An administrative assistant plays a pivotal role in any office. These professionals have a wide range of responsibilities—from clerical tasks to managing and distributing information—which greatly impacts the overall efficiency of the workplace. As such, there will always be a demand for administrative assistants, not to mention that they have the potential to receive a respectable $43,455 each year (Indeed, 2021).
Taking up an online administrative assistant associate degree affords students knowledge in various areas, including accounting, records management, and administrative office procedures. These competencies lead to a respectable business administration career and can also be used as a springboard for further education. Best of all, the program is usually completed in just two years and costs a lot less than a bachelor’s degree.
This guide will discuss what makes a program the best online administrative assistant associate degree. Students will learn the cost, requirements, and other factors to expect from a typical program. They will also know the differences between taking an online degree and attending physical classes for this particular field of study.
Online Administrative Assistant Associate Degree Table of Contents
- Can you get a degree completely online?
- Will employers take my degree seriously?
- Are online degrees recognized all over the world?
- Online Vs. Traditional Administrative Assistant Associate Degree
- How much does an online administrative assistant associate degree cost?
- What are the requirements of an online administrative assistant associate degree?
- Courses to Expect in an Online Administrative Assistant Associate Degree
- Things to Look for in an Online Administrative Assistant Associate Degree
Can you get a degree completely online?
There are administrative assistant associate programs offered 100% online and there are hybrids. Similar to a typical associate degree, an online degree often requires students to accomplish 60 units of coursework, which can be completed in two years. These programs have different names or variants given that the competencies learned are diverse and every industry has its particular set of job specifications. The online degree programs learners can take include the following:
- Administrative Assistant AAS Program
- Administrative Assistant and Secretarial Science Program
- Associate Degree in Administrative Assisting
- Associate Degree in Office Administration
- Associate Degree in Office Management
- Associate Degree in Administrative Management
- Associate Degree in Business Administration/Management
- Administrative Coordinator Associate Degree
- Associate Degree in Business Administration Technology
Besides these, there are also industry-specific degrees like legal or medical administrative assistant associate programs. These programs carry courses relating to the industry, say, medical subjects for medical administrative assistant programs and legal research and criminology for legal ones.
As far as which type of administrative assistant associate program is the most popular is concerned, a number (34%) of executive and administrative assistants took a business-related degree, followed by secretarial and administrative science (9%), and accounting (6%) (Zippia, 2021).
Will employers take my degree seriously?
COVID-19 changed the norm of education, with many post-secondary institutions shifting to online education at the height of the pandemic. However, even prior to the outbreak, 55% of employers already perceive online and physical degrees as similar in quality (Gallagher, 2019). With the prominence of distance learning and the general acceptance of remote work, the distinction between the two will be blurred even further.
Furthermore, 64% of job postings request at least one durable skill (also known as soft skill) from applicants (America Succeeds, 2021). Online degree programs for aspiring administrative assistants happen to focus on such skills. In fact, entire courses are devoted to business communications, leadership, management, and the like. This provides degree holders with an outright advantage when applying for jobs.
Source: America Succeeds 2021
Are online degrees recognized all over the world?
Online degrees are generally recognized across the globe, especially if earned from a prestigious college or university. After all, COVID-19 caused a seismic shift in the global education landscape, as online programs became the new norm. Online administrative assistant associate degrees take this a step further since they have courses on leadership and communications. In the United States alone, over 52 million job postings demand these skills (America Succeeds, 2021). Imagine how much more options degree-holders would have if they explore the international market.
Online Vs. Traditional Administrative Assistant Associate Degree
Online and traditional administrative assistant associate degrees bear a lot of similarities. For one, the curricula of online programs are usually identical to those used by their on-ground counterparts, surrounding core courses with general knowledge subjects like math and communications. Both types of degrees also have the same projected learning outcomes and career opportunities.
The similarities between the two stem from the lack of courses that require lab work or immersive fieldwork. As such, lessons can be rolled out seamlessly regardless of medium. So everything that happens in a classroom such as lectures, educational videos, and exams can be replicated digitally through a school’s learning management systems (LMS). And many of these institutions leverage some of the best LMS for schools.
However, despite all the similarities, there are marked differences between the two types of programs:
- Cost: An online degree is around $9,000 to $22,000 while a traditional one ranges from $8,000 to $20,000, which suggests that online programs are pricier but they really are not. The figures reflected by traditional programs often do not include additional expenses like rent, transport, food, and miscellaneous school fees. And these charges tend to drive the total cost higher than that of an online degree. As such, preparing your finances beforehand can help you a lot in the long run.
