Secretary degree programs generally last two years. These programs provide training in general skills such as using office technology as well as handling scheduling, written and verbal communication, and records maintenance. Medical and legal secretarial programs include training in the particular terminology of those fields as well as in specialized areas such as preparing legal documents or filing health insurance claims. Graduates of these programs are prepared to take voluntary certifications available in the field.
Three different types of associate's degrees are available in the field: Administrative assistant, legal secretary, and medical administrative assistant. All programs require a high school diploma or equivalent in order to enroll, as well as typing skills and familiarity with computers. In addition, you might be able to find some offered online.
Associate in Applied Science in Administrative Assisting
An associate's degree program in administrative office technology or administrative assisting trains students in the use the latest information technology needed for working in the modern office. It also provides students with the training and tools to handle phone lines, e-mail correspondence, scheduling, and filing.
The coursework in a 2-year degree program in administrative assisting provides aspiring secretaries with the practical skill sets necessary to perform basic office duties. Some common courses might include:
- Word processing and spreadsheets
- Computer operating systems
- Business math
- Multimedia presentations
- Business communications, editing and proofreading
Associate in Applied Science - Legal Secretary Medical
Legal proceedings require voluminous amount of documentation that must be prepared according to prescribed standards in order to be considered valid. Legal secretaries require extensive knowledge of legal proceedings, terminology, and documents such as subpoenas, complaints, summonses, and motions; this knowledge can be gained from an associate degree program for legal secretaries.
Coursework in this secretarial associate degree program covers both general administrative duties and legal terminology. Some of the classes included in an associate's degree program for legal secretaries are listed below:
- Business correspondence
- Business and family law
- Civil litigation procedures
- Real property
- Estate planning & probate
Associate in Applied Science - Medical Administrative Assistant
The unique environment of healthcare requires specialized administrative skills in insurance, billing, medical ethics, patient privacy, and customer service. Medical administrative assistant programs have been designed to cover these topics while also providing basic administrative tools including computer skills, office equipment, and business communications.
In addition to covering basic administrative skills, courses found within a degree program for aspiring medical secretaries must also provide some background in medical terminology and the healthcare field. Classes include:
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Healthcare reimbursement
- Advanced billing
- Medical office systems and medical coding
- Document transcription
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), administrative assistants and secretaries held about 4 million jobs in 2014 (www.bls.gov). The employment of secretaries in general is expected to rise 3% between 2014 and 2024, which is slower than average. In May 2015, the median annual wage for secretaries was about $33,910, according to the BLS. Those administrative professionals who worked for the postal service earned the highest wages.
Legal secretaries held about 215,500 jobs in the United States in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of legal secretaries is expected to decline 4% from 2014-2024. The BLS also states that legal secretaries made an annual median salary of $43,200 in May 2015.
There were 527,600 medical secretaries employed in 2014, according to the BLS. Between 2014 and 2024, medical secretaries should see an employment growth higher than the average job growth rate, of about 21%. The annual median wage for medical secretaries in May 2015 was $33,040, as reported by the BLS.
While most employers do not require that their secretaries and administrative professionals earn certification, some do encourage the practice. Some organizations to offer voluntary certification services include the International Association of Administrative Professionals and the International Virtual Assistants Association.
Many legal secretaries choose to pursue paralegal degrees after their exposure to the law. Paralegal programs range from an associate to a bachelor's degree and can be completed in 2-4 years, depending upon legal experience. Paralegals assist attorneys with legal research and trial preparation, while legal secretaries perform administrative duties. Legal secretaries can also gain voluntary certification from organizations such as the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS).
An associate's degree in a secretary field teaches students how to effectively manage office technology and handle situations for a workplace superior. Though jobs are plentiful with only an associate's education, some students go on to earn certification or earn a paralegal bachelor's degree and accompanying certification to increase their options.