Certified Professional Assistant: Education Requirements & Career Info

Sep 10, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a certified professional assistant. Get a quick view of the career outlook and other types of designations as well as details about training, job duties and certification requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

A certified professional assistant provides general support to an office or they may be assigned to support one or more individuals. They provide typical secretarial duties including filing, record keeping, and appointment setting. Some, like legal assistants, provide industry specific types of support that may include higher level tasks specific to the work of that industry.

Essential Information

A certified professional assistant typically works in an office, supporting the efforts of other staff members, keeping records, contacting clients and setting up appointments. There are many certifications available for professional assistants from a variety of organizations. Most do not require any specific education, though employers are more likely to hire those with a college education.

Required Education Variable; post-secondary computer and office skills classes or programs OR formal training through temporary placement agencies OR a bachelor's degree for some executive secretarial positions
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% decline for all secretaries and administrative assistants
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $36,630 for all secretaries and administrative assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certified Professional Assistant Job Description

A certified professional assistant is responsible for maintaining order in an office through clerical tasks, such as organizing company files, making necessary phone calls and providing support in various ways to other staff members. Depending on the industry and the size of the office, as well as experience and title, assistants carry out daily functions ranging from producing and maintaining all essential documents and records, both paper and electronic, to contacting clients and assisting other office personnel when required.

As a certified professional assistant's duties typically include one-person activities, such as reviewing memos and arranging meetings, individuals in this field are expected to work independently. Assistants in more specialized fields may perform less clerical tasks and spend more time on industry-specific duties. For example, those in legal support may handle complaints, subpoenas and other types of documents or perform legal research.

Education and Certification Requirements

While employers may prefer candidates with some kind of post-secondary education, a college degree is not always necessary to enter the field. However, professional assistants must have excellent interpersonal, reading and writing skills and be comfortable handling finances.

There are many certifications available for professional assistants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of these include the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) awards, available through the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). These can be earned by meeting the organization's experience or educational requirements and passing an examination.

The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) awards an Accredited Legal Secretary and a Professional Legal Secretary certification. The Certified Legal Secretary Specialist certification is available from Legal Secretaries International. The International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) also offers certifications, including the Real Estate Virtual Assistant, Ethics Checked Virtual Assistant and Certified Virtual Assistant.

Certified professional assistants do not require secondary education, though many employers prefer a college degree. Profession assistants can chose from many certification options including the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) awards, available through the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). Industry specific certification is also available including those for legal, virtual, and real estate.

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