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Schools for office administration

There are few enterprises out there where an office environment doesn't come into play at one time or another, whether the office is the entire workplace or just a room in a corner where the work orders are processed and organized. Office administrators can help keep the office environment running smoothly, and formal training in the finer points of office management is a time-tested way to gain the knowledge and skills you need.

Here's a table that shows the number of schools in each of eight U.S. regions, according to data published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), where you can earn office administration degrees online or on a traditional campus:

Region No. of institutions with office administration degree programs No. of institutions offering at least one office administration degree online
Far West (CA. OR, WA, NV, AK, HI) 128 17
Rocky Mountains (ID, MT, UT, WY, CO) 31 10
Southwest (AZ, NM, TX, OK) 92 17
Plains (MO, KS, IA, NE, MN, ND, SD) 68 19
Southeast (AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, VA, WV) 181 49
Great Lakes (IL, IN, OH, MI, WI) 123 23
Mideast (PA, NY, NJ, DE, MD, D.C.) 43 5
New England (CT, MA, RI, VT, NH, ME) 22 0
Total (all 50 states) 688 140

Entry-level office administration degrees

There are a few ways for you to get started on the path toward an office administration degree online or on campus. Here's a look at the basics of programs that can lead to an office administration degree or certificates for undergraduate students:

  • Associate degrees - Office administration programs that lead to associate degrees typically take around two years to complete and concentrate on developing fundamental clerical skills while teaching the finer points of common business software applications. Specific coursework often includes touch typing, desktop publishing, office technology, business English and professional communication, records management, basic accounting, database management and Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint.
  • Bachelor's degrees - Most bachelor's degree programs in office administration are designed to teach skills similar to those addressed in associate coursework while also preparing students for important specific elements of office management as it relates to specialized industries such as medicine and law. Some office administration degrees at this level may be structured as bachelor's degree completion programs, also, allowing students to make use of life experience credit, transfer courses, previous online learning and potentially other methods to advance them toward graduation.
  • Non-degree study - Non-degree certificates and diplomas in office administration are perhaps the most common undergraduate training option in the field. They tend to cover fewer overall subjects than associate or bachelor's programs, but in doing so are also typically shorter in duration and contain as few as zero required hours of general education coursework. Most programs consist of courses on business writing, essentials of management, office accounting, document processing and proficient use of Microsoft Office applications.

Many technical schools, career academies, community colleges and other institutions offer students the opportunity to earn an office administration degree online, viewing lecture sections and completing assignments on their own schedule. The online option can be great for students with existing personal or professional responsibilities, provided that they're ready for a somewhat different mode of learning.

Advanced-degree office administration programs

General office administration degrees may be scarce among master's and doctoral programs, but there are still advanced degrees that you can earn to help push your administrative career to the next level. Here are a few ways that you can make use of additional education to move forward as a professional administrator:

  • Master's degree programs - The most common and generally most flexible step into graduate school for professional administrators is the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, which pivots the direction of study away from the tasks of a front office functionary and toward the challenges faced by behind-the-scenes business operatives. MBA degrees can typically be specialized with any one of a number of study concentrations, such as finance, accounting systems, human resources, supply chain management, business information systems, marketing and more.
  • Doctorate programs - If the study of administrative theory and methodology has captivated your imagination, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degrees can be found that allow you to sink your teeth into the academic side of administrative work, thought and scholarship. Most doctoral degrees are designed to lead to careers in research or professorship, and they typically take anywhere from two to five years to complete.
  • Graduate certificates - Office administration certificate programs for students who already have a bachelor's level education tend to lean heavily toward health care administration, which requires a thorough introduction to the administrative realities of health care billing, recordkeeping, delivery, and facilities management. Business administration certificates are also popular, although they may have less to do with running an office and more to do with running the business itself.

Advanced degrees like these can often be earned online as well, including Ph.D. and DBA options at some institutions. Some graduate and post-graduate programs may require a few prerequisites that aren't likely to be covered in a strict office administration curriculum at the undergraduate level, but most schools have programs in place that allow students to make up any missing required classes either before or after their acceptance to the program.

Q&A with an expert

Suzy Wilkoff, owner/operator of productivity consulting firm Tasks Unlimited

Suzy Wilkoff, owner/operator of productivity consulting firm Tasks UnlimitedWhy would you encourage someone to get formal training in office administration?

I believe it is always good to show that you have formal training on your resume. Additionally, it gives you a leg up on someone who doesn't have formal training.

What would have been helpful to know about the importance of office administration when you were looking into your own education?

I didn't start out in office administration, but it was the third major I had after pursuing business administration and education. I think it would have been important to know that office administration can lead into more high level positions like management.

What are some certifications or other non-degree credentials that office administration graduates can earn to help boost their job prospects?

Any type of 'technical skills' would be helpful. A good knowledge of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are also important.

What are the some related subjects of study for office administration graduates to think about pursuing at the bachelor's level and beyond?

Communications; business marketing; accounting; public relations.