- Format: A traditional program compels students to attend classes at the school’s physical location. While this format demands more mental sharpness as some instructors tend to hold short quizzes and graded recitation exercises, it also requires more funds from students, especially those living out of state. Those who live far from the campus will have to deal with rent and increased expenses for transport and possibly food. Online students, on the other hand, can accomplish the entire program in the comfort of their homes.
- Schedule: Traditional and online administrative assistant associate degrees share a similar schedule and estimated time of completion, which is two years. Some colleges offer asynchronous online programs that allow students to take on courses and lessons at their own pace, but they are outnumbered by those that deliver synchronous learning methods since associate degrees are short, typically composed of only 60-63 credits.
- Pacing: Interestingly, the pacing of traditional and online administrative assistant associate programs are parallel since most online programs are synchronous. They reflect the curricula of their on-ground counterparts and can simulate hands-on exercises through a mixture of digitized quizzes and lectures and video calls for group activities.
Is an online degree cheaper?
Online administrative assistant associate degrees are often cheaper even if the indicated tuition fee is slightly higher. After all, online students do not have to deal with rent and elevated expenses on transport, food, and miscellaneous school fees. Online degrees, however, lead to raised utility expenses due to the increased use of computers and other study-related amenities, but the costs are cheaper than having to pay for the expenditures of on-ground learners.
Is an online degree as good as a regular degree?
Since online administrative assistant associate degrees mirror the curricula of traditional ones, the learning outcomes are the same for both. Moreover, the prevalence of distance learning in today’s education landscape has made online degrees more acceptable in the professional realm. Plus, the career opportunities for those with this degree are soaring. For instance, if we go by the job outlook of administrative assistants, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that medical administrative assistants enjoy job growth of 10% from 2019 until 2029.
How much does an online administrative assistant associate degree cost?
The cost of administrative assistant associate degrees may vary wildly. Some institutions offer separate charges for online programs while others carry in-state, out-of-state, and sometimes even international fees. These fees are taken as contributions to the local economy where the school is located. Thankfully, a lot of schools extend their financial aid programs to online students. However, it is wise to plan your finances before enrollment.
As far as the actual fees are concerned, the average price of online programs with separate/independent charges falls around $164.33 per credit, translating to $9,860 for an entire program (60 credits). In-state charges rack up an average of $160 per credit while the average rate for out-of-state fees is $369.8, which means an entire degree would roughly cost $9,600 for in-state students and $22,188 for those out of state.
Compared to online associate degrees, online administrative assistant diploma programs are much cheaper, with a range of $1,000 to $3,000 in total fees, and can be completed in less than a year (CostHelper Education, 2021). However, associate programs impart a more expansive knowledge base, lead to a wider job spectrum, and can be leveraged for further studies.
Traditional administrative assistant associate programs, on the other hand, appear to be within the same range as online degrees from big-named institutions, with a cost of $8,630 for residents, $10,854 for non-residents, and $20,058 for international students. These figures, however, do not include fees like rent, transport, books, equipment, food, institutional costs, and other miscellaneous expenses. With all costs factored in, traditional administrative assistant associate programs are typically more expensive than their digital counterparts.
As a whole, inclusive of online and certificate programs, the average tuition fees of undergraduate administrative assistant programs are $4,157 for residents and $9,161 for out-of-state learners (College Tuition Compare, 2020). Meanwhile, graduate programs cost $8,688 in-state and $12,726 out-of-state.
Is an online administrative assistant degree worth it?
An online administrative assistant degree is certainly worth it. The variety of skills a student learns, from clerical work to accounting principles, can land them a job in pretty much any industry. Their career path is also clear-cut, as administrative assistants can eventually become executive assistants, office administrators, office managers, and project managers.
The same can be said for holders of industry-specific administrative assistant degrees. In fact, medical administrative assistants have been proven to foster efficiency in the workplace, which is why the position is currently in demand.
This is echoed in “Implementing Resident Team Assistant Programs at Academic Medical Centers: Lessons Learned” published in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. According to the researchers, the employment of resident assistants has “positively impacted the administrative task burden and job satisfaction of the residents while maintaining high acceptability from the hospital staff, patients, families, and community pediatricians. They have been considerably feasible in terms of costs and effort by the institutions (Takei et al., 2020).”
Source: College Tuition Compare 2021
What are the requirements of an online administrative assistant associate degree?
