Certified Professional Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a certified professional assistant? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a certified professional assistant is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Certified Professional Assistant

Certified professional assistants perform clerical duties, such as maintaining records, scheduling appointments and contacting clients. The pros and cons of this career are shown below.

Pros of a Certified Professional Assistant Career
Pay is higher than average for executive secretaries and administrative assistants (median annual wage was $51,270 in May 2014)*
Fast as average-growth field (12% growth from 2012-2022)*
Entry-level education requirement is a high school diploma*
Ability to specialize in various fields, such as law or medicine*
Comfortable work environment*

Cons of a Certified Professional Assistant Career
Pay is average for general secretaries and administrative assistants (median annual wage was $33,240 in May 2014)*
Greater demand expected for applicants with a bachelor's degree*
Increased reliance on technology*
Can be stressful work*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Certified professional assistants are responsible for the organization of an office by maintaining accurate electronic and print records, conducting phone calls and organizing files. As a result, these professionals enable other staff members to work with efficiency. Other duties include scheduling meetings, helping with research and managing memos. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants perform more complex duties for top executives, such as supervising other assistants, preparing reports and orchestrating meetings. Professional assistants may specialize in the legal or medical field, or work from a home office as a virtual assistant.

Job Prospects and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to increase by 12% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). This growth is about as fast as average in comparison to other occupations, but will vary by specialty. The best job prospects will be available for those with a bachelor's degree and strong understanding of computer software applications.

In May 2014, the BLS stated that the median annual wage for a secretary or administrative assistant was $33,240 (which is about the average salary for all occupations with an entry-level education requirement of a high school degree). The earnings for executive secretaries and administrative assistants were much higher. The BLS indicated that these individuals earned a median annual wage of $51,270 in May 2014. However, the BLS expects a slight decline (1%) in the number of executive secretary jobs from 2012-2022.

What Are the Requirements?

A high school diploma is the entry-level education requirement to become a professional assistant. Certification is not required to work as an assistant, but the option is available. You can become certified through a variety of programs. For instance, the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers both the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credentials. If you are interested in working as a legal secretary, Legal Secretaries International offers a designation as a Certified Legal Secretary Specialist. In addition, the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) offers a designation as a Certified Virtual Assistant.

What Employers Are Looking for

Necessary skills in this field include the ability to work independently, as well as strong communication and writing skills. An understanding of finance and business reports may also be beneficial. Here are some job postings that were listed in May 2012:

  • A computer software company located in Maryland advertised for a temporary administrative assistant holding current certification as either a CAP or a Certified Administrative Professional in Organizational Management (CAP-OM). In addition, applicants were required to have a basic knowledge of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager. At least five years of administrative or secretarial experience was preferred. Duties included using a variety of office automation tools to conduct research and analysis for the Information Systems & Technology Department.
  • A manufacturing company in Dallas requested applicants for an executive administrative position. Applicants needed to have at least five years of relevant work experience, and the CAP credential was preferred. Duties included preparing and publishing the company's newsletter, as well as auditing expense reports.
  • An insurance company based in Arizona posted a job listing for a senior administrative secretary with at least five years of nationwide secretarial experience. In addition, preferred applicants held a postsecondary degree and the designation of a CPS. Duties included working with internal and external senior management on confidential projects and assignments.

How to Stand out

In order to get an edge in this field, you should consider earning a postsecondary degree. While some employers will hire a professional assistant straight out of high school, the demand for those with a higher education is increasing. In fact, a bachelor's degree in business administration, accounting, management or a related field could greatly improve job prospects. In addition, you may wish to consider multiple certifications and designations. Specializing in a specific area, such as law or medicine, could also help you. Furthermore, you will need several years of relevant work experience before you will be able to advance to roles with greater responsibility and salary options.

Alternative Career Paths

Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks maintain and produce the financial records of businesses and organizations. They work with financial statements to check for accuracy and monitor transactions. Employment in this field is expected to increase by 14% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. Similar to professional assistants, a mere high school diploma is required for an entry-level position. In May 2011, the BLS reported that the mean annual wage for these professionals was about $35,000.

General Office Clerks

If you are interested in having less responsibility than a certified professional assistant, you may wish to consider a career as a general office clerk. The duties of an office clerk are similar to personal assistants with some minor administrative tasks. Additionally, a high school diploma is the entry-level education requirement. According to the BLS, employment is expected to grow by 17% from 2010-2020. In May 2011, the mean annual wage for a general office clerk was roughly $27,000.

Information Clerks

If you are interested in working in a variety of settings, including medical and law offices, government agencies or in private businesses, you may want to pursue a career as an information clerk. These professionals perform clerical and administrative tasks similar to certified personal assistants. Additionally, the entry-level requirement is just a high school diploma. However, employers prefer to hire applicants with an associate's or bachelor's degree. While employment is projected to grow at a slower than average rate of seven percent from 2010-2020, the mean annual wage in May 2011 was about $27,000.

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American National University

  • Master of Business Administration
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Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization

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Kaplan University

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

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
  • AA: Business Administration

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South College

  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

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George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

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Notre Dame de Namur University

  • Masters in Business Administration

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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
  • Career Diploma - Administrative Assistant

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