Completing an administrative assistant associate degree prepares graduates to earn more throughout their careers. According to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, those with an associate degree earn about one-third more annually than those with only a high school diploma, on average.
An associate degree opens doors to a number of career and educational paths, from entering a lucrative career in administrative assisting or reception, to eventually pursuing a bachelor's degree. Today, many office and administrative careers are experiencing a good deal of growth, making right now a great time to earn your degree in this field.
This guide introduces you to the process of earning your administrative associate degree, including tips for picking the best program, career options upon graduation, and admissions requirements.
Should I Get an Administrative Assistant Associate Degree?
Getting your associate degree in administrative assisting provides the education and skills you need to enter a new and exciting career. You can opt for an online program, or select a more traditional on-campus program. Online programs offer some extra flexibility, which makes them appealing to working professionals or those interested in changing careers. However, on-campus associate programs often attract students coming straight from high school, and who know they would like to pursue a career or position that requires an associate degree. Both options provide the same valuable education, and prepare you to enter the administrative assisting field.
Administrative assistant associate degree programs cover a range of skills you'll need to succeed in the field. Coursework emphasizes topics like managing records, bookkeeping, communications, accounting, and transcription. You might also take courses in technology, which introduce you to various computer software and devices you might encounter in a career in administrative assistance. Additionally, students must complete general courses in writing, math, and sciences. However, this degree offers more than just a classroom experience; students meet other professionals working in the field, gain access to job placement assistance and internships, and graduate with a competitive advantage in the job field.
What Can I Do With an Administrative Assistant Associate Degree?
An administrative assistant associate degree provides the foundation for a variety of careers. These professionals generally have strong skills in communication, time management, and organization, and can easily handle the tasks these jobs require. The careers below serve as just a few examples of careers you can consider after earning your associate degree in administrative assistance.
- Administrative Assistant
Administrative assistants work in a variety of settings. They provide general administrative support, including answering and directing telephone calls, scheduling appointments, setting up meetings for staff, handling documents and bookkeeping, and maintaining various types of data and information systems.
Median Annual Salary: $37,870
Receptionists serve as the first point of contact for any visitor entering a company or business's office. They greet visitors and clients, answer and direct phone calls, keep track of messages and memos, perform light bookkeeping, answer and sort incoming mail and email, and handle all kinds of paperwork and copying.
Median Annual Salary: $28,390
- Customer Service Representative
Customer service agents work as representatives for all kinds of businesses and organizations. They respond directly to customer concerns and act as the connection between business and customer. They may work in physical business locations, or at call centers. They provide information and answer questions, take orders, hande invoices, and field complaints.
Median Annual Salary: $32,890
How to Choose an Administrative Assistant Associate Program
Prospective students should consider a few important things when choosing an administrative assistant associate degree program. To start, think about how long you would ideally like to spend in school. Many associate degrees take around 1-2 years to complete and require approximately 60 credits, which comprises nearly half the credits it takes to earn a bachelor's degree. How long it takes to finish these requirements depends on a number of things; if you choose to enroll part-time rather than full-time, for example, it may take you longer to finish your degree.
Online programs sometimes offer accelerated options that allow you to test out of certain requirements if you already possess field experience. Some on-campus programs may also allow you to double up on credits and finish faster. The longer it takes you to complete your degree, the more it may cost over time. College costs include more than just tuition, as well; students may need to cover living expenses, textbooks, fees, and any technology costs for things like a laptop or other device you need for school.
When researching schools that offer an administrative assistant associate degree, make sure you look for each school's accreditation. Attending an accredited institution means you can transfer earned credits much easier -- should you plan to pursue a bachelor's degree -- and demonstrates to future employers that your degree comes from a reputable school.
Administrative Assistant Associate Program Admissions
Applying to any college program might feel a little overwhelming, but if you know what to expect, you can start the process feeling confident. Generally speaking, every school requires a general application form, copies of your official high school transcripts, and standardized test scores. On-campus applications may differ slightly from online program applications, as the admissions process for online schools usually involves a few more steps. Fortunately, many undergraduate institutions now participate in -- and accept -- the Common App, a program that allows you to complete one standard application and send it to multiple schools at once.
You should plan to apply to between three and five schools. Keep in mind, though, that applying to schools often incurs application fees, which can range from $20 to $40 for associate programs; sometimes schools offer free application periods and/or waivers for those with financial need.
- Application: Application forms for associate programs generally include basic information about your academic and personal history, and shouldn't take very long to complete. Consider using the Common App if your prospective schools participate in the program.
- Transcripts: You'll need to send official copies of high school transcripts -- as well as transcripts of any college you may have already completed -- to each school you apply to. These transcripts might incur a small fee, and you can order them directly from your school's registrar's office.
