How to Become an Administrative Assistant:
The Definitive Guide


Have you always pictured yourself working in an office or with a big company?

Do you enjoy taking charge and making sure everything is running smoothly?

Are you the person that employees run to with questions about almost anything?

If you have great organizational skills and a passion to lead, then a career as an Administrative Assistant might be just right for you.


What is an Administrative Assistant?

An Administrative Assistant can be considered many things, but mostly an office manager.

As an Administrative Assistant, you will likely find yourself wearing many hats.

Some things like budgeting, employees, training, and planning projects will be on the Administrative Assistants to-do list.

In this career, it is likely that you will find your own custom role in the company that you work for.

Those who have certifications or a degree will find more career opportunities, so earning an Associate’s degree in business can help.

Duties

The duties that are assigned to an Administrative Assistant can vary depending on the type of company they work for.

Mostly, an Administrative Assistant runs the “business” side of the company, dealing with budgeting and other paperwork.

Some of the other tasks of an Administrative Assistant include:

  • Organize files
  • Create correspondence
  • Prepare documents and reports
  • Manage calendars
  • Schedule appointments
  • Greet visitors
  • Answer phones
  • Set up meetings and events
  • Make travel arrangements

Salary

Most of the Administrative Assistants around the United States make almost $40,000 a year.

In this career, it is not likely that you will start out making that much, however.

In fact, most new Administrative Assistants make closer to $30,000 a year to begin.

When you receive credentials, education, and experience, it is probable that your pay will rise.

Those that are at the top of their career as an Administrative Assistant can expect to make around $50,000 a year.

People who work in larger populations or with bigger companies will make more money in this career as well.

Administrative Assistants in California make around $45,000 a year, while Administrative Assistants in Kansas make an average of $34,000 a year.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $39,180

$24K
$30K
$39K
$47K
$57K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$36,190
Alaska$43,190
Arizona$37,040
Arkansas$31,180
California$44,880
Colorado$39,890
Connecticut$48,320
Delaware$40,440
District of Columbia$51,010
Florida$36,070
Georgia$34,580
Hawaii$43,060
Idaho$33,920
Illinois$39,440
Indiana$34,490
Iowa$36,690
Kansas$34,260
Kentucky$34,410
Louisiana$32,670
Maine$38,330
Maryland$42,150
Massachusetts$47,870
Michigan$38,740
Minnesota$41,540
Mississippi$32,540
Missouri$36,210
Montana$33,750
Nebraska$35,270
Nevada$40,480
New Hampshire$38,570
New Jersey$43,440
New Mexico$35,250
New York$42,490
North Carolina$37,620
North Dakota$38,070
Ohio$37,030
Oklahoma$32,650
Oregon$41,240
Pennsylvania$37,540
Rhode Island$44,270
South Carolina$36,770
South Dakota$30,210
Tennessee$36,900
Texas$36,160
Utah$36,580
Vermont$38,500
Virginia$41,060
Washington$44,340
West Virginia$32,990
Wisconsin$37,870
Wyoming$39,660
Guam$33,220
Puerto Rico$22,680
Virgin Islands$36,340

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $51,010.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $51,010
Connecticut - $48,320
Massachusetts - $47,870
California - $44,880
Washington - $44,340
*Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become an Administrative Assistant

Step 1Earn a Degree

It isn’t legally required that Administrative Assistants earn a degree in order to gain employment, but most employers appreciate at least a certificate or an Associate’s degree in business.

Having a degree shows employers and clients that you have competency in the field you are working in.

With an Associate’s degree in business, you will have knowledge in all types of entrepreneurial zones.

It takes about two years to earn an Associate’s degree, and certificate programs vary in length, depending on the program, most take around one year.

With a certificate, you can learn how to:

  • Complete office procedures
  • Basic computer maintenance
  • Business applications
  • Business communications

These are also sections that will be covered in most Associates degree programs.

A certificate as an Administrative Assistant will provide opportunities for entry-level careers, so many people interested in this field will earn an Associate’s degree.

Other courses that an Associates degree will typically include are:

  • Human Resource Management
  • Accounting
  • Business Law
  • Business Ethics
  • Entrepreneurial Studies

Step 2Gain Experience

After earning a degree, there is a chance you will be looking for employment.

Many people suggest trying employment at a temp service to gain experience with many different companies in a short amount of time.

If you didn’t receive any training while pursuing a degree, work an apprenticeship, or take on an internship, here are some places to look for employment:

  • Government agencies
  • Real estate agencies
  • Secondary schools
  • Universities
  • Offices and law offices

While gaining on the job experience, it’s important to keep up with your education as technology increases in popularity.

Once you have gained a couple of years of knowledge and hands-on experience, becoming certified might help you with further employment gains.

Step 3Become Certified

Just like earning a degree, having a certification is not required to work as an Administrative Assistant, but it helps with promotions and raises.