The requirements of online degrees tend to vary by institution. Some barely have any while others are similar to traditional degrees. But in a lot of cases, the requirements for online administrative assistant associate degrees are fewer than traditional ones.
In many cases, applicants will have to submit their transcript of grades and a high school diploma or its GED equivalent, but there are also institutions, like some community colleges, that forego those and focus on performance requirements. To be safe, it is better to have a copy of the transcript and diploma beforehand in case they are needed. Applicants can also submit letters of recommendation written by former teachers and/or employers. A resume might be required for applicants who have held jobs previously.
In addition, applicants could need to demonstrate their proficiency through one or a combination of tests.
- Accuplacer score of at least 71 to 100 in reading, 50 in mathematics, and 5 in writing
- A high score in the SAT or ACT
- Minimum TOEFL score of 550 (paper-based) or 79 (internet-based), with 20/30 grades on reading and writing (for international applicants)
- Cambridge English Scale score of 180 in reading and writing (for international students)
- IELTS score of 6.5 in reading and writing (for international students)
Besides U.S. territories, countries that predominantly use the English language might be exempted from submitting English proficiency scores. In this scenario, the school will evaluate an applicant’s English and reading proficiency through their transcript.
Should students wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree later in the same institution, they need not resubmit the aforesaid requirements in most cases. They can also leverage the credits they earned during their associate program so that they do not need to retake the same classes as they take up a bachelor’s degree. It is a likely outcome considering that a slight majority (27%) of executive assistants and administrative assistants hold bachelor’s degrees (Zippia, 2021).
Students looking to become administrative assistants must possess or hone a certain set of skills. These enable them to perform their coursework with ease as well as become competitive in the industry as they enter the workforce. Some examples include:
- Communication skills. The job of an administrative assistant entails quite a lot of written and verbal communication. This can range from composing emails, answering calls, preparing speeches, drafting memos, to taking calls, and participating in meetings. As such, it is critical that you have mastery of grammar, practice proper pronunciation, have clear diction, and have an innate skill for using the right tone for every workplace situation.
- Organization skills. Administrative assistants are the right-hand of executives. They need to manage an array of tasks to enable higher-ranking officials of an organization to perform their duties seamlessly. This involves filing paperwork, planning, maintaining schedules, and the like. So, administrative assistants should have strong organizational skills that will allow them to serve as extensions of executives.
- Technological know-how. As an assistant, you will most likely handle correspondence on the computer, prepare documents, and schedule calendars. As such, you are expected to know your way around word processors, spreadsheet platforms, and other office productivity tools.
What are the technological requirements of students for 0nline learning?
A student should have the necessary equipment to be able to take online classes. After all, a lot of institutions leverage some of the best LMS for schools, and these platforms may require fairly new computers, updated operating systems, and high-speed internet. These requirements include:
- PC or Mac desktop or laptop computer
- Windows 8.1 or higher/OS 10.14 or higher
- Internet download speed of 10 Mbps
- Upload speed of 2 Mbps
Courses to Expect in an Online Administrative Assistant Associate Degree
Administrative assistants own a wide range of competencies, and this is reflected in the roster of online degree courses offered by most schools. Some programs have a more in-depth approach to certain courses but the types of subjects taken are often similar. So what exactly are these courses?
- Principles of Accounting/Bookkeeping: This course imparts knowledge of the basic accounting cycle typically used by retail and service businesses. The topics covered include recording transactions, preparing financial statements, identifying and analyzing business transactions, and payroll procedures.
- Business Communications: This course covers the modes of communication that administrative assistants handle like writing and composing letters, memos, business reports, business cards, and brochures. It emphasizes proper grammar, punctuation usage, and, in some cases, corporate vernacular.
- Business Office Management: Administrative assistants offer support in a lot of ways, and they will be tackled in this course. Students will learn general knowledge of organizing workspaces, setting and organizing meetings, time management, transcription, and producing office documents.
- Desktop Publishing: In conjunction with learning proper business communication is its computerized application. This course teaches students how to write various documents and the application of graphics for posters and presentations. Moreover, it introduces the mechanics of widely used desktop publishing software.
- Business Mathematics: Reports, presentations, and other pertinent documents will require math. This course covers this along with the rationale behind each.
- Public Speaking: Presentations, meetings, and team tasks require oral communication. As such, this course covers the preparation and delivery of different types of speeches and the process of oral communication in a professional setting.
- Supervisory Leadership: Some schools include leadership training in their curricula since administrative assistants are likely to become managers in the long run. With this, the course tackles the different kinds of leadership, their application, and how they can increase productivity. Also included are lessons on delegation, evaluating performance, and motivation.
