How Can I Become an Executive Secretary?

Explore the career requirements for executive secretaries. Get the facts about education requirements, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Administrative Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Executive Secretary?

Executive secretaries provide administrative support to top executives in an organization. As an executive secretary, you may be required to conduct research and prepare reports and documents. You'll be required to have some computer skills to use word processing and spreadsheet software. Your duties may also include scheduling meetings and supervising other staff.

Learn about some of the skills needed to work as an executive secretary and see some of the career statistics in the chart below.

Education Required Postsecondary or vocational training typically preferred
Key Skills Organization, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, writing, computer literacy
Certification Optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) -6% (for all executive secretaries and administrative assistants)*
Median Salary (2015) $53,370 (for all executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Degree or Training Do I Need to Become an Executive Secretary?

Unlike entry-level secretarial or office assistant jobs, which are sometimes available to high school graduates, executive secretary positions go to higher-level employees who often have postsecondary or vocational training and experience. Some of the basic skills considered necessary for all secretaries include proficiency in communication, writing and word processing. You may also find employers are increasingly looking for candidates with knowledge of computer software, spreadsheets, desktop publishing and other computer-related skills. In order to become an executive secretary, you generally also need strong skills in project coordination, Internet research and interpersonal relations.

You can learn some of these skills, particularly typing and basic clerical skills, through a high school vocational program, but a job as an executive secretary is more likely to require a degree. You can earn associate's degrees and certificates for administrative professionals at a technical school, business college or community college. Some such programs are available online; for example, you can earn an administrative professional associate's degree online through an accredited college. To earn your associate's degree, you'll take a variety of courses in computer software applications, as well as courses in business concepts, communication, finance and psychology.

Although not necessarily required, a bachelor's degree in a field such as business administration might give you an edge in the job market or help you earn certification faster. In addition to completing a degree program or vocational training, you may need to gain certification or work experience to advance from a lower-level secretary position to an executive secretary position.

What Type of Certification Can I Get?

Several professional organizations, including the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), offer certification options for secretaries and administrative assistants. For example, IAAP currently offers two training programs that can help you earn your Microsoft Office certification or Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) certification. The Options Office Skills Training Program is a self-study program with 12 modules; you can become a CAP by successfully completing and submitting all the modules, passing an exam, and meeting educational and experience requirements. The higher your education, the less verified work experience you'll need in order to qualify to take the exam. The Options Technology Training program is designed to prepare you to take Microsoft certification exams.

In the past, the IAAP also offered a Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) designation, but as of November 2011, this designation was combined under the CAP designation to create a less complicated certification program. The CAP designation is now the standard certification going forward, but you can also earn a specialty rating in organizational management, called a CAP-OM, and more specialties may be added in the future. The IAAP website also provides many other resources for aspiring and current administrative professionals, including links to online associate's degree programs and more information about certification and re-certification.

What Job Duties Might I Have?

Although some companies still use the term 'executive secretary', others use the more modern term, 'executive assistant' to describe employees who take care of administrative services at a higher level. As an executive secretary, you might provide administrative support for an entire office or only one or two of an organization's top executives. Because this is a higher-level position, you typically spend less time on clerical tasks and more time managing information. For example, you might arrange meetings and conference calls, review reports and prepare agendas. Your job duties might also involve conducting research and supervising other office staff.

Within the executive level, several different levels of employment may be available, depending on the scale of the organization you work for. For example, the IAAP provides job descriptions for an executive assistant and senior executive assistant. Job duties are similar across both levels, but as a senior executive assistant, you support an organization's highest level of executive and may have more supervisory responsibilities. This position is more common in large corporations where many levels of executives may be employed, and it generally requires more work experience to attain.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other careers that require only a high school diploma, and possibly some postsecondary training include those of bookkeeping clerks and receptionists. Bookkeeping clerks produce and check financial records. Receptionists perform tasks such as scheduling appointments, greeting visitors and answering phone calls. Both of these careers require strong organizational skills and a good understanding of computers.

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