Certified Professional Secretary Careers: Job Description & Career Info

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Get the truth about a certified professional secretary's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job duties and see the pros and cons of becoming a certified professional secretary.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Certified Professional Secretary

Professional secretaries assist with organizational and routine administrative tasks. You can learn what the pros and cons to being a professional secretary are by continuing to read below.

PROS of Becoming a Certified Professional Secretary
Minimal education requirements*
Advancement opportunities to higher level administrative positions*
Advancement opportunities with specialized education to fields like legal secretary or medical secretary*
Most office settings are comfortable environments to work in*

CONS of Becoming a Certified Professional Secretary
Employment growth is slow for non-specialized secretaries*
Work can be repetitive due to routine job duties*
You must be familiar with computer software programs used in offices*
Postsecondary education is often necessary for advancement*

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

Occupational Information

Job Description

Appointments are scheduled, messages are sent and files are organized by professional secretaries. Many organizations and businesses need professional secretaries to help with clerical duties. Part of these duties might include assisting your co-workers with tasks that are crucial to the operation's success. When you're working on a document or a message, you're going to need to make sure that the grammar and spelling of the piece are correct. As a professional secretary, you'll have to learn how to operate office equipment, like phone systems and fax machines. Computers are also an important part of your job, since the programs on computers are used to draft spreadsheets and documents.

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014, secretaries earned about $16 an hour on average. This resulted in an average yearly salary of around $34,000 for secretaries. New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia were the states that paid the highest average salaries for secretaries. The annual income for secretaries that were in the 90% percentile was about $50,000, per the BLS.

Job Outlook

Overall, the BLS expected a 12% growth in employment for secretaries from 2012 to 2022. In comparison to other vocations, this growth for secretaries is about average. For secretaries that weren't executive, medical or legal, the employment growth was around 13%, which is also about average. Technology isn't an adequate substitute yet for interpersonal skills, so professional secretaries are projected to continue playing an active role with businesses and organizations.

Career Requirements

Training and Education

A high school diploma can be enough to become a professional secretary as long as you have the right skills. While in high school, you'll want to take courses in English and computer science. Some employers or placement agencies offer training programs to help secretaries acquire the necessary office and computer skills. Additionally, some community colleges and technical schools offer associate degree programs and certificate options for secretaries.

What Do Employers Look For in Professional Secretaries?

Interpersonal communication skills are important for professional secretaries seeking employment. Employers generally want a secretary who is friendly and can communicate in an effective manner with co-workers, clients and guests. Other attributes that employers look for in professional secretaries include good writing, computer and organizational skills. Several job advertisements were summarized below for you so that you could learn what real employers in November 2012 wanted in professional secretaries.

  • A Connecticut business needed a professional secretary with five years of experience or more in financial administrative work.
  • A financial group in Ohio wanted applicants for a professional secretary job to be proficient with Microsoft Office.
  • In South Carolina, a government organization was looking for a professional secretary capable of maintaining high-risk public trust clearance.
  • A professional secretary opening in New Mexico preferred someone with experience working with volunteer organizations.

How Can You Stand Out as a Certified Professional Secretary?

The title of certified professional secretary is no longer offered by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). However, the organization does have a new credential you can pursue instead. This can help you stand out from other professional secretaries who don't take the time to become certified. The Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designation can be earned by passing an examination. To qualify for this examination, you must have at least four years of experience. If you have an associate's degree, you'll only need three years of work experience, while a bachelor's degree allows you to pursue the credential with only two years of experience. Recertification must occur every five years in order to maintain your designation.

Alternative Vocational Choices

Medical records and health information technicians is an occupation you may want to consider pursuing. In this field, you would ensure that files and data related to health information are accurate, accessible and safe for your employer. The BLS found that from 2010 to 2020, medical records and health information technicians should see an employment growth of 21%. In May 2011, roughly $36,000 was the average yearly earnings for medical records and health information technicians.

With some education and training, an alternative career path you might want to look into is paralegal or legal assistant. In this field, you would help lawyers by performing research on various laws and creating documents that would be relevant to a case that the lawyer is working on. Paralegals and legal assistants made about $50,000 on average annually, according to the BLS in May 2011. The employment growth for this occupation from 2010 to 2020 was projected to be about 18%.

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