is offered in a certificate program and covers spreadsheets, computerized accounting systems, and customer services. Students also take business courses, such as business writing, business math, and business communications.
An associate degree program requires two years of study and includes general education courses in addition to office administration courses. Medical record keeping, office management, and databases are among course offerings. Credits from certificate and diploma programs may transfer to associate degree study. Graduation from some programs qualifies individuals to apply for certification from a professional organization or software developer, such as Microsoft. Applicants to all programs will need a high school education.
Certificate in Office Systems Technology
Depending on the focus of the certificate, program requirements can include from 15 to 36 semester credit hours. Certificate coursework is sometimes part of the coursework for an associate degree. Other times it is a stand-alone program. Because certificates are specialized, coursework is different for each. Some example courses include:
- Integrating business software programs
- Managing records and information
- Office procedures
- Touch keyboarding
- Word processing
Diploma in Office Systems Technology
Program requirements for office system technology diplomas range from 33-58 semester hours. Diploma program coursework builds on courses required for a certificate. Other courses include:
- Accounting and business fundamentals
- Business communication and math
- Business writing and English
- Computerized accounting systems and touch method for calculators
- Customer service
- Office systems, skills, and spreadsheets
Associate Degree in Office Systems Technology
Associate degrees in office systems technology include general education core courses and beginning and advanced OST courses. Degree programs include courses taught in diploma programs. Additional coursework includes:
- Advanced formatting and text entry
- Basics of Economics and managing an office
- Medical records and databases
- Desktop publishing, proofreading, and editing
- Ergonomics and using office equipment
- Expert research and reporting
There are a variety of career options for the office systems technologist that may be found in many kinds of offices. Beginning careers include:
- Data entry clerk
- General office clerk
- Specialist in information processing
- Word processor operator
Employment Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), secretaries and administrative assistants (a category that pertains to office system technology) together form one of the largest occupational groups in the country. They work in every type of business and organization. Employment for this group as a whole was expected to increase by 3% from 2014 to 2024.
However, job prospects vary by type of field in which these professionals work, such as legal, medical, or executive specialties. Secretaries and administrative assistants, excluding those specialty-area workers, earned an annual median salary of $33,910 in 2015, according to the BLS.
Some associate programs prepare students to sit for certification exams. Possible exams include two from the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS), and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). Eligibility for certification requires varying amounts of relevant experience, depending on which degree an individual holds. No certificate or degree is necessary for candidates who have at least four years of experience.
Both the CPS and CAP certifications must be renewed every five years. Recertification requirements are 60 points, of which at least 30 must be continuing education hours. Other certifications or leadership work are options for the remaining 30 points.
Students in Microsoft Office programs may qualify to test for special certifications from Microsoft. The Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certifications do not need to be renewed because they are in programs that basically do not change, such as Microsoft Office 2007 or Microsoft Office 2010. Two higher levels of certification are available for some software.
Graduates of associate degree programs in office systems technology might consider earning a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree. Additionally, bachelor's degree programs in accounting, information systems technology, or business management may be useful for those who wish to specialize in these office systems-related areas.
Office systems technology training programs are available as certificates, diplomas, and associate's degrees, teaching different office administration techniques used in general or specialized settings, such as medical or law offices. Graduates are able to earn numerous types of professional certification depending on their level of education and potential specializations, and associate's degree holders can use their experience to transfer into a bachelor's degree program.