Secretaries are responsible for coordinating an office's administrative activities. At its core, this job ensures that an office runs smoothly. There are a wide variety of clerical and administrative duties that secretaries need to accomplish in order to make this happen. They schedule appointments, draft correspondence, provide information to outsiders, handle office inventory, and create and maintain files in either hard-copy or electronic form.
Some secretaries perform highly specialized work requiring special knowledge and skills. For example, executive secretaries and administrative assistants work for high-ranking executives within an organization and provide senior-level administrative and clerical support. These professionals may also manage the scheduling for a top executive or senior manager, thereby becoming a most trusted aide.
Secretary education requirements, which can vary widely, depend on the specific job. Education for this profession can be obtained through business programs offered by high schools, junior colleges, community colleges, and postsecondary schools. Some schools have work-study programs in which students can work in clerical jobs while still in school. Students can also seek out summer employment in the clerical field. Helpful courses to take while in school include business software, business math, computers, word processing, and office practices. The following schools offer administrative assistant training programs that lead to certificates or associate degrees:
- Penn Foster Career Schools - This online school provides an administrative assistant career diploma program that can prepare students to become an administrative assistant in as little as five months.
- Indiana Wesleyan University - This evangelical Christian university offers an online Associate of Science in business that can prepare students to support the daily operations of a business.
- Baker College Online - This fully online school offers an Associate of Science in business that combines classroom instruction with real-world experience.
- Colorado Technical University - This university offers an online Associate of Science in business administration with a focus on communications and decision-making skills in the workforce.
Secretary Education Requirements
The minimum formal training required in this field is a high school diploma. Individuals with this level of education must also learn basic office skills in order to secure an entry-level position. Secretary education requirements that go beyond the diploma level may be completed through one- and two-year office administration training programs generally offered by community colleges and vocational schools. Temporary placement agencies are also known to offer secretary training in office and computer skills.
Specialized secretaries typically require a higher level of education. Most medical and legal secretaries are required to enroll in specialized training programs that impart industry-related knowledge. Employers of executive secretaries are increasingly inclined to seek candidates with a college degree. A degree which is related to the business or industry in which a candidate seeks employment can provide the applicant with a distinct advantage in the job market.
Once on the job, most secretaries will learn more advanced skills over time. This may come in the form of instruction by other colleagues, software or equipment vendors, instructor-led classes, or online courses. As technologies and office automation continue to evolve, continuing education will remain a critical element in the role of a secretary.
Administrative Assistant Training Programs
In recent years, with the reliance on office technology expanding at a rapid pace, the secretary's role has evolved to the point where secretaries now assume responsibilities once reserved for managerial and professional staff. For example, many secretaries now conduct research on the Internet, operate and troubleshoot new office technologies, and provide training to new staff members.
All these responsibilities require well-developed word processing, writing and communication skills. Most administrative assistant training programs will help students sharpen these skills.
If you are seeking formal secretarial training, you have several options:
- Associate Degree: Some vocational schools and community colleges offer one- to two-year training programs in office administration and secretarial duties. These are beneficial for developing basic office skills and improving your chances of employment at entry-level positions. Associate degrees in business related fields are also helpful for learning the fundamentals of running a successful business.
- Bachelor's Degree: Executive secretaries and higher-level administrative positions will sometimes require a college degree, preferably in a business discipline or in a field related to the company's business.
- Specialized Training: Those seeking employment in specialized fields, such as medical and legal, may be required to attend administrative assistant training programs specific to that field.
After completing your training and landing yourself a job, make sure to stay informed on new office and organizational technologies.
Secretary Certification and Licensing
Industry-recognized certifications are available through organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS), and Legal Secretaries International.
Certifications are awarded at different proficiency levels, and more advanced varieties can be earned as secretaries advance and gain experience in their careers. Some of the more prominent designations include the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) certifications, which can be earned by establishing a certain experience or educational threshold level and by passing an examination. Legal secretaries with one year of experience in the legal field can acquire the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) designation through a testing process administered by NALS.
Resources for Secretaries
- International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP)
- Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals (AEAP)
- National Association of Legal Secretaries, Inc., (NALS)
- Desk Demon
- Legal Secretaries International Inc.
- National Association of Legal Secretaries, Inc.
- Legal Secretaries International, Inc.
- American Management Association
- Association of Professional Office Managers
- Baker College Online, http://www.baker.edu/baker-online/programs-degrees/interests/business/
- Colorado Technical University, http://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/associate/business
- Indiana Wesleyan University, https://www.indwes.edu/adult-graduate/as-business/
- Penn Foster Career Schools, http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/administrative-assistant/administrative-assistant-career-diploma
- Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm