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What Are the Requirements for a Career As an Administrative Assistant?

Nurturing a career as an administrative assistant usually demands more than common clerical skills. While the specific requirements for individual positions vary, this article provides a general idea of the education needed for a career as an administrative assistant.

Essential Information

Administrative assistants are largely responsible for managing the flow of information within an organization. They might be asked to answer telephones and send faxes or emails, schedule meetings, and maintain an office's filing system. Additional job duties can vary depending on an administrative assistant's work environment. Some additional responsibilities could include providing assistance with legal research, maintaining patient medical records and supervising other office staff.

Important Facts About Administrative Assistants

Work Environment Legal offices, schools, private corporations, government agencies, hospitals; some individuals also work from home
Similar Occupations Court reporter, accounting clerk, receptionist
Median Salary (2018) $38,880 (for secretaries and administrative assistants)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) -5% (for secretaries and administrative assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Basic Training for an Administrative Assistant

Good communication skills, both written and oral, are indispensable for even entry-level administrative assistant positions. A high school diploma or GED may indicate a sufficient level of competence in this area. In some cases, you can gain the necessary skills through high school coursework. Some temporary placement agencies may provide introductory training as well. Whatever the source, documentation of the following skills is useful:

  • Word processing
  • Desktop publishing
  • Spreadsheet production
  • Database management

Further Administrative Assistant Training

Certificate and Associate's Degree Programs

There are a number of ways to secure better computer skills and strengthen a grasp of general office procedures. Administrative assistant certificate programs are available from business schools and vocational-technical schools. Such certificates can often be earned in a year. Associate's degree programs are available from community colleges, business schools, and some four-year colleges and universities. These degrees, usually requiring two years to complete, can prepare you for the following administrative support careers:

  • Administrative assistant
  • Executive assistant
  • Office management specialist
  • Legal administrative assistant
  • Medical administrative assistant

Bachelor's Degrees

A few administrative assistant positions demand a four-year degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, administrative assistants who work one-on-one with executives may need a bachelor's degree. Sometimes a bachelor's degree may be earned while working.

Continuing Education for Administrative Assistants

Continuing education is necessary to sustain a career as an administrative assistant. As technology develops, administrative assistants can stay up-to-date through a combination of online coursework, vendor-provided training, and informal instruction by fellow staff. Professional skills may also be enhanced by earning certification. Examples of such certification include the following:

  • Certified Administrative Professional
  • Accredited Legal Professional
  • Professional Legal Secretary
  • Certified Legal Secretary Specialist
  • Certified Medical Assistant