Certification also shows clients and employers that you are skilled in the ways of business administration.

There are several certifications that can be earned in this career:

  • Certified Administrative Professional
  • Certified Virtual Assistant

In order to gain the Certified Administrative Professional certification, you must have four years of experience as an Administrative Assistant.

To earn the Certified Virtual Assistant certification, you will need to be a member of the International Associations of Administrative Professionals and take an exam.

Some of the areas covered on the Certified Virtual Assistant exam include:

  • Records management
  • Communication
  • Organization and planning

Recertification is required after three years of earning this credential, which can be done by retaking the exam or proof of further education.

Step 4Advance Your Career

After many years working as an Administrative Assistant, it’s possible to advance your position in the company that you work for, or in other companies across the United States.

Having hands-on experience in business can teach you many new skills, which can lead to other opportunities.

Some of the other careers to look forward to beyond an Administrative Assistant could be:

  • Office Manager
  • Executive Secretary
  • Clerical Supervisor

You don’t necessarily even have to do office work, with your business experience and knowledge you can do nearly anything business-related, such as:

  • Paralegal
  • Marketing Coordinator
  • Project Coordinator/Planner
  • Consultant

There are possibilities to work as a teacher or instructor to educate others about working as Administrative Assistants as well.


Education

As an Administrative Assistant, you can choose to earn a certificate or an Associate’s degree, if you want an education.

Even though education is not legally required for this career, employers suggest that all Administrative Assistants earn some type of education.

Earning an education in business can help you further your career beyond an Administrative Assistant as well.

Many certificate programs and Associates degrees can be earned online, the certification programs can take about a year, while Associates degrees typically take two years or more.

You can also find programs at your local community college if you are interested in on-campus education.

A certificate program will introduce you to entry-level careers in business, and educate you on many different areas of business, including:

  • Databases
  • Business English
  • Keyboarding
  • Communications
  • Business writing

There are some programs that require students to take part in an internship, which can give students a boost in gaining employment upon graduation.

Most Associates degrees require general education as well as specialized courses like:

  • Accounting
  • Business Law
  • Federal Taxation
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Human Resource Management
  • Business and Technical Writing
  • Math for Business and Finance

Online Associates degrees can take anywhere from two to three years to finish, and typically around two years for on-campus classes.

After earning an Associate’s degree, you can find employment in many different types of business.

These areas include:

  • Corporate offices
  • Human resource departments
  • Marketing
  • Retail
  • Restaurants
  • Hospitality

The great thing about earning an Associate’s degree, or any type of certificate for that matter, is that you learn many different techniques and roles in the business community, from creative to leadership roles, a business degree can cover it all.

If you are interested in furthering your education, even more, a Bachelor’s degree in business is the next step.

For most Administrative Assistants, becoming certified is more lucrative than working toward a Bachelor’s degree unless you are looking for other careers in business.

Video About The Career


Certification

As of right now, there are only a few certifications that are accredited by the National Commission for Health Certifying Agencies from the International Associations of Administrative Professionals.

These certifications are:

  • Certified Administrative Professional
  • Certified Virtual Assistant

A Certified Administrative Professional credential shows employers that you are committed and serious about your career as an Administrative Assistant.

In order to become a Certified Administrative Professional, you will need to take an exam.

The test covers six areas that are should be common knowledge for anyone who wants to become a Certified Administrative Assistant.

The exam takes about three hours to finish and has anywhere from 200 to 225 questions.

The areas that the exam covers include:

  • Organizational communications
  • Office and records management
  • Operational functions
  • Business writing
  • Technology and information distribution

Every three years you will need to recertify for this credential.

Another certification that is accredited by the NCHCA is the Certified Virtual Assistant certification.

Make sure that you find a certification by the International Virtual Assistants Association, to ensure accreditation.

This is one of the only accredited associations in the United States for virtual assistants.

You will have to join the IVAA which costs less than $150 a year.

Once you join this association, you will be able to take an exam to become certified.

The exam has around 65 questions and can take up to two hours to complete.

Some of the things that the exam to become a Certified Virtual Assistant will cover are:

  • Management plans
  • Bookkeeping
  • Business ethics
  • Virtual Assistant tools
  • Business registration and licensing

Having a certification doesn’t guarantee better career opportunities, but it does show employers that you know what you are doing in an office or business setting.

Many people who earn certification as an Administrative Professional or a Virtual Assistant go on to have long careers far beyond working as an Administrative Assistant.

Certification Example:

administrative assistant certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 1-2 Years

Most training programs to become an Administrative Assistant take about a year.

A certificate program provides you with skills for entry-level positions as an Administrative Assistant.

Even though enrolling in a certificate program can be a great idea, many people who are interested in working as an Administrative Assistant find it easier to gain employment with an Associate’s degree in business.

An Associate’s degree takes about two to three years to complete.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of growth in this field, as over the last several years technology has become more prominent.

