Administrative Support Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Training Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in administrative support? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and administrative support training programs.
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Studying Administrative Support: Degrees at a Glance

As an administrative support professional, you'll need strong decision-making, organizational and communication skills to keep an office running smoothly. Most administrative professionals do not need postsecondary training; however, a college education may give you an upper hand in the job market. Such training is often available in the form of administrative technology, executive assistance or secretarial science programs.

Administrative professionals work in a range of settings, such as healthcare, private business and government offices. Common job titles include administrative assistant, secretary, receptionist, information clerk and administrative services manager. Note that job prospects vary greatly by industry and specialty. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information clerks were expected to have slower-than-average growth at seven percent from 2010-2020, while receptionists were expected to have faster-than-average growth of 24%. Secretaries, administrative assistants and administrative managers were expected to see average job growth in the same decade.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People seeking entry-level administrative support jobs Individuals who wish to pursue careers in administrative services management
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Receptionist or information clerk ($28,000)*
- General office clerk ($29,000)*
- Secretary or administrative assistant ($48,000)*
Career paths are similar, although a bachelor's degree might increase earnings and spur advancement
- Administrative services manager ($87,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Prerequisites High school diploma or the equivalent High school diploma or the equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Administrative Support

An associate's degree program in this major provides the foundation for an entry-level administrative support positions. Programs emphasize a range of business concepts, including communication, keyboarding and accounting. You will learn to function in an office environment driven by digital technologies and operate common business equipment. Many schools design their programs to deliver training in supportive business skills, including human relations and legal documentation. Some programs prepare students to pursue certification in the field, such as the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designation conferred by the International Association of Administrative Professionals.

Pros and Cons


  • Many positions only require a high school diploma, so a degree might make you more marketable
  • Some programs offer preparation for industry-standard certifications
  • Employment of receptionists expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate*
  • Many programs transfer to a bachelor's degree program


  • Information clerks expected to see slower-than-average job growth*
  • Entry-level positions paid relatively low salaries; receptionists, information clerks and administrative assistants earned under $30,000 on average per year**
  • Competition against bachelor's degree holders will present a challenge; the BLS projects great demand for bachelor's degree-holders for secretarial and administrative assistant positions*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Common Courses and Requirements

An associate's degree program in administrative support offers training in business and office administration topics designed to equip students with skills required to handle the ever-changing business environment. You will develop interpersonal communication skills and learn to evaluate and use technology to solve complex problems. Most programs offer a curriculum through a group of major, supportive and elective courses in common business theories. You may find the following common courses offered by your program:

  • Productivity tools
  • Web design
  • Transcription
  • Business principles
  • Desktop publishing
  • Document formatting and processing
  • Payroll accounting

Online Degree Options

Associate's degree programs in administrative support are available entirely online. These programs generally offer courses similar to campus-based programs. You will learn to the ins and outs of administrative systems, such as how to manage filing systems, use advanced software and process payroll. Some on-campus programs may also allow you to complete some of the coursework through distance-education.

Stand Out with This Degree

Experience with multiple software packages can increase your marketability. The BLS reveals that job applicants with substantial computer knowledge may enjoy better job prospects. Pursuing relevant certification can also make your resume stand out. Following are a couple of steps you can take to stand out:

  • Take multiple industry-specific and general technology courses. For example, if you plan to enter the finance field, consider gaining intermediate or advanced skills with common accounting software used in the industry in addition to productivity-improvement applications.
  • Consider taking the CAP examination. This certification will demonstrate your commitment to the field and your knowledge of administrative procedures.

Bachelor's in Administrative Support

Administrative support programs at the bachelor's degree level are usually offered as administrative assistance or systems majors through schools' business administration departments. Such programs combine office management principles with modern technologies to prepare you for a career as an administrative services manager. You'll also obtain instruction in business administration concepts and theories, knowledge of which may help you stand out among your competition. Programs offer major coursework in economics and accounting supplemented by instruction in advanced administrative procedures and organizational behavior. Additionally, these programs may offer instruction in medical and legal office administration.

Pros and Cons


  • Prepares you for upper-level positions in the field
  • Administrative services managers earned nearly three times as much as entry-level administrative support workers ($87,000)**
  • Steady projected job growth of 15% for administrative services managers*
  • Programs offer a wide range of skills that you can transfer to multiple occupations


  • Keen competition for the few number of advancement opportunities in administrative support management*
  • Management positions often require extensive relative work experience
  • Further advancement may require a master's degree

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Common Courses and Requirements

This bachelor's degree program offers in-depth training in modern office management techniques. In your four years of study, you'll learn business administration topics like finance, marketing and business law, but you'll also take courses in basic office technology, such as keyboarding and word processing. The program typically provides the opportunity to build hands-on skills in an internship or practicum. Core courses tend to include:

  • Human resources management
  • International business
  • Multimedia applications
  • Office supervision
  • Business math
  • Administrative computer applications

Online Degree Options

While on-campus administrative support programs may offer some of their courses in a distance-learning format, entirely-online bachelor's degree programs in this major are rare. Some schools offer online bachelor's programs in business administration, which may also qualify you for a management position in administrative services. Additionally, there are many online programs that focus specifically on legal and medical office administration.

Stand Out with This Degree

In order to prepare for a role in management, consider taking some of your electives in an area of interest that might support your career goals. For example, contract managers need experience in distribution and supplies inventory. Taking an courses or internships relevant to your selected industry can provide expertise necessary to pursue management opportunities later in your career. In addition, pursuing certification offers the opportunity to specialize. For example, the International Facility Management Association offers two credentials for administrative managers who work in the facilities sub-field.

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