Executive assistants and secretaries are responsible for managing and organizing office activities and may need to assist executives with research, organizational tasks, and planning. While certified personal assistants do not officially require formal education beyond high school, associate's degrees and certifications can improve job prospects.
Certified personal assistants are responsible for a number of duties that ensure an executive is up to speed on the daily operations of a corporation or business. At one time, personal assistants or administrative assistants had no formal education beyond high school. Most of what they learned about the position was by completing a period of on-the-job training. However, today's executives and business owners prefer that applicants hold an associate's degree in an area closely related to office administration.
|Required Education||High school diploma required; associate's degree preferred|
|Other Requirements||Voluntary certification available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||3% for secretaries and administrative assistants*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$36,500 for secretaries and administrative assistants*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Education and Certification Requirements for Personal Assistants
Personal or administrative assistants may not need education beyond a high school diploma, but administrative assisting associate's degree programs can improve job prospects. Programs give students an education in general office technology or provide training in administrative assisting for a specific field. Certification is offered by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). The Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designation is awarded after the successful completion of an exam.
Associate of Applied Science in Administrative Office Technology
An associate's degree program in administrative office technology can be completed in two years and prepares graduates to work as personal assistants in many different areas. Some programs may even allow students to choose an area of concentration. For example, a student who wants to work for a law firm should choose a legal concentration, if available.
Some of these specialized legal courses cover areas such as law, ethics and legal transcription. However, the focus of an administrative office technology degree program is on building key skills in areas including keyboarding, accounting, document production, computer programs and records management. Elective courses allow students to build up knowledge in an area that is relevant to their professional interests.
Certification for established personal assistants can improve employment prospects and pay. The Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credential is awarded by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). Candidates must pass an exam that tests knowledge in areas of advanced organizational management, office technology, administrative management and office systems management.
The exam is divided into four parts. Candidates complete the first three parts on one day and the final part on a second day. Candidates must have at least four year of experience if they do not have a degree. Those who have an associate's degree in office technology need only three years of experience. Once the CAP credential is earned, it is valid for a period of five years.
Personal assistants may help executives by conducting research, managing databases, writing correspondence, answering phones and taking dictation. They may also be involved in planning meetings or conferences, purchasing supplies and working with vendors. In some instances, a certified personal assistant will train new office hires. A certified personal assistant in the legal industry works on specialized tasks, such as composing legal correspondence or participating in research. Most of these duties are completed under the supervision of a paralegal or an attorney.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), a 3% increase in the hiring of all types of administrative assistants is expected for the 2014-2024 period, while an increase of .5% is predicted for executive administrative assistants. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for secretaries and administrative assistants, including those who work in schools and businesses, was $36,500 in May 2015, while executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants earned a median salary of $53,370.
The best chances of employment are in the medical industry; medical assistants may see a 23% employment increase between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. The median pay for medical assistants was $30,590, as reported by the BLS in May 2015. Job growth for legal secretaries is predicted to increase by 1.5% from 2014 to 2024, the BLS reports the median salary for legal secretaries at $43,200 as of May 2015.
The administrative assistant and secretary job field is projected to grow over the next ten years. Acquiring degrees or certificates in this field will greatly improve a candidate's chances of suspects. Becoming certified by the International Association of Administration Professionals can also increase job prospects for any type of administrative assistant.