Executive administrative assistants are responsible for clerical duties including greeting clients, scheduling appointments, managing correspondence and preparing reports. On-the-job experience and administrative training gained through certificate and degree programs allow candidates to develop the requisite office technology, computer application and customer services skills needed for this position.
Administrative assistant certificate programs provide basic foundational skill training in clerical duties, while associate's degree programs in business administrative technology provide training with more emphasis placed on business technology. A high school diploma or equivalent is required for most programs. Some online courses and programs are available.
Administrative Assistant Certificate
Administrative assistant certificate programs provide students with basic administrative knowledge and skills that, when further developed with additional education or on-the-job experience, can lead to advanced positions as executive secretaries. Certificate programs in the field typically take one year to complete, although some colleges may offer relevant short-term certificate programs through continuing education divisions. Certificate programs provide training in word processing and desktop publishing, as well as database and spreadsheet management. Courses also cover subjects including:
- Interpersonal relations
- Customer service
- Office procedures
- Accounting basics
Associate of Applied Science in Business Administrative Technology
Associate's degree programs in business administrative technology require about two years of study during which students develop organizational, communication and research skills. Some community colleges offer specializations tailored to prospective executive administrative assistants. In addition to completing training in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook, students are required to take some general education courses in subjects such as psychology or sociology. An office-based internship may be incorporated into the curriculum. Other common courses in the program address:
- Business mathematics
- Records management
- Business communications
- Office administration and skills
- Machine transcription
Many companies expect that executive secretary applicants possess at least 3-5 years of administrative experience with some administrative experience under an executive. Graduates of associate's degree programs may have gained some work experience through college internships, possibly comprised of both on-campus and off-site practical training in an office setting. Numerous entry-level administrative assistant positions are available to those with administrative assistant certificates. Individuals can build upon their training with on-the-job experience to eventually gain higher-level administrative assistant positions.
Licenses and Certifications
Neither a license nor certification is required to practice as an executive secretary. However, employers often look favorably upon any voluntary certifications earned. The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) administers two broadly applicable credentials:
Certified Professional Secretary (CPS)
Applicants for this certification must pass a 3-part examination focusing on office technology and systems, administration and management. Candidates without a degree must have at least four years of administrative experience, while applicants who hold an associate's or a bachelor's degree need two to three years of work experience.
Certified Administrative Professional (CAP)
Certified Administrative Professional candidates must pass a four-part exam covering the three subject areas included in the CPS test, as well as a section on advanced organizational management. Prerequisites for the CAP credential are the same as for the CSP designation.
Professional organizations in the field offer multi-day workshops and seminars for executive and administrative personnel covering topics such as management and leadership skills. Single-day seminars at satellite locations are also offered and address topics including business writing and minute taking. Additionally, online seminars, known as webinars, are available and focus on such issues as diversity and professional communication. Also available through professional administrative organizations are opportunities for continuing education, offered online or through self-study modules. Coursework may address time management, space planning, office professionalism, presentation skills and information management.
Those interested in formal executive secretary education can complete a certificate program, and associate's degrees are also available for further training in business technology. Graduates work in many different environments and can pursue certification if they choose.