Administrative assistant and secretarial science programs prepare people to provide administrative support in an office or business setting. Students learn word processing, data entry, and how to operate office machines. They also study business law and communications. In addition, they learn how to prepare reports, keep records, and basic accounting.
Many jobs require employees to be multitaskers, but perhaps no other job depends on it as much as a secretary or administrative assistant. Think about it: you have to be part mechanic to fix the copier that always jams. Then you have to switch gears, so to speak, and become a legal eagle to handle sensitive information. You have to be a little bit of a counselor to handle the different personalities in the office. And you also must be a great writer when composing reports and letters.
To become all these things that add up to an administrative assistant, it's helpful to seek formal training. While it is still possible to get a job in this field without a degree, more employers are seeking applicants who have a certificate, diploma, or associate degree.
Many schools offer one- and two-year administrative assistant or secretarial science programs. (In general, these terms mean the same thing. Secretarial science is the historic name, but many programs have changed to Administrative Assistant, to reflect the occupation name change.) Your studies include courses in keyboarding, word processing software, and data entry. That's just the tip of the iceberg, as you may also study spreadsheet, e-mail, and presentation software. You also learn how to operate and maintain office machines, such as scanners, copiers, and printers.
In addition, you take courses in business communications and business law. This teaches you how to speak and write effectively. It also helps you to know and follow laws about security and confidentiality. Many programs include courses in finance and accounting. In general, the longer the program, the more skills you gain.
It shouldn't be hard to find programs such as these at your local community or technical college. Many proprietary schools also offer such programs. Another strategy is to take a few courses in an office technology or office automation program.