Microsoft Office Specialist: Certificate, Training & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a Microsoft Office Specialist Certificate, training or online degree program? Read about program requirements, pros and cons and potential careers.
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Microsoft Office Specialist: Certificate, Training and Online Degree Information at a Glance

Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certifications are awarded by Microsoft for demonstrated proficiency in the company's software suite of office programs. You can train for one or more Microsoft Office Suite programs on your own or attend on-site or online programs offered by training firms, proprietary schools or postsecondary schools. You'll take Microsoft's tests to qualify for your certification. Records of your certifications will be maintained by Microsoft. Transcripts validate proficiency in a single or group of Microsoft programs.

This type of certification is usually sought by individuals working in clerical, administrative or related positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for administrative and executive administrative assistants and administrative services managers is expected to grow 10% to 19% from 2010-2020, compared to an average growth of 14% for all occupations during this period ( Achieving MOS certifications may help you stand out among employers.

Certificate Programs Training Programs
Who is this training for? Individuals who want entry-level positions or enhanced earning and promotion potential Individuals interested in administrative management positions or advancement opportunities
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary)-Secretary ($33,300 )*
- Administrative Assistant ($41,000)*
- Office Manager ($59,000 - with seven years of experience)*
- Executive Assistant ($51,000 - with four years of experience)*
- Executive secretary ($68,000 - with four years of experience)*
- Administrative Services Manager ($72,000- with seven years of experience)*
Time to Completion 1-day workshops to 2 years, depending on pace 2-year associate's degree programs
Common Graduation Requirements 0-24 credits 60-70 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Online coursework often available Coursework and training programs widely available

Source: * (2012 figures).

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are short-term, subject-specific programs designed to increase your skills and enhance your employment options. You may want to consider programs that closely follow training formats recommended by Microsoft. Programs taught by Microsoft Certified Trainers or sponsored by Microsoft training partners are designed to prepare you for the certification examinations.

Certificate programs often cover a select list of software, with little or no flexibility in the curriculum, although they may be flexible about completion time. For example, in a typical certificate program, you might train in MS Office program tracks ranging from Office 2000 through Office 2010. You may need to decide which MS Office Suite version will best meet your needs.

Pros and Cons

You may discover that certificate programs address the specific skills you want to learn. MOS programs are widely available from proprietary schools, colleges, technical and training companies, as well as from Microsoft itself.


  • Short-term programs may lead to immediate employment
  • Microsoft certifications may improve chances for promotion or raises
  • Training often available online or at convenient locations
  • Lower costs than degree programs


  • Students will need to evaluate quality of prospective programs
  • May not be transferable to a degree program
  • Very specific programs that may not include non-technical training

Courses and Requirements

Certificate programs are available at the specialist, expert or master level. These programs could also include training in business writing, teamwork, presentation graphics, document processing and web design.

Microsoft offers specialist exams for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook programs and expert exams for Word and Excel. Newer Microsoft Office programs with certification options such as SharePoint, OneNote and Microsoft Office 365 are only available in MS Office 2010. Master-level candidates must pass Word Expert, Excel Expert and PowerPoint, as well as either Access or Outlook exams. Some schools might offer MOS Master Certification Training.

Certification tests are available for these MS Office programs:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Outlook
  • Access
  • SharePoint
  • OneNote

Online Options

Certificate programs are widely available online. Some courses may be taken online, although more technical course credits may not transfer to undergraduate degree programs. If you think you might eventually want to obtain a degree, you'll should consult with your academic counselor and plan carefully.

Training Programs

Preparation for MOS certification tests are available at for-profit training corporations, proprietary and trade schools and postsecondary schools. Word processing, spreadsheet, project management, contact management, presentation graphics or database software classes may be available independently or within certificate or business or office technology associate degree programs. Training may be offered through individual classes or through certificate, associate degree, professional development or extension programs hosted by educational institutions

Pros and Cons


  • Programs may offer transferable college credit
  • Internship and co-op opportunities may be available
  • Training may help obtain advancement opportunities in management


  • Additional education may be required for management positions
  • Some technical or vocational credits may not be transferable to degree programs
  • A degree program involves an extended time, commitment and some costs

Source: * (2012 figure).

Courses and Requirements

With a more extended training program, you may have opportunities to specialize in areas such as office technology, accounting, law or medicine. You might find a program that would not only prepare you for MOS examinations but also for certified professional secretary, legal assistant or administrative assistant examinations offered by various professional organizations. You might meet basic general education requirements in an associate degree program with business-related courses in accounting or office management.

With a longer program, you may have internship or co-op opportunities that may be helpful for your career. Courses might include:

  • Business law
  • Records management
  • Public speaking
  • Business writing
  • QuickBooks
  • Customer service
  • Office procedures

Online Degree Options

Fully online courses and degree programs are available. This option may work for you if you need a flexible academic schedule. Software program training may be well-suited to online training, but it might be advantageous to participate in a traditional campus environment. Hybrid programs could provide access to non-computer office equipment, labs and services that you may not have at home.

Standing Out

To stand out for advancement opportunities or for other potential employers, you could seek internships and part-time work to boost your experience credentials. For example, you might become a Microsoft Student Partner at your school, acting as a Microsoft representative on-campus.

Also, you could make connections with Microsoft partners and customers through Microsoft's Students to Business program, or start a Microsoft student technical club at your school. Achieving expert level in one or more programs or MOS Master Certification could give you the advantage you need to distinguish yourself from the others.

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