How To Become a Secretary in 3 Simple Steps

What is a Secretary

Secretaries, also known as administrative assistants, are the workers who keep an office running.They perform clerical duties and assist the managers and executives in a business organization.

There are also specializations within the field, such as working as a legal secretary, medical secretary or executive secretary. One great thing about being a secretary is the ability to work in any field that suits your interests.

As for how to become a secretary, you generally just need a high school diploma to attain an entry-level position. However, associate’s degrees are preferred by some employers.

What Does a Secretary Do?

  • Answer phone calls and schedule appointments.
  • Maintain and update physical and electronic filing systems and databases.
  • Draft and edit documents and letters.
  • Keep the office running by ensuring supplies are ordered,
  • Open and distribute incoming mail and prepare and send outgoing mail.

Secretaries typically work in office environments during normal business hours. They can work part-time or full-time, though most work full-time at around 40 hours a week. While occasional overtime and night hours might be necessary in the case of large projects, that is not the norm.

The average salary of a secretary is $38,880.

Secretaries need to have a solid set of skills that will serve them well on the job. Here would be the top five skills a secretary needs:

Communication Skills

To be a good secretary, you have to be able to communicate well with other employees as well as take and address phone calls.

Organizational Skills

Secretaries have to be highly organized to perform their role as office support well. They have to keep files and databases organized so others can easily find what they’re looking for. You must also be able to prioritize tasks and manage time effectively.

Interpersonal Skills

Secretaries have to interact with customers and clients over the phone, as well as provide customer service to people who may be very upset. If you manage other employees, you will also need managerial skills and the ability to address their performance.

Computer Skills

Nearly every office uses computers, databases and other types of software and technology to run their business, and secretaries have to be able to use them well.

Writing Skills

Secretaries are responsible for producing error-free documents, memos, letters and other important business correspondence.

What is a Secretary

Becoming a Secretary

Step 1: High School Requirements

High School Courses for Secretaries

Most secretaries are required to have a high school diploma, and there are several classes offered by most high schools that would be beneficial for an aspiring secretary to take. We’ll go over three of them:

Computer Courses

All secretaries now need to have pretty solid computer skills, especially with major software programs like Microsoft Office. Computer courses in high school will get you used to these programs and have you utilize all the features you might not have discovered on your own when typing papers or otherwise using the program.

Business Management Courses

If your high school offers any sort of business or business management courses, they are also a very good option for anyone wanting to become a secretary. Secretaries must understand, manage and support a business environment, so formal schooling on business in high school will prepare you well for working in a business office environment.

English Courses

While reading and analyzing literature is not in the job description of most secretaries, the ability to write and communicate well is, and those skills are definitely taught and obtained in English classes. English is a subject that gets offered as an Honors or AP subject as well, so take a higher level if you can to showcase your competence in the English language and impress potential employers.

Formal Education Requirements

It’s generally a good idea for a secretary to pursue some form of certificate or associate’s degree in addition to high school education. Most employers desire a college degree of some kind or at the least some kind of specialized training that shows them you are qualified to be a secretary. The education, knowledge and skills you receive from these programs can also prepare you to be more successful in your career as a secretary. While there are associate’s degree programs that specifically teach you how to become a secretary, they are not common and you will usually need to get your associate’s degree in a related subject. An associate’s degree takes two years to complete normally.

Step 2: Get Formal Training

Office Administration Certificate Program 3 months – 1 year

Office administration certificate programs can also be completed online, which offer more flexible options for busy adults. They can take from a few months to a year or so to complete, depending on the program. Requirements for admission vary by program, but reputable ones require a high school diploma, basic keyboarding skills and might also require a transcript from your high school. Some may have a GPA requirement.


  • Keyboarding & Document Processing I
  • Basic Keyboarding
  • Medical Terminology for The Administrative
  • Business English
  • Records Management
  • Telecommunications
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Successful Job Search
  • Communications in The Workforce
  • Medical Billing and Coding I
  • Medical Billing and Coding Ii
  • Medical Office Computer Application
  • Office Management
  • Advanced Word
  • Database Management for The Office

The average cost of an office administration certificate program is $1,100 – $3,500.

Associate in Science (A.S.) in Office Administration Degree Program 2 Years

Office administration associate’s degrees, like other associate’s degrees, take two years or 60-80 credit hours to complete. You will need a high school diploma or GED and be able to provide a transcript. You also might be required to complete admissions essays, provide letters of recommendation or anything else typically required by admissions offices.


General Education Courses (Credit Hours: 15)

  • Mathematics
  • Humanities
  • Communications
  • Human Relations in Business and Industry

Core Courses (Credit Hours: 36)

  • Microcomputer Applications for Business and Economics
  • Spreadsheet Concepts and Practices
  • Keyboarding/Introduction to Word Processing
  • Keyboard Skill/Speed Building
  • Business Mathematics Credit
  • Fundamentals of Business Communications
  • Introduction to Customer Service
  • Professional Development in the Work Environment
  • Internship
  • Applied Business Communications
  • Office Systems Management
  • Word Processing I

Electives (Credit Hours: 9)

  • Applied Accounting
  • Financial Accounting
  • Introduction to Information Technology
  • Introduction to Desktop Publishing
  • Database Concepts for Microcomputers
  • Introduction to Business
  • Medical Terminology
  • Principles of Management
  • Introduction to Project Management
  • Introduction to Information and Records Management
  • Computers in the Medical Office
  • Introduction to Medical Transcription

The average cost of an associate in science (A.S.) in office administration degree program is $6,660 – $41,280.

Step 3: Get Certified

There are a few exams offered by professional organizations as well that offer further professional accreditation for secretaries. One is the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), which offers the IAAP Certified Administrative Professional (CAP).

IAAP Certified Administrative Professional (CAP)


No degree + 4 years of working experience


Associate’s degree + 3 years of working experience


Bachelor’s degree + 2 years of working experience


300 multiple choice question computer based test


$350 (members) – $525 (non-members)

How Long Does it Take to Become a Secretary and How Much Does it Cost?

Option 1 : Certificate

Degree Time Cost
Certificate 1 year$1,100- $3,500
Certification $350- $525
Total 1 year$1450 – $4,025

Option 2 : Associate’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$6,660- $41,280
Certification $350- $525
Total 2 years $7,010 – $41,805

Secretary Training Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

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