Corporations expect a minimum of a high school diploma for applicants to administrative assistant fields, but many prefer applicants to have an associate or bachelor's degree. However, work experience may substitute for educational credentials. Practical skills required include the operation of standard office equipment, proficiency in computer applications and excellent communication skills. Some positions will require a minimum typing speed.
Administrative Assistant Certificate
Both short-term certificates and longer 1-year programs are available for aspiring administrative assistants. Graduates are prepared for entry-level clerical positions, which may lead to higher-level support positions. Course topics include:
- Standard office procedures
- Word processing
- Database management
- Customer service interpersonal relations
- Reports preparation
- Basic accounting
Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Administrative Technology
In addition to the core clerical skills emphasized in a certificate program, students complete general education coursework. Most programs may be completed in two years. Students develop organizational, communication, and research skills. Specific skills taught include Microsoft Office applications, business writing and mathematics, and communications. An internship may be included as a program requirement. Some course topics in these programs might include:
- Principles of accounting
- Business mathematics
- Desktop publishing
- Business communication
- Office systems management
- Microcomputer spreadsheets
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants make a mean annual wage of $55,460 as of May 2015. The employment for secretaries and administrative assistants from 2014-2024 is expected to grow 3%, according to the BLS.
Licensure or certification isn't required to work as an executive assistant, but additional credentials are available for those seeking additional professional recognition. The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) is a professional organization that offers two paths for administrative support personnel. A combination of work and educational experience is required for the CPS credential. Additionally, applicants must pass a 3-part examination focusing on office technology and systems, administration and management. The next step of certification after the CPS, a Certified Administrative Professional candidate must complete an additional test section on advanced organizational management. Several years of work and education experience is required to be eligible.
Numerous workshops, seminars and conventions are available at the national and regional level. Topics include office management techniques and skills and leadership building workshops. Focused groups are also available at the local level that may help develop specific skill like business writing and reports creation. Online opportunities are also available to develop skills. Many online and local courses provide executive assistants the opportunity to advance their skills in the field. Topics may include skills in presentations, human resources policies and time management. Experienced support personnel may receive credit for work experience that could apply to an associate or bachelor's degree program.
Executive assistant certificate and associate's degree programs teach students the skills needed to thrive in an office environment. These programs open the door for career advancement past what most unskilled assistants could find for themselves, as well as allowing for licensure and certification opportunities.