Office administration students are immersed in computer classes and leave
the program with a working knowledge of key software.
"I can't stress enough the importance of computer skills," says
Chad Hyatt, curriculum director at Yorl Technical College in South Carolina.
"Not just knowing how to type a letter, but knowing how to integrate all programs
together for productivity."
A secretarial program will give you some knowledge of accounting, and should
make you comfortable with office procedures, says Cherie Kennedy. She is a
business instructor at Central Tech in Oklahoma. She says her one-year program
prepares students to enter the workplace immediately.
"If they do well in their studies, the students will acquire skills
in advanced keyboarding, filing, telephone, business writing and English,
basic accounting, document preparation, office procedures, and computer skills
in Windows, Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and the Internet," she says.
Most office administration programs are a year long, although you
can find some that will teach you the basics in about six months. Check the
college listings for more details.
And while there are many private institutions, it's wise to thoroughly
check into them before you commit yourself. In the U.S., career colleges are
accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of
Technology, whose members must meet certain quality standards to be accredited.
Your state may also have an accrediting body.
Many schools offer a co-op option, in which you alternate study
terms and work terms. This is a good way to gain practical experience and
make good contacts that may help you get a job after graduation.
In many programs, proper office dress is compulsory. Kennedy's program
begins with her instructing students on professional and casual business dress.
But there are problems, she says.
"Students are required to dress professionally on Tuesdays and dress business
casual on Thursdays. Often, I have had to teach lessons on hygiene, appropriate
hairstyles and fashion trends," she says.
Focusing on computer application courses in high school, being involved
in business organizations such as Junior Achievement, having an interest in
writing, and participating in other extracurricular activities are all good
The main costs are tuition and books. Although not required, having a computer
at home -- and using it frequently -- helps you meet assignment deadlines
and improves computer and typing skills.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Secretaries
and Administrative Assistants
International Association of Administrative Professionals
An association to help administrative professionals enhance their
skills and become more effective contributors to their employers
Questions and answers, and a chat forum about executive assistants
Comprehensive and clever website for office professionals