Becoming a Certified Administrative Professional: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a Certified Administrative Professional? Get real job descriptions, salary info and career prospects to see if this job is right for you!
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Certified Administrative Professional

Certified Administrative Professionals (CAP) are office professionals that have earned the CAP credential from the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). Read on to learn some pros and cons of becoming a CAP and to see if it is right for you.

PROS of a Certified Administrative Professional Career
Can work in a variety of industries (including education, finance, law and medicine)*
Can achieve certification with a high school diploma and four years of experience **
Specialization available in organizational management**
Earning CAP designation may be an advantage when seeking employment*

CONS of a Certified Administrative Professional Career
Must take an exam and pay a fee to become certified ($200 for IAAP members, $400 for nonmembers)**
Starting pay below national median (employees with CAP certification and less than one year of experience had a median annual salary of $59,000 as of January 2016)***
Some duties may be considered monotonous like filing and data entry*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **International Association of Administrative Professionals, ***PayScale.com

Essential Career Info

Job Description

A certified administrative professional performs secretarial and support tasks for an office. This may include scheduling meetings, making travel arrangements, filing, answering phones, taking messages and producing miscellaneous documents. This job may also entail distributing or answering mail, e-mail or faxes, creating or updating spreadsheets and setting up conference rooms and equipment for presentations.

Job Growth and Salary Info

The job outlook for all secretaries and administrative assistants (not just the ones who have earned certification) was projected to be about average at 3% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Salaries for administrative professionals vary based on job title and duties. For example, PayScale.com reported in January 2016 that those who are Certified Administrative Professionals with the title of executive assistant made a median annual salary of about $56,000, and senior executive assistants made a median annual salary of about $60,000, while administrative assistants made a median annual salary of about $36,000.

Certification Requirements

To earn the CAP designation, you must first meet the eligibility requirements set forth by the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which include a combination of experience and education. Then, you'll need to pass a 350-question examination, which is offered twice a year. The test covers records management, communication, human resources, document production and financial functions. To prepare for the CAP test, schools offer courses and programs with sample testing and administrative skills training. Some colleges offer college credit for the classes. Certification is good for five years and recertification requires continuing education and training points. This association also offers certification in specific technologies, like Microsoft Office Suite.

What Employers Look For

Many employers hiring administrative professionals require some office experience or training before considering applicants, and many prefer to hire those who have an administrative certification, such as the CAP. Some companies also require experience in their specific industry. Here are some examples of job openings posted in April 2012:

  • A community college in Kansas City, MO is hiring an administrative assistant to provide confidential support to a resource center coordinator. The job requirements are listed as a high school diploma and two years of experience, but preference is given to candidates with an associates' degree, three years of experience and IAAP CAP certification.
  • An oil drilling company in Houston, TX is seeking a commercial senior assistant to provide administrative support to a vice president and business manager. Job duties include preparing weekly reports, organizing meetings, updating policies and assisting with travel arrangements. Job candidates should have a bachelor's degree, five years of experience and computer software aptitude. A Certified Administrative Professional credential is preferred.
  • A nonprofit education organization in Silver Spring, MD is looking to fill the job of executive assistant to the president and CEO of the organization. The individual who fills the position should have a bachelor's degree, 5-7 years of experience and knowledge of the latest office technologies. The job requires the ability to multitask, think critically and manage time. Administrative and organizational duties include scheduling, assembling meeting materials and arranging travel.

How to Stand Out

Once you achieve your CAP certification, you may want to join a local chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Chapters provide programs and networking opportunities designed to help you in your administrative career. You may also want to ensure that you keep your certification current by taking continuing education courses required to recertify.

Additional courses in Microsoft Publisher or Microsoft PowerPoint might be helpful to hone your computer skills and take on more tasks for your employer. Or, if you are in an office that requires financial bookkeeping or data entry, training in Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access may help you advance to the next level of office support.

Other Careers to Consider

The Certified Administrative Professional credential is general and demonstrates your ability to work in almost any industry needing office support; however, some specialized industries may require additional or specialized training. For example, if you worked as a medical secretary or medical administrative assistant, you would work in a physician's office providing clerical support to physicians, staff and patients. You could become certified as a medical administrative assistant from the National Healthcareer Association. According to the BLS, medical secretaries were projected to see a job growth rate of 41% over the 2010-2020 decade. This is much faster than average, and faster than administrative professionals in general. In May 2011, the BLS reported that medical secretaries made a median annual salary of about $31,000.

You could also specialize in the legal field and become a legal secretary. Legal secretaries learn terminology and procedures related to the law so that they can assist lawyers and other legal professionals in filing court documents. Certification is available for legal secretaries and requires a combination of education and experience. The BLS has predicted that this field would grow at a slower pace than average, at about 4%, from 2010-2020. The BLS also reported the median annual salary in May 2011 for legal secretaries was about $42,000.

Other career options for administrative professionals include receptionists and information clerks. For these careers you generally do not need any particular education, but organizational skills and an outgoing personality are essential. The BLS reported median annual pay for these careers was a bit lower than administrative professionals, at about $26,000 annually, but job growth was predicted to be a bit faster, at 24% from 2010-2020.

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George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

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Kaplan University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • BSBA - Investment
  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
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University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Business Administration - Custom/General
  • Master of Business Administration - Multiple Concentrations

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Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

What is your highest level of education?

Seton Hall University

  • Master of Business Administration

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University of Saint Mary

  • MBA Leadership and Organizational Health Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration
  • MBA General Management Concentration

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Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
  • Business Administration, BA - Management
  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

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