Traditionally, the best way to learn about being an administrative assistant has been on-the-job training. It has become more common, however, for people in the career field to seek out degrees and certifications from educational institutions. Employers typically will give preference to applicants who have the most-advanced skills. To choose the best administrative assistant education path, you will need to consider how and where you want to take courses, what specialized fields you will want to work in, and how you will fund the process.
The importance of practical knowledge learned on the job cannot be overstated. Skills most valued in the field include organization, the ability to multitask, and the qualities that allow management to work to its strengths while you take care of the details. Yet, even though companies value experience and a good attitude, the business climate may require that administrative assistants have an excellent grasp on business software and computers, as well as communication skills beyond answering telephones.
Administrative assistant education courses are available through many trade schools, colleges, and universities, both on-site and online. You can find schools and courses on the Internet by searching "administrative assistant" with "program," "training," or "classes." Check your library’s reference section for books listing the available programs from local schools. Also check with professional organizations in the field to see if they have a list of recommended programs. After careful research, there should be many programs to choose from, and how you choose will depend on a few factors.
First, decide how long it would be practical for you to be involved in a course of study. If you are new to the administrative assistant field, more courses will be necessary than if you are a veteran in the field but are looking to advance. How many courses you take will depend on whether or not the course of study is working toward a certificate, a degree, or simply meant to add to your skills.
Next, if you are interested in working in a specialized field, such as the medical, legal, financial, or real estate fields, look for programs that offer administrative assistant education courses specific to those specialties. Oftentimes, an administrative assistant in these fields acts as management’s proverbial "right hand." This means that the assistant is expected to know the intricacies of the specialty as well as management does.
A good administrative assistant education should include a variety of ways for you to learn. Choose a curriculum that offers courses with specific goals, as opposed to generalized skills. Ask the admissions office where alumni of the program have been hired and ask if the school offers job placement or job mentoring. Request to see the teacher’s syllabus or course schedule from last year — look for classes that offer plenty of practical experience. Other factors, such as transportation, flexible scheduling, and tuition costs, will impact your decision, as well.