Due to this growth, and the use of managers to do the duties of Administrative Assistants, this career will likely decline by about 9 percent in the next decade.

Computers are becoming the go-to for all things business, which will create a dip in career opportunities for Administrative Assistants.

However, this doesn’t mean that this career will disappear, many people still need Administrative Assistants.

For those with certifications or a degree, the job opportunities can be much more lucrative.

Employment Growth Projection: -9%

2,382,500
2018
2,170,000
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of -212,500 jobs.

Administrative Assistant: Interest Over Time


Should You Become an Administrative Assistant?

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Overall Satisfaction

There are some Administrative Assistants who love their careers, and then there are some who believe that the salary is not as substantial as it should be.

There is a lot of room for upward mobility in this career, especially with years of experience and certifications, which adds to the overall satisfaction.

Depending on the type of business, the stress level can be fairly low as well.

If you are a level-headed person who has a sense of urgency, it is likely that you will enjoy this career better than someone who can’t handle the pressure.

Average Salary: Low

Average Salary

On average, an Administrative Assistant in the United States will make around $39,000 a year.

This is after several years of experience when just starting out as an Administrative Assistant, most salaries are around $30,000 a year.

With raises and promotions, as well as hands-on experience, certifications, and other specializations, an Administrative Assistant can make over $50,000 a year in some areas.

Smaller offices and companies will likely pay Administrative Assistants less than large corporations.

Other factors may include the population size of the surrounding area as well as the socio-economic status of the population.

Job Growth Outlook: Low

Job Growth Outlook

Unfortunately for people who have dreams of becoming an Administrative Assistant, this career will likely decline by about 9 percent over the next decade.

This is due to the increase in technology, the more that technology takes over, the fewer employers need Administrative Assistants and secretaries.

Many managers are also performing the work of Administrative Assistants now, which will also cause a decline in this career.

There are still possibilities of having a wonderful career as an Administrative Assistant, so even though the career will be declining there will still be jobs available.

Education Duration: 1-2 Years

Education Duration

It doesn’t take too long to become an Administrative Assistant.

The average person in this career has an Associate’s degree in business.

This can take about two years to complete, or longer for part-time students.

There isn’t a required degree to become an Administrative Assistant, but many employers look to hire people with credentials.

For those pursuing a promotion or raise as an Administrative Assistant, a Bachelor’s degree can be earned which takes about 4 years.

Typically, it can take anywhere from two to four years to become an Administrative Assistant.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

An Administrative Assistant is someone who needs to be well-organized and focused on the job.

Some other great qualities of an Administrative Assistant include:

  • Reliability
  • Being self-sufficient
  • Ability to work with a team
  • Multitasking abilities
  • Sense of urgency
  • Great communication skills
  • Good typing skills
  • Strategic planning skills
  • Ability to anticipate the needs of others
  • Customer service skills
  • Research abilities

Administrative Assistants who know a lot about bookkeeping, technology, and who have experience in networking will likely find the best opportunities in this career choice.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary of an Administrative Assistant?

Most Administrative Assistants across the United States make around $36,000 to $37,000 a year at their jobs.

For those who work in large corporations, or in bigger populations, the career can garner even more salary, up to $50,000 in some areas.

However, if you are just starting out in this career, it’s likely that you will make about $30,000 a year to begin.

Depending on your job role and the duties that you must do every day, the salary can vary by company.

Q. How long does it take to become an Administrative Assistant?

It doesn’t have to take very long to become an Administrative Assistant.

In fact, it’s possible to become one right this second, however many employers like to see an Administrative Assistant with some training.

That’s why most Administrative Assistants seek a certificate program or an Associate’s degree before gaining employment.

These can take about 1-2 years to finish, and then it will take about four years of experience to become a Certified Administrative Assistant.

Q. What does an Administrative Assistant do?

An Administrative Assistant does many things around the office or business that they work for.

This could mean budgeting, making sure all of the employees are doing what they are supposed to be doing, paperwork, talking to clients, the list goes on.

An Administrative Assistant will speak to everyone in the company and will need to know the business side of the career.

Duties and daily tasks can vary depending on the type of company that you work in, as well.

Q. What is the demand for Administrative Assistants?

With the rise in technology, there has been a decrease in the need for Administrative Assistants.

However, that doesn’t mean you should give up on your dream of becoming one.

This job is still available in many areas, especially areas with many businesses large populations.

Administrative Assistants can work in several types of office settings, and with a variety of certifications and specializations, it’s possible to make this a great career.

Q. How much does it cost to become an Administrative Assistant?

Many online certificate programs cost less than the average Associate’s degree but don’t provide as much education.

Certificate programs can cost anywhere from $250 to over $1,000 to complete.

An Associate’s degree takes a year longer than a certificate and can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the school.

Depending on where you earn your education, it can cost anywhere from $250 to $15,000 to become an Administrative Assistant.


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