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Degrees and Schools
Most community colleges and vocational schools offer one- to two-year programs in office administration that award certificates, diplomas or associates degrees. Courses are frequently available through high schools and temporary placement agencies as well.
Office administration coursework usually involves a combination of classroom and lab practice. Areas of study typically include:
- computer and software skills
- typing and dictation
- operating office machines
- organization and filing systems
- human resources and ethics
Online Classes and Programs
There are many courses and degree programs for secretaries that are available through online learning. Credible online programs are part of institutions with accreditation from agencies approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or United States Department of Education (USDE)..
A high school diploma or equivalent, combined with basic office skills, is sufficient to qualify for most entry-level secretarial positions. Voluntary certification through professional organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals can provide career advantage, as can certification in specific software applications such as Microsoft Office Specialist.
How to Evaluate Schools
Consider the following when comparing secretarial or office administration degree programs:
- Career goals - Is the prospective student interested in a creative, technological, financial, legal or medical career? If so, a program that emphasizes these skills or provides focused training in these areas would be beneficial.
- Class size and experiential learning - Does the school offer internships or job placement assistance? Are opportunities substantial and varied? Are classes or labs crowded?
- Tuition and financial assistance - What kinds of financial assistance such as scholarships, grants or loans are available through the program or school?
- Graduate success - What is the program's track record for graduating students? How many graduates were assisted by the school in finding a job over the past several years?
Secretary Job Description
Secretaries coordinate the many administrative tasks needed to keep day-to-day business going smoothly. As they may provide support to any department in an organization, their responsibilities are some of the most varied within any company, government agency, legal office, school or hospital, including:
- answering phones and emails
- processing incoming and outgoing mail and packages
- planning and scheduling meetings
- arranging travel and catering
- managing paper and electronic file systems
- researching via the Internet and other channels
- creating and setting up presentations
- purchasing and negotiating with vendors
- maintaining or arranging for repairs of office equipment
- faxing, copying, scanning and transcribing
- solving minor software or computer problems
- publishing reports, memos, correspondence, newsletters, etc.
- updating websites and spreadsheets
- handling HR tasks like orienting new employees
Secretaries may work in any size office, for any size organization, in any industry. With additional training, they may specialize in legal or medical support. Larger companies often hire teams of secretaries.
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