An administrative assistant increases her employment value when she becomes a Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). On average, CAPs make 7 percent more in salary than administrative professionals without certification. In addition, the secretarial field as a whole is expected to grow between 4 and 41 percent, depending on the field. This growth makes certification even more valuable. The length of time to complete a certification program can vary, but with commitment and determination, you can make a difference in your administrative career and possibly continue on to earn a degree as an administrative professional.
General Curriculum and Requirements
The standard curriculum in a CAP course should include basic skills such as keyboarding, database management, English classes and office management. You will compose correspondence using computer software. You will also become familiar with email programs and desktop publishing. Most programs should offer basic accounting. Before you can sit for the CAP test, you must meet certain qualifications. A candidate with no degree must have four years of experience -- an associate's degree, three years of experience -- a bachelor's degree, two years of experience. If you're unsure whether your experience counts, consult the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). You won't know unless you ask.
The International Association of Administrative Professionals
The IAAP administers the CAP exam. This organization sets the standards and requirements for becoming a CAP. The IAAP will verify your background, so don't embellish your credentials. After passing the CAP exam, the IAAP recommends you complete certifications in Microsoft Office and other technology specialties. For some, these courses aren't cheap. Make sure this is a commitment you want to make. The minimum fee for the CAP test alone is $200. However, the payoff for this investment can be huge if you have the determination to succeed. You will also be required to keep your certification current. This will require continuing education over the length of your career. Stay focused. Don't give up your competitive edge.
Many CAPs complete degrees after passing the exam. Depending on the school, passing the CAP exam might give you college credit toward your degree. You can apply to a school through the IAAP or select a school of your choice in the community that offers a degree in administrative studies. You can also skip the CAP exam initially and apply directly to a school. However, you still have to take the CAP exam to become certified. If you wish to bypass the CAP exam completely, consider taking some type of computer certification to accompany your degree. In such a competitive job market, having a degree and a certification will elevate you above the crowd.
Administrative assistants can pare down their skills and focus on a specific field. Legal and medical assistants have specific skills that employers look for. Becoming certified increases your chances of employment. Legal secretaries can get certified through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). If you choose this field, you will be required to study research and case analysis as well as earn at least 900 clock hours before you can take the exam. Medical assistants can get certified through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Before you can sit for this exam, you must have completed an accredited course through the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Allied Health Education Programs Commission on Accreditation.
- Degree Directory: How Do I Become a Certified Administrative Assistant?
- Education Portal: Administrative Assistant Certification and Certificate Programs
- Blackstone Career Institute: Legal Assistant/Paralegal - Career Training Program
- Education Portal: Medical Secretary Certification and Certificate Programs
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook - Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Job Outlook
Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.