- Application Fee: Some schools charge application fees for associate programs. They can range in price, but you may have this fee waived if the school offers waivers for financial need, or free application periods.
Educational Paths for Administrative Assistant Associate Programs
Earning an administrative assistant associate degree can prepare you to eventually transfer to a four-year bachelor's program. A bachelor's degree often provides higher salary opportunities than just an associate degree alone, making it a great option to advance in your career or even pursue other career options. Students with an administrative assistant associate degree could benefit from pursuing one of the bachelor's degrees listed below.
- Bachelor of Arts in Business
A BA in business builds upon many of the same basic skills in an associate program, like management, communication, and using software to facilitate business. You may also take courses in mathematics, ethics, logic and reasoning, and entrepreneurship.
- Bachelor of Arts in Accounting
The BA in accounting features courses in different areas of mathematics, for which an associate degree offers good preparation. This degree also emphasizes using computers and software for accounting, auditing, and taxes.
- Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts
A liberal arts degree is a great option for students who may wish to explore multiple areas of study housed under a single degree. These degrees allows students to customize their coursework, giving them an opportunity to take courses in different departments and obtain a broader education.
What Else Can I Expect From an Administrative Assistant Associate Program?
Although the following information can prepare you for what to expect from an administrative assistant associate degree, each program is unique. What you actually encounter in your program ultimately depends on where you decide to earn your degree.
Courses in an Administrative Assistant Associate Program
Coursework in an administrative assistant associate program differs from school to school. The list of sample courses below are just a few examples of classes that you might take during your program.
Administrative assistants use computers on a daily basis, so keyboard and typing skills are essential elements of an associate program in this field. This course may come in multiple levels, and establishes strong typing skills, demonstrates the use of keyboard shortcuts, and other important topics.
- Word Processing
Many of an administrative assistant's tasks feature written communication, primarily conducted through word processing software. Courses in word processing help students understand the basics of this software, and how to use it efficiently and effectively.
Keeping track of data and information through the use of interactive spreadsheets makes up a great deal of an administrative assistant's duties. These courses teach essential skills in software like Excel, and how to use them in a business setting.
- Business English
Most college students take some form of composition as a general education requirement. This class covers the basics of composition and writing, but with assignments and skills geared towards students who ultimately enter careers in business. The course emphasizes effective written communication and rhetoric.
Since much of what an administrative assistant does is on a computer, this course introduces the fundamental skills in computers. This includes using various operating systems, working with different types of software, and using the internet for work purposes.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Administrative Assistant Associate Degree?
Associate degree programs generally require about 60 credits; how long it takes to complete these credits can depend on a number of factors. For example, an accelerated program may offer opportunities to test out of certain requirements, allowing you to finish faster. You can also pursue an online degree, which may allow you to complete credits at a faster pace, depending on the school you attend.
Enrollment level generally serves as the most influential factor in time-to-completion. Enrolling part-time instead of full-time can result in a longer amount of time spent in school. Full-time enrollment could potentially lead to earning your degree in 1-2 years, depending on how many credits your program requires. Keep in mind that the longer it takes to complete your degree, the more costs you'll ultimately incur along the way.
How Much Is an Administrative Assistant Associate Degree?
The cost of an associate degree in administrative assisting depends on a variety of factors. According to a survey conducted using data from the U.S. Department of Education, the average cost-per-credit at a two-year public institution is $135. When you multiply that number by the typical amount of credits required for an associate degree, the estimated average total for this degree comes to $8,100. Of course, this number serves as a rough estimate, and the actual cost you may end up paying depends on a range of things.
Consider other costs beyond just tuition, such as school fees, textbooks, housing costs, and any technology. For example, you may need to purchase your own laptop in order to complete coursework, especially if you pursue your degree online. If you choose an on-campus program, you may also have to weigh transportation costs for your commute to school. All of these factors can influence the overall cost of your degree, and you should consider each of them as you decide which program will meet your needs and academic goals.
Professional Organizations in Administrative Assisting
A professional organization offers unique opportunities while you earn your administrative assistant associate degree. Many of these organizations have services and resources geared specifically towards students, like networking opportunities, continuing education programs, annual conferences, and even career services and job boards. Students pursuing administrative assisting and related business fields can take advantage of the organizations below.
ASAP provides a range of resources and services to both members and non-members alike, including fully online webinars and video classes, a digital publication database, and a special certification.
The IAAP offers an annual summit conference with keynote speakers and conference events. Members also have access to a special publication, and training in software programs.
The AEAP offers administrative professionals robust networking opportunities, along with educational programs and special seminars.