What is an Administrative Assisting Degree?

Not just an admin. Keep calm and let the administrative assistant handle it. No one is more cherished in the world than someone who lightens the burden of another. In other words, as many executives will tell you, administrative assistants are indispensable to the people and companies they work for.

Training programs in administrative assisting prepare students to work in office support roles such as executive assistant, administrative assistant, administrator, administrative services manager, or secretary. Graduates of these programs typically earn a certificate or diploma, or in some cases an associate degree.

The curriculum spans professional communication, business software, records management, office procedures, workplace relations, stress management, and job search techniques. Most programs incorporate a practicum during which students apply what they learn in a real-world setting.

Program Options

Certificate in Administrative Assisting / Diploma in Administrative Assisting – Eight to Ten Month Duration
This is the most common credential held by practising administrative assistants. Certificate and diploma programs teach only subjects in the major. They are focused exclusively on the various aspects of administrative assisting and office management.

Associate Degree in Administrative Assisting – One to Two Year Duration
An administrative assisting associate program typically combines courses in the major with some liberal arts classes in subjects such as English literature and composition, math, and the social sciences.

Despite the differences described above, administrative assisting courses like the following are at the heart of both of these programs:

  • Communications – recognizing and identifying parts of speech, applying grammar and punctuation rules, understanding and using business vocabulary, and summarizing written material
  • Letter Writing – fundamentals of effective business writing; composing clear and concise correspondence; students compose memos, e-mails, letters, reports, and proposals for a variety of audiences and situations
  • Business and Math Calculators – number literacy and touch control of an electronic calculator
  • Organizational Software – how to use functions and special features of Microsoft Outlook and apply problem solving techniques while completing practical assignments
  • Records Management – introduction to alphabetic, subject, geographic, numeric, and electronic filing systems; records management procedures, terminology, supplies and equipment
  • Office Procedures – how to handle business telephone, postal, and shipping systems; complete business forms; efficiently manage work, time, and resources; perform receptionist duties; prepare for and document business meetings; and make travel arrangements
  • Accounting – applying basic accrual accounting theory to the analysis and recording of business transactions; journalizing and posting business transactions; preparing trial balance, income statements, and balance sheets for service businesses; reconciling bank accounts; and managing petty cash funds
  • Payroll Accounting – computing earnings, calculating deductions, recording and maintaining payroll records, and disbursing cash payments; journalizing payroll entries, issuing payments, managing payroll benefits, and reporting to government agencies
  • Accounting Software – creating company files, recording transactions in General Receivable, Payroll, Inventory, and Job Costing ledgers; printing month-end statements using a computerized accounting program
  • Presentation Graphics – creating a slide presentation and enhancing it with graphs, tables, embedded visuals, builds, and transitions; how to plan and organize presentation content, evaluate the content, and design an effective slideshow
  • Computer Essentials and the Internet – computer terminology; ethical business uses of social media; managing electronic files in a networked or cloud environment; navigating the Internet and conducting research necessary in a business office; communicating using online tools; introduction to an online learning management system
  • Database – database functions using Microsoft Access; creating and modifying a database; sorting, indexing, and querying a database; using a database to print labels and simple reports and to create complex queries and reports
  • Spreadsheet I – spreadsheet terminology, concepts, commands, functions and capabilities of Microsoft Excel; creating professional, attractive, multi-tabbed workbooks that include formulas and graphics
  • Spreadsheet II – creating professional, attractive, multi-tabbed workbooks that include formulas, charts, graphics, maps, and macros; managing spreadsheet templates; combining multiple worksheets and workbooks; working with data tables, queries, and pivot tables
  • Desktop Publishing – introduction to desktop publishing software; planning, designing, and producing business-quality publications such as web pages, letterhead, flyers, brochures, forms, and newsletters
  • Keyboarding – keyboarding technique, accuracy, and speed; touch typing accurately to a minimum of 40 net words per minute
  • Word Processing I – students key, format, proof, and edit business documents from text and speech
  • Word Processing II – producing, editing, revising, formatting, organizing, and transmitting professional documents; identifying, setting up, and operating transcription equipment to transcribe business documents
  • Administrative Assistant Simulation – students apply their knowledge and skills in word processing, spreadsheet, database, desktop publishing, and presentation software by completing a variety of administrative assisting projects; projects are designed to allow students to develop and demonstrate decision-making, prioritizing, and other administrative skills
  • Self-Management Skills – stress management, interpersonal relationships and teamwork, leadership skills, problem solving, and conflict resolution
  • Job Search Techniques – matching skills and abilities with employer needs; students will complete pre-employment skills inventories, asses and access job markets, prepare a professional resume, write employment correspondence, and practice employment interview techniques
  • Office Practicum – a three to four week practicum, in a business office, applying acquired knowledge and skills and assisting with the business’s day-to-day operations

