The role of the administrative assistant has evolved dramatically as technology has changed standard office procedures. Administrative assistants now function as office managers, desktop publishers, communication experts, and software superusers. Often, it is also the administrative assistant's duty to train personnel on new office equipment and business software programs as well. This means the most effective administrative assistant programs will offer classes in the latest office technologies and provide students with skills and software knowledge that will be up to date if not ahead of trends in business practices.
Completing an administrative assistant program is not required to get a job, but there are a number of skills required to actually function as an administrative assistant. If one does not have prior office experience, the best route is completion of a two year associate's degree administrative assistant program at a community college, technical college, or business training school. The least expensive programs will likely be at public community colleges, but cost is not always the most important factor. The first step in selection is making a list of all the local schools offering an administrative assistant program. Next, compare all the classes offered. Courses should include the latest versions of the most popular business software. In the United States, these are typically Microsoft® Office programs such as Word, PowerPoint®, Access®, Excel®, and Outlook®.
Checking online job postings for a candidate's location is an excellent way to build a list of the most common software programs and skills desired. Some other basics are Adobe® Acrobat® for creating forms and HTML and CSS for working with websites. Much depends on the industry in which one wishes to work. For example, an administrative assistant position at a marketing company will likely require more creative desktop publishing tasks, and a position in an accounting office will require more financial software knowledge. It's important to choose a focus before selecting an administrative assistant program to ensure courses will be available in the appropriate areas.
Schools offering internships with an administrative assistant program should go to the top of the list. This is the best way to make contacts, network for future jobs, and gain needed experience prior to the job hunt. If there aren't any schools with internships available, schools in bigger metropolitan areas will offer more opportunities for creating one's own internship opportunity for those lacking experience. After matching up course offerings with desired skills and comparing costs, call the schools at the top of the list and ask about job placement assistance and instructor backgrounds. Instructors with Microsoft® Certified Trainer (MCT) or Microsoft® Office Specialist (MOS) credentials are guaranteed to be up to date on the latest and greatest business software technology.