Information Processing: Associate, Training & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate degree in information processing? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and information processing degrees.
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Studying Information Processing: Degrees at a Glance

Information processing programs give students the knowledge necessary to work in a variety of office-based careers. They may focus on a specific industry, such as health care, or be more general. Typically, programs cover teaching computer, filing and business skills that can be used in a variety of different fields. Programs may also be offered under the name of office technology.

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), many office-based careers are expected to grow as fast as or faster than average between 2010 and 2020. For example, positions for general office clerks are expected to grow by 17% in that time frame.

Training Associate
Who is this degree for? People who need an introduction to the field Students who would like to go into an office career
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean salary) - Receptionist/Information clerk ($27,000)*
- General office clerk ($29,000)*
- Medical records technician ($36,000)*
- Secretary (depends on industry, $32,000-$48,000)*
Career paths for the associate's degree are similar to those of the training, although there might be more advancement opportunities for candidates holding an associate's degree
Time to Completion Varies Two years
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework
- Exams
Same as training, plus:
- Internships (varies)
Prerequisites High school diploma/GED High school diploma/GED
Online Availability Some Some

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

Training in Information Processing

Training programs in information processing come in a variety of different forms, including undergraduate minors, diploma programs and certificates. These programs are offered at universities, technical institutes and community colleges. Many institutions that offer an associate degree in information processing also offer related certificate programs, which typically take a year to complete. A training program may be all that is necessary to gain an entry-level office position. Some schools may allow training program credits to transfer to a degree program.

Pros and Cons


  • A variety of information processing training programs are available
  • You can use this training to gain skills in a specific area
  • Some positions only require a high school diploma, so you may stand out with additional training


  • You will be preparing for some careers with projected slower-than-average job growth (7% for information clerks from 2010-2020)*
  • You may be competing for positions against applicants with more training and experience
  • May have repetitive duties that do not change from day-to-day

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Courses and Requirements

Requirements for training programs depend on the program. For example, certificates typically take about a year to complete and consist of 30 credits worth of coursework. However, this is not universal and some programs can take shorter or longer. Programs may be designed to introduce someone to all the basics necessary for a career in the office technology field, or they may concentrate on a particular skill, such as word processing.

Some courses you may take include:

  • Electronic information processing
  • Keyboarding
  • Introduction to computers
  • Computer business applications

Typically, training programs require only coursework for completion.

Online Course Options

Training programs may be offered completely online. However, even if the coursework is offered online, some programs may require that you take tests in person. They may allow these tests to be proctored at your local college or library. In general, online training programs are identical to those offered on campus.

Getting Ahead

You may find that having a certification will help your chances of employment. Strong computer and typing skills are also considered a plus. Microsoft offers a large range of Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification options that are available for a variety of different programs, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access and SharePoint. Expert certifications are also available for some programs, and master-level certification is available for those who pass a certain set of exams.

Associate Degrees in Information Processing

Associate degree programs in information processing typically take two years to complete. They are generally offered at community colleges and some universities. The degree may be specifically in information processing, or information processing may be included in a larger office technology or business administration degree. Some programs focus on a specific industry, such as health care, or on a particular skill, such as word processing. Entry into an associate degree program typically requires admission to the school.

Pros and Cons


  • You can find a variety of programs that offer information processing degrees at this level
  • Some employers in this field prefer to hire applicants who have an associate degree
  • You can learn the communication and computer skills commonly used in various fields, such as human resources


  • You may need to pursue a bachelor's degree or gain experience to advance in this field
  • You may be competing against applicants with less education and more experience
  • Average salary potential may be lower than the national average (e.g., $29,000 for general office clerks)*

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

Common Courses and Requirements

Certificate programs typically include four semesters worth of coursework. They tend to include a combination of computer, business and elective courses. Some programs may include internships, though this is not common.

Some courses you may take include:

  • College composition
  • Accounting procedures
  • Office management
  • Business mathematics
  • Business communications
  • Microcomputer software

Online Course Options

Information processing associate degree programs that are offered completely online are uncommon, though they do exist. It is more common for part of the degree to be offered online. Typically, courses that are offered online will also be offered on campus, which means you will study similar topics. If a program is offered partially or completely online, the program's website will generally make this clear.

Getting Ahead

Earning professional certification may help your chances of employment. This may be more important in some industries than others. For example, if you wish to become a secretary, the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers levels of certification for legal secretaries including the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) and Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) credentials. Both certifications require the completion of an exam, and NALS offers an online study group for preparation. Additionally, keeping up with changes in office technology and computer software will help you earn and maintain employment.

Degree Alternatives

Many information processing careers are on the low end for salaries, so if you'd like to make more money while keeping a similar skill set, you might consider becoming a court reporter. Court reporters create transcriptions at a variety of events, including legal proceedings and public speeches. In order to become one, you will need court reporter training from a community college or similar facility. According to BLS, positions for court reporters are expected to increase 14% between 2010 and 2020, and they earned an average salary of about $54,000 in May 2011.

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