Online Schools to Become a Secretary: How to Choose

For individuals who are seeking online secretarial programs, many colleges and vocational schools offer generalist and specialized options. To help you make the right education decision, we'll be taking a look at factors in selecting the right online program, the types of degrees offered, and some specific schools' programs.

How to Select an Online Secretarial School

Students interested in becoming a secretary can choose from online programs that prepare them for generalist administrative assistant or more specialized secretarial positions. These programs are available at select 2-year colleges and online schools. Students should consider the program level and potential prerequisites when choosing a school, along with class-scheduling flexibility.

Program Level and Focus

Associate degree and certificate programs are both available online that provide general administrative assistant education as well as training to become a legal or medical secretary. Generalist administrative assistant associate degree programs generally run two years, whereas a self-directed certificate course in the field might take only six months.


Some schools require completion of tests for admission, such as the ACCUPLACER test for reading, writing and mathematics. Other schools require prior knowledge of word processing and a typing speed minimum of 45-50 words per minute.

Class Flexibility

Online secretarial programs vary in terms of flexibility; some are self-paced, while others have specific hourly requirements over a given time period. Some require meetings with an advisor in person. Others allow the student to combine in-classroom instruction with online courses.

List of Online Secretarial Programs

Online Administrative Assistant Certificate

Classes in a generalist administrative assistant certificate program cover the technological as well as human resources aspects of the profession. Students may have the option of undertaking coursework completely online or combining distance learning with traditional classroom-based study. Some of the courses in this program include:

  • Business and professional writing
  • Travel and meeting planning
  • Project and office management
  • Filing techniques

Online Legal Secretary Certificate

Legal secretary certificate courses are provided online for both novice and experienced secretaries who want to improve their skills and obtain the background to work in a law office. Tests and memos are turned in through online courseware, and online bulletin boards are utilized for class discussions. Courses cover:

  • Legal terminology and transcription
  • Law office management
  • Advanced word processing
  • Legal document preparation

Online Associate Degree - Administrative Assistant

Writing, time management and computer skills are developed during an administrative assistant degree program. Students generally receive the course syllabus and course schedule online, as well as a professor's name and e-mail address. Online orientations, advisors and technical support are often available to help the student transition to the distance learning experience. Areas of study include:

  • Document processing
  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • Business professionalism and ethics
  • Voice-recognition software

Online Associate Degree - Medical Administrative Assistant

Medical secretary programs can be found completely online and are designed for those who already have office skills but desire a career change. Schools often offer free demo courses to students via their websites so that individuals may gain an understanding of how the online experience works prior to enrollment. Classes cover topics such as:

  • Exploring healthcare systems
  • Medical administration technology
  • Medical billing and insurance
  • Healthcare practice and professionalism

Schools with Online Secretarial Programs

At the certificate level, students could enroll in the medical administrative assistant certificate program offered by Rasmussen College. Students can complete this fully online program in as few as nine months. They will learn key skills in how to manage medical offices, process forms, and use various technologies to manage records. Another option is offered by Kaplan University to prepare students to become legal secretaries. This online legal secretary certificate requires students to complete 31 credits in classes like legal terminology and legal technology.

Bryant & Stratton College offers a medical administrative assistant associate degree which students can complete online while still being able to communicate with real professors. This program focuses on teaching students various medical coding, transcription, and records management skills. Students complete a capstone or internship as part of the program. The same school also offers an AAS Administrative Assistant program which is also offered entirely online. This program focuses more on general administrative assisting skills that could be used in a variety of industries.

Both certificate and associate degree programs are available online for students who want to learn how to become secretaries and administrative assistants. Students can narrow down the choices by deciding how long they want to study, whether they want to be a specific type of assistant, and the flexibility of the program.

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