Certified Administrative Assistant Career Info and Requirements

Sep 10, 2019

A certified administrative assistant possesses professional certification, adding a valuable credential when seeking employment as a secretary or administrative assistant. Certification requires taking a certification exam as well as having a certain amount of secretarial experience. A college education is not mandatory but does reduce the number of years of experience required for certification, and is increasingly required by employers for executive secretary positions.

Essential Information

Certified administrative assistants, who may also be known as secretaries, virtual assistants and executive assistants, perform the critical functions that keep schools, businesses and organizations running smoothly. Some of these responsibilities may include using office equipment, sending e-mail messages, answering the phone, scheduling appointments and filing documents. While some assistants only need to take computer classes at a college, those in the legal and medical fields may need a certificate or associate's degree. To become certified administrative assistants, these professionals need to pass exams, which are offered for general, legal and medical administrative assistants.

Required Education Some computer training coursework or the completion of a certificate or associate's degree related to administrative assisting
Certification Certification in general, legal or medical administrative assisting
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% decline for all secretaries and administrative assistants
Median Salary (2018) $36,630 for general secretaries and administrative assistants; $59,340 for executive secretaries and administrative assistants; $46,360 for legal secretaries*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Info for Certified Administrative Assistants

Evolving technology has transformed the way modern offices operate, with most key administrative functions now computerized. In order to be efficient at their jobs, certified administrative assistants must have extensive office software experience, including desktop publishing, database and project management, word processing and spreadsheets.

Job Duties

Although duties may differ from one office to the next, major responsibilities of office assistants generally include filing and retrieving office information, scheduling meetings and appointments, managing office supplies, receiving and delivering information by e-mail, telephone and other means, making travel arrangements and handling office guests. Duties may also include the use of various office equipment, including computers, copiers, fax machines, scanners and audio-visual equipment.

Certified administrative assistants may also combine software skills, knowledge of office equipment and communication skills to create correspondence, reports, spreadsheets and other documents. Additionally, their duties and responsibilities may change to meet the needs of the office.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the occupational category of secretaries and administrative assistants, including certified administrative assistants, was among the largest in the country in 2018, representing almost 4 million jobs ( Job growth for this group was expected to decrease by 7% from 2018-2028. Job applicants who have thorough knowledge of computer software applications should have the best employment opportunities.

Salaries for executive secretaries and administrative assistants vary by type of employer. The BLS cited a median annual wage for these workers of $59,340 in May 2018. Legal secretaries had a slightly lower median annual wage of $46,360. The BLS also reported in May 2018 that secretaries and administrative assistants not in the legal, medical or executive category earned a median annual wage of $36,630.

Virtual assistants set their own rates and often billed hourly. In August 2019, reported a median wage of $37,984 for these assistants. Virtual assistants may also charge by the project or page, if they're working on a document.

Certified Administrative Assistant Requirements

Administrative assistants must have strong communication, technical and organizational skills to be successful. Tact, initiative and the ability to work independently are also highly valued by employers.

Education and Training

A career as a certified administrative assistant requires training above the high school level. Community colleges and business and technical schools offer the necessary computer training for office support staff. Certified administrative assistants who want to work in specific professions, particularly law and medicine, must have a profession-related technical vocabulary, which may be acquired through a certificate or associate's degree program.


Several professional organizations confer administrative assistant certificates, which may be earned by passing exams and meeting other criteria. The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers two professional certifications. An applicant can earn a Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) designation upon passing a 3-part exam covering office management and administration, office systems and technology. IAAP also confers the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP), an administrative assistant certificate that involves a 4-part exam that includes advanced organizational management topics.

The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) has three certifications for administrative assistants who work in legal services. The Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) is the basic certification. The NALS also offers the Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) and the Professional Paralegal (PP). Also, Legal Secretaries International offers a CLS, or Certified Legal Secretary, certification.

Administrative assistants who work in the medical field can earn the designation of Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association. And finally, virtual office workers can earn an administrative assistant certificate, the Certified Virtual Assistant (CVA), through the International Virtual Assistants Association.

A certified professional secretary needs to take an exam in order to be certified, but no additional training or education is required, although a certain number of years' experience working as a secretary may be required. Employers are increasingly requiring a bachelor's degree for executive secretary positions.

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