Degrees Similar to Administrative Assisting

Business Administration
Business administration includes overseeing finances, staffing, and contract negotiations. A business administration degree program, therefore, teaches students how to plan, organize, and direct all the activities of an organization.

Clinical Medical Assisting
This degree program prepares students to work as assistants to medical doctors. The typical curriculum covers medical terminology, medical office administration, insurance, and medical software. As the role of medical assistant may involve some basic clinical tasks, students also learn the fundamentals of human disease, disease diagnosis, and medications.

Dental Assisting
Dental assisting education programs teach the clinical and administrative components of working as a dental assistant. Students learn in classroom, laboratory, and real-world settings. Those who wish to work in a specialized area of dentistry, such as pediatric or orthodontic care, can often focus on it during the practicum portion of their training.

Desktop and Web Publishing
Programs in desktop and web publishing teach the design and layout of printed and digital documents. Coursework includes web design, multimedia design, writing, and editing.

Human Resources Management
Degree programs in human resources management teach students how to plan and coordinate an organization’s workforce. Courses cover recruitment, interview, selection, and hiring processes; management of workplace health and safety, payroll, training, and employee benefit programs; and dispute mediation, disciplinary actions, and dismissal procedures.

Legal Administration
Education programs in legal administration train students in law office procedures. Coursework includes legal terminology, documentation, bookkeeping, client billing, and software applications in the areas of wills and estates, family law, litigation, and corporate law.

Paralegal studies prepare students to perform delegated legal work under the supervision of a lawyer or a court. The curriculum covers legal terminology and documentation, legal research, legal record keeping, investigations, court procedures, and applicable technology. Many training programs also incorporate an internship with a private law firm, a corporate legal department, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a government agency, or a legal aid organization.

Skills You’ll Learn

Attention to Detail
For administrative assistants, attention to detail is paramount. There is no room for error in communication and recordkeeping.

Bookkeeping and Scheduling
The administrative assistant is typically the chief bookkeeper and scheduler in an office.

Communication and Teamwork
Administrative assistants must frequently interact with supervisors and managers, as well as clients and customers.

Multitasking / Time Management
Offices are busy places that rely on accomplished administrators who can juggle multiple tasks.

Businesses generate vast amounts of documents and data. Much of this information must be organized and managed by the administrative staff.

Technology / Office Applications
The technology skills required in an administrative role are wide-ranging. They include word processing, spreadsheets, telecommunications, databases, and scheduling software.

Clear and concise writing is integral to the administration role.

What Can You Do with an Administrative Assisting Degree?

Administrative assisting is not industry-specific. Administrative assistants are needed in every kind of business. One of the greatest benefits of this is that those who enter the field can look for jobs in sectors that genuinely interest them. For instance, someone with a love of culture and the performing arts could seek out an administrative assistant role with a theater company, a symphony orchestra, or a music production company. An administrative assistant who is a dedicated traveler might end up working for an airline or cruise line. Another possibility is working as a personal assistant.

Here is a list of some of the sectors in which administrative assistants are employed:

  • Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations
  • Aerospace
  • Agriculture
  • Banking and Finance
  • Charity, Not-for-Profit, and NGOs
  • Chemical
  • Computer
  • Construction
  • Culture, Music, and the Performing Arts
  • Education
  • Energy and Utilities
  • Entertainment
  • Environment, Agriculture, and Conservation
  • Food
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information
  • Management Consulting and Business
  • Manufacturing and Production
  • Media / Mass Media
  • Mining
  • Public Sector and Defense
  • Recruitment and Human Resources
  • Retails and Sales
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation


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