In order to qualify for employment as a secretary, interested candidates must have a high school diploma or GED. Most employers prefer to hire secretaries with some college education, and larger firms may prefer someone with a college degree. Unless they're pursuing an entry-level opportunity, candidates for secretary positions are required to have secretarial experience. Legal and medical secretaries are required to have experience in law firms and health care offices, respectively.
Additionally, they should have typing skills of 40-60 words per minute and be knowledgeable in office applications. Bilingual skills in English and Spanish are preferred or required for many positions. Certificate programs are common career entry tracks for secretaries, and most last for a year. Some employers prefer secretaries who have a 2-year degree. Although less common, legal secretaries for larger firms may need as high as a bachelor's degree.
Secretarial Science Certificate
Secretary certificate programs are available in general, legal and medical office secretary science. Students learn skills in office procedures, typing, computer applications, grammar and punctuation, and office relations. Medical office secretaries study transcription, medical vocabulary and health care information management. Legal secretaries also study legal terms, legal ethics and legal record keeping. Some common coursework in a legal secretary certificate program might include:
- College composition
- Law office management
- Intro to legal technology
- Legal terminology and transcription
- Intro to the law and legal profession
Associate of Applied Science in Administrative Assistant Technology
At the 2-year degree level, students learn many of the same skills as those taught in a certificate program along with courses in bookkeeping, office management, public speaking and customer service. They also gain a strong liberal arts foundation in math, science and English composition. Some common courses in these programs might include:
- Principles of accounting
- Electronic form design
- Office administration
- Criminal justice constitutional law
- Medical transcription
- Healthcare terminology
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, the job outlook for secretaries and administrative assistants is expected to grow 3% from 2014-2024. This is as fast as the average compared to all other occupations. Administrative assistants and secretaries make a median annual wage of $33,910 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.
Licenses and Certifications
Secretaries are not required to possess licenses; however, voluntary certifications are offered through industry organizations, such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals (www.iaap-hq.org) and the National Association of Legal Secretaries (www.nals.org). In order to earn certification, applicants must pass 3- or 4-part exams. Available designations include the Certified Professional Secretary, the Accredited Legal Secretary or the Professional Legal Secretary.
Industry organizations sponsor various events for administrative professionals. Interested secretaries can participate in 1-day seminars or 2-4 day conferences usually held in one particular city. Organizational websites may also offer professional development webinars. When offices upgrade computer systems or applications, secretaries may need to attend college courses, office-sponsored training programs or participate in online tutorials to learn new computer skills. Additionally, secretaries who never attended college may decide to attend a community college or university to earn a specialized certificate or degree.
Those interested in secretary career training can take specified coursework for a number of different fields. Certification can make graduates more appealing to potential employers.