Secretarial Science Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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An undergraduate degree in secretarial science can lead to jobs as an administrative assistant or office secretary and many other positions. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Study Secretarial Science: Degrees at a Glance

Administrative assistants and secretaries work mostly in medical or legal offices, schools and government agencies. They handle clerical work and daily tasks for an organization, such as making appointments, tracking files, sending memos and supporting other staff. If you are interested in becoming a secretary or administrative assistant, you generally won't need more than a high school diploma for most positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2011 that the expected growth of jobs for administrative assistants and secretaries overall should remain stable from 2010-2020; however, positions strictly for secretaries and administrative assistants outside of medical, legal, and executive areas weren't expected to grow much at all. Even so, due to the nature of the work and its need for high interpersonal skills, administrative assistants and secretaries will continue to be essential for the overall management of most organizations.

Associate Bachelor's
Who Should Apply for this Degree Program? Those looking for immediate administrative assistant positions upon graduation Those looking for more specialized office management classes or higher levels of responsibility/service in office work
Common Career Paths (approximate annual median salary)* - Administrative assistant ($36,000)
- Office manager ($59,000)
- Administrative supervisor ($55,000)
- Administrative services manager ($72,000)
Time to Completion Average two years full time Average four years full time
Common Graduation Requirements None Administrative assistant internship (varies per program)
Prerequisites Computer skills and basic writing skills Core communications, technology, and mathematics courses (varies per program)
Online Availability Online/blended courses Online/blended courses

Source: *Salary.com (2011 figures).

Associate Degrees in Secretarial Science

While experience is usually the key for getting hired and promoted in most office settings, college coursework in secretarial science can give you the skills in organization, communication, and technology needed in administrative positions and office settings today. For an associate degree program, this means your classes will focus on human relations and interpersonal skills, managing information and organizing documents, effectively using technology and following professional business standards. You will likely be able to complete the necessary coursework in two years (full time) and continue on to an immediate position as a secretary, administrative assistant or (if you have experience under your belt) even supervisory positions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The interpersonal and communications skills needed for the work (which can't be replicated by technology) means that secretaries/administrative assistants continue to be essential in many office settings
  • The typical hours and environment for administrative assistant work are flexible
  • Formal associate degree program can give you a strong foundation for essential communication and organization skills, including the use of rapidly changing technology in office settings

Cons

  • You don't need more than high school experience for many entry-level secretarial positions*
  • The rate of growth for secretarial positions in the next decade is slower than average, meaning most openings will come only as others retire from their jobs*
  • The annual salary for general secretaries and administrative assistants is less than it is for other specialized secretaries, such as legal secretaries or executive secretaries*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

The prerequisites you may encounter typically involve fundamental computer usage (keyboarding, for example) and also showing competency in essential reading/writing skills. From there, you'll be expected to complete 60-95 credit hours in courses that will help you communicate and work with others, track and document information, use the most relevant office technology and follow office procedures. Some programs include a practicum as an administrative assistant as a capstone. For a sample of some of the common course topics, see these examples below:

  • Keyboarding and computer basics
  • Records and document management
  • Business communication and correspondence

Online Course Information

Online classes at the associate degree level can be found both in online and in hybrid settings. Most of these classes involve basic communications and technology skills (English composition, word processing and text entry) along with upper-level professional development and management courses. Depending on the institution, many online classes associated with office administration can lead to certificates or diplomas in various concentrations, such as medical or legal secretarial positions.

How Do I Stand Out with this Degree?

Getting ahead as an associate degree graduate in secretarial science can be a matter of program concentration. Many secretarial science degree programs allow you to choose courses that can prepare you for a more specific setting as an administrative assistant: a medical office or legal agency, for example. The BLS reported that the expected growth of jobs for medical secretaries, for example, was 31% (2010-2020); choosing appropriate classes for your additional coursework can provide you the opportunity to work towards such a position in the future.

Bachelor's Degrees in Secretarial Science

Many administrative assistant positions advertised do not ask for more than an associate degree-level of education in their qualifications. However, obtaining a bachelor's degree in secretarial science may give you a better opportunity to find supervisory or selective administrative positions, especially when you have experience. Bachelor's degree programs in secretarial science (often called 'office administration') reflect much of the same coursework and requirements as an associate degree program. In a bachelor's degree program, you'll be able to take more pertinent courses in business and office procedures and more advanced classes in technology and communications. Upon finishing all required coursework and capstone projects, bachelor's degree graduates can expect to continue in positions as administrative supervisors, administrative services managers or personal secretaries for executives or presidents of some organizations (pending experience).

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You'll find lots of professional opportunities through administrative assistant coursework/internships
  • Many professional organizations exist for to join, such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals*
  • A higher degree can mean a higher chance of promotions to supervisory or select secretarial positions

Cons

  • Many administrative assistant positions only require an associate degree
  • Administrative assistants make a relatively low salary on average ($31,000 as of May 2011)**
  • Employers in highly specialized fields may prefer applicants with more specialized degrees, additional training and/or significant experience

Sources: *www.iaap-hq.org, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

A bachelor's degree program in secretarial science offers classes that prepare you to handle the everyday workings of an office. Prerequisites often include various core mathematics, communications and technology classes; if you are continuing on from a 2-year program, some schools may expect you to have an associate degree in secretarial science. After completing prerequisites, you'll need to complete an average of 120 credit hours of coursework in more advanced communication and correspondence, ethics and etiquette of office settings and business practices. Since many schools include internships as part of the coursework, you may have to adhere to a certain dress code while taking such classes. Here are some examples of the more advanced topics in a bachelor's degree secretarial science program:

  • Proofreading and editing
  • Business computer usage and Web development
  • Professional development as an office intern

Online Course Information

While it is more common to find individual online/hybrid courses building toward a certificate or an associate degree, degree programs online offer bachelor's degree-level classes in secretarial science. Similarly to associate degree-level courses, online courses for a bachelor's degree in secretarial science are primarily about the basic organizational and technological skills needed for the job field. In a fully online degree program, you may have to meet certain admissions requirements (such as already having some years of office experience).

How Do I Stand Out with this Degree?

As with an associate degree program, you'll likely have the flexibility to choose classes that prepare you for positions as a medical, legal or executive secretary. The primary factor in getting a position and moving up in office administration seems to be experience, not degree achievement, you'll likely help yourself even more if you do work-study in an office setting. Various institutions have work-study options for their students. Although it varies by department, many work-study jobs are open under the guidance of administrative assistants or office managers. Through work-study, you can earn valuable experience in a secretarial setting and perhaps even gain a foot in the door for an immediate position upon graduation.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Business Admin
      • B.A. - Public Admin
      • B.A. - Operations Management and Analysis
      • B.A. - International Business
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
      • BS - Business Administration - General
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Management
      • BS - Organizational Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    5. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Operations Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Applied Science in Management and Leadership
      • Bachelor of Science in Business
      • Bachelor of Science in Business - General Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business
  • Online Programs Available
    7. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Business Administration - Bachelor's
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Business Admin.
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Applied Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • Bachelor: Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Business Administration, BA - Management

Featured Schools

Ashford University

  • B.A. - Business Admin
  • B.A. - Public Admin
  • B.A. - Operations Management and Analysis

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
  • BS - Business Administration - General

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Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Business Management
  • BS - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Operations Management

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Management and Leadership
  • Bachelor of Science in Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Business - General Management

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ECPI University

  • Business Administration - Bachelor's

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Grand Canyon University

  • BS in Business Admin.
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • BS in Applied Management

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