Besides the aforesaid courses, there are other major subjects that will be taken up should a student enroll in an industry-specific administrative assistant program. For instance, legal administrative assistant degrees have basic law courses while medical administrative assistant degrees carry medical subjects.
Upon mastering the courses, learners can apply their skills in a wide variety of industries, including high-paying ones. An ideal landing spot for graduates is to become an executive secretary, with an annual wage of $63,110, or a legal administrative assistant ($48,980), but similar positions in other industries also pay well.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021
Things to Look for in an Online Administrative Assistant Associate Degree
While a lot of post-secondary institutions offer online administrative assistant associate degrees, there are programs that cater to the specific needs of certain learners, from accessibility to the financial requirements and support provided. Meeting one’s personal standards certainly enhances the learning experience.
Availability and Accessibility
Mobility is currently a big deal given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the need for distance learning, especially for learners who reside in areas that were hit hard. Thankfully, purely online administrative assistant associate degrees are widely available, as are administrative assistant certificate programs. There are also institutions that offer hybrid degrees to those who prefer to have a mix of online and classroom exercises. The lessons typically do not require immersive labwork or fieldwork so taking the program online does not compromise learning.
A lot of online administrative assistant programs are open to international students while the degrees awarded are recognized internationally. International applicants, however, should keep in mind that they need to take and pass standardized tests that ascertain their proficiency in the language of instruction. For instance, applicants should score at least 20/30 in the TOEFL reading exam.
Hidden Costs and Support Services
Some institutions might not reflect additional charges on top of their listed tuition fees nor, for those that charge high rates, immediately provide a breakdown of costs. It is important to note that online education has its own set of expenses. For instance, charges are added to accommodate teachers and to train them for online instruction. Technical support also merits expenses. Furthermore, some students might need to purchase equipment, like a computer or a headset, to make distance learning possible. In any case, having extra cash ready affords learners more flexibility.
The work of administrative assistants is broad and may require certain skills per industry, which is why there are industry-specific online administrative assistant associate programs that include the said competencies. Ideally, applicants should determine the industry that they would like to work in prior to applying so that they would end up with a program that is best suited to their goals.
In addition, online administrative assistant associate programs come in many names, so taking note of the aforementioned possible names of the degree could save you a lot of time and eliminate confusion.
Outlook of Administrative Assistant Degree Holders
Taking up an online administrative assistant associate degree is, without question, a viable decision. In terms of the learning experience, an online associate program is cheaper and shorter to complete than a bachelor’s degree. It also mirrors the curricula of on-ground administrative assistant associate programs, thus learning is not compromised by proximity. Furthermore, an online degree is taken seriously by employers and is recognized globally.
Finding a job will not be too big a concern either. After all, most corporations, regardless of industry, require administrative assistants, secretaries, and clerks, so your range of options is perpetually expansive. While the starting salaries of some jobs might be modest, office assistants can later become supervisors, executive assistants, and even project managers, which entail higher wages. This means learners have a bright future ahead of them when they are awarded their degrees or certifications.
In case you want to know more about associate programs and their advantages, you can read this guide on associate degrees. It tackles the different types, costs, and admission requirements, among others.
- America Succeeds (2021, February). The High Demand for Durable Skills. Retrieved from https://americasucceeds.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AmericaSucceeds-DurableSkills-NationalFactSheet-2021.pdf
- College Tuition Compare (2020). Administrative Assistant And Secretarial Science Schools. Retrieved from https://www.collegetuitioncompare.com/majors/52.0401/administrative-assistant-and-secretarial-science/
- CostHelper Education (2021, January 4). Administrative Assistant Training Cost. Retrieved from https://education.costhelper.com/administrative-assistant.html
- Gallagher, S. (2019). Online Education in 2019. Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. Retrieved from https://cps.northeastern.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Online_Ed_in_2019.pdf
- Indeed (2021, June 28). How much does an Administrative Assistant make in the United States? Retrieved from https://www.indeed.com/career/administrative-assistant/salaries
- Takei, R., Dalembert, G., Ronan, J., Washington, N., Tank, S., Perry, M., . . .Burrow, H. (2020, December). Implementing Resident Team Assistant Programs at Academic Medical Centers: Lessons Learned. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 12 (6). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4300/JGME-D-20-00173.1
- Zippia (2021, April 30). EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS AND DEGREES. Retrieved from https://www.zippia.com/executive-secretary-administrative-assistant-jobs/education/