What's some advice you would have for a student just beginning to consider office administration as an educational and career path?

I would recommend aligning yourself with anyone who has had a successful career in office administration and to work as an intern. It is important to hone your written and verbal skills. Leadership skills are critical and there aren't usually courses that teach these, but you may be able to take workshops. Network as much as possible.

Types of office administration careers

There may not be a formal educational requirement for many careers available to graduates with an office administration degree, but learning the ropes in school can give you an advantage in the hiring process and lay the groundwork for advancement. Here's some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for a few positions that might employ office administration graduates, either right away out of school or after some on-the-job experience or additional business training:

Occupation title National mean annual salary
(2015)
Projected job growth
(2014-2024)
Total U.S. employment
(2014)
Entry-level education
Administrative assistant $39,360 3 percent 3,976,800 High school diploma or equivalent
Receptionist $28,430 10 percent 1,028,600 High school diploma or equivalent
Information clerk $38,770 2 percent 1,545,000 High school diploma or equivalent
General office clerk $31,890 3 percent 3,062,500 High school diploma or equivalent
Human resources specialist $63,710 5 percent 482,000 Bachelor's degree
Administrative services manager $94,840 8 percent 287,300 Bachelor's degree

Common misconceptions about office administration degrees

Office administration jobs make up a considerable portion of the workforce, but the training programs that prepare you for them aren't especially well understood by the general public. Beware of these misconceptions about office administration degrees as you shop around for the school that's right for you:

Misconception: Business administration degrees will teach you everything you need to know about office administration.

  • Fact: Most degrees in business administration don't spend much time — if any at all -- on the basic office skills learned on the way to office administration degrees. Graduates of business degree programs who find themselves working in office admin positions after graduation typically have to undergo on-the-job training to get them up to speed on the details.

Misconception: Earning an office administration degree online is easier than earning one in a traditional classroom.

  • Fact: Easier on your schedule and your wallet, maybe, but not easier in the sense that you won't have to work as hard to complete the program. Online degrees typically contain subject matter that's functionally identical to that covered by their brick-and-mortar counterparts, and the need to self-supervise and remain motivated to do the work without classroom appearances keeping you on track can add an extra layer of effort to the mix.

Misconception: Every office administration degree is essentially the same as the rest.

  • Fact: There may be several similarities among various office administration degrees in terms of subject matter and learning outcomes, but the differences between accredited and unaccredited programs are important to note. Accredited college programs in office administration tend to provide transferable credits for students who hope to go further with their education at some point, while credits earned in unaccredited programs may not count toward your future degree.

How can I enroll in an online office administration degree program?

If you're thinking about earning an office administration degree online or on a traditional campus, the best place to learn how to enroll is directly from your intended institution. Browse our school listings below, pick a few programs that look like a good fit and get in touch to find out what to do next.

Sources:
1. College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, accessed May 20, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. School pages, accessed May 26, 2016:; Office Administration, Broward College, http://www.broward.edu/academics/programs/office/Pages/default.aspx; Associate's Degree in Business, Office Management, Remington College, http://www.remingtoncollege.edu/business-office-management-associates-degree/; Office Administration Degree, Virginia College, https://www.vc.edu/associates-degrees/office-administration/; Plans of Study, Business Office Administration, Columbus State Community College, http://www.cscc.edu/academics/departments/boa/plan15-16.shtml; B.S. in Office Administration Technology Online, http://www.valdosta.edu/colleges/education/adult-and-career-education/degree-programs/undergraduate/oat-obc/welcome.php; Bachelor of Professional Studies Degree in Law Office Administration, Robert Morris University, http://www.robertmorris.edu/business/lawadmin/; Office Management, University of Northwestern Ohio, www.unoh.edu/academics/online-degrees/office-technology-online.shtml; Office Management Technical Certificate, Seminole State College of Florida, https://www.seminolestate.edu/office-admin/oss-cc; Online Certificate Program in Office Management, http://www.allied.edu/degrees-and-programs/business-administration/business-certificates/office-management-certificate.aspx; M.B.A. Concentrations, Wayne State University, http://ilitchbusiness.wayne.edu/mba/concentrations.php; PhD in Business Administration, Florida International University, https://business.fiu.edu/graduate/phd/; Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/doctoral/doctor-of-business-administration; Graduate Certificate in Health Administration, The University of Arizona, https://publichealth.arizona.edu/academics/certificates/health-administration; Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Administration, Framingham State University, https://www.framingham.edu/academics/graduate-studies/graduate-certificate-programs/grad-certificate-healthcare-administration/graduate-certificate-in-healthcare-administration; Business Administration Certificate, Ashworth College, https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/graduate-certificates/business-administration/
3. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed May 21, 2016: Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm; Receptionists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/receptionists.htm; Information Clerks, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/information-clerks.htm; General Office Clerks, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/general-office-clerks.htm; Human Resources Specialists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Business-and-Financial/Human-resources-specialists.htm; Administrative Services Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/administrative-services-managers.htm
4. May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed May 21, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

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