Office Professional Degrees: Career Diploma, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an office professional degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a diploma and associate's degree, and potential careers.
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Studying Office Professional: Degrees at a Glance

Office professionals perform administrative, clerical, and business finance tasks. Specialists work across multiple industries, and they may specialize in office technology, accounting, law, or medical administration. Schools design programs to provide essential, modern-day skills, and you may find programs through a college's school of business administration or office technology. The diploma will prepare you for entry-level clerical opportunities. The associate's degree offers a deeper knowledge of business procedures and the technologies used during daily operations.

The office professional career path advances based on education and experience. For example, a diploma makes entry-level opportunities, such as receptionist, available. Receptionists move into administrative assistant, followed by executive assistant and ultimately administrative supervisor or management positions as they gain experience and knowledge of a company's operations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the various jobs in this field are expected to experience a large variance in job growth rate. The slowest-growing jobs will increase by 4%, and the fastest-growing jobs will increase by 41% during the 2010-2020 decade (www.bls.gov).

Diploma Associate's
Who is this degree for? People seeking entry-level clerical opportunities Individuals who wish to specialize in law, finance, or a medical setting or those seeking supervisory positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate median or mean annual salary) - Material recording clerk ($24,000 median)*
- Receptionist or information clerk ($27,000 mean)**
- Medical secretary ($32,000 mean)**
- General secretary or administrative assistant ($33,000 mean)**
- Bookkeeping, accounting, or auditing clerk ($36,000 mean)**
- Career paths are similar, although an associate's degree or experience prepares you for advanced positions, specialization, or increased salary
- Executive secretary or executive administrative assistant ($48,000 mean)**
- Paralegal or legal assistant ($50,000 mean)*
- Administrative services manager ($87,000 mean)*
Time to Completion 9 months to 1 year full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 30 credits
- Work experience course
- Roughly 60 credits
- Internship or work experience
- Job seminar course
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Office Professional Diploma

An office professional diploma provides the basic knowledge required to obtain entry-level clerical or administrative positions in a variety of employment settings. Programs provide training in office procedures, technology, professionalisms, and ethical behavior. Schools design programs to integrate human relations, resource and time management, professional communication, and the employment process into a focused curriculum. Upon graduation, you'll understand standard technologies, records management, and basic financial procedures.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The program may increase your marketability because employers require high school diplomas for many positions
  • Program length makes entry into the field quicker than seeking an associate's degree
  • Potential career earnings are competitive, given the appropriate experience and certification

Cons

  • Financial aid may not be available due to the program length
  • You may not have access to internship programs to gain experience
  • You'll compete with people who possess an associate's degree

Courses and Requirements

The office professional program offers a basic education in business operations, successful job search techniques, and human interaction. The goal of the program is to provide graduates with the skills required to locate work, perform ethically, communicate professionally, and retain employment. Some programs offer internships to help you gain valuable work experience. Following are some of the common course subjects:

  • Keyboarding
  • Employment techniques
  • Desktop publishing
  • Business communications
  • Transcription
  • Office accounting
  • Financial software

Online Diploma Options

An online office professional diploma offers a complete online experience that delivers coursework similar to traditional programs. Schools usually offer an accelerated learning experience delivered in a 5-week format. You can take courses online while working in an office environment to advance in your career. You'll need access to the appropriate tools and technologies to finish your online education.

Stand Out with This Diploma

Technology drives business operations and decisions, and employers prefer to hire candidates with updated knowledge and skills in modern software. Seeking the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Certification will validate your skills and demonstrate your commitment to the profession. The MOS designation proves your competence in word processing, database and spreadsheet programs, each of which are essential to business operations. Choosing a program that offers internship opportunities will provide the experience employers seek when making hiring decisions. You can also participate in projects to develop your skills during your studies.

Office Professional Associate's Degree

The office professional associate's degree takes your education further by allowing specialization or elective coursework. Schools structure programs to offer classes in legal processes and documentation or medical office transcription and management. Specializing in either area can help boost your salary potential and increase job prospects. The associate's degree may also focus more on current technologies, preparation for certification, and keyboarding skills.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Employers look for candidates with higher education
  • Programs transfer to a bachelor's degree in a related discipline
  • Many programs offer internship opportunities

Cons

  • You may compete with individuals who possess bachelor's degrees
  • Entry-level salaries aren't that different from diploma salary offers
  • Bachelor's degree holders will have access to more promising job opportunities than associate's degree holders

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree provides a more detailed and in-depth approach to your education through general education, core courses, and electives. Programs usually require 60 credits in mathematics, communications, and administrative procedures. You'll learn a variety of business finance and electronic communications skills through courses in information technology, database applications, presentation software, e-mail applications, web design, computerized accounting, and composition. You may also participate in a work experience or job seminar course to gain relevant experience.

Online Degree Info

Similar to the diploma, an office professional associate's degree is available as a complete online experience. Online programs require collaboration and participation with instructors and other students to complete relevant projects. You may need to take an online orientation course and have access to the appropriate technologies. Online programs usually require the completion of roughly 60 credits, and you may not have access to an internship.

Stand Out with This Degree

In addition to MOS certification, gaining the appropriate designations for your selected field is important to success. For example, if you pursue administrative assistant opportunities, the International Association of Administrative Professionals offers the Certified Administrative Professional designation. The program requires that you have a minimum of three years of experience if you possess an associate's degree. If you pursue a specialization, such as administrative services in a legal environment, Legal Secretaries International offers the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist credential in specific branches of the law.

Degree Alternatives

While the office professional program prepares you for a number of opportunities, several occupations are experiencing slower-than-average or average job growth. The BLS reveals that general and executive secretaries and administrative assistants could expect fast-as-average (12%-13%) job growth over the 2010-2020 decade. Legal secretaries will experience slower-than-average (4%) job growth during the same period.

Medical secretaries could expect faster than average job growth (41%) and salaries comparable to other office professionals. You may consider an associate's degree in medical administration or medical administrative assistant. Programs offer training in a combination of medical and biological terminology, medical office procedures, and business management skills.

Popular Schools

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    Oklahoma State University

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Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • Associate: Business Admin.
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  • AASBA in Event Planning

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Saint Leo University

  • AA: Business Administration

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Herzing University

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Colorado Christian University

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American InterContinental University

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South College

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