Our Story

IAAP has been a professional, supportive and innovative association from the day it was established in 1942.

The consortium of professionals and industry leaders who founded the National Secretaries Association during World War II helped revolutionize the workplace on the home front. The association was formed to provide education and networking for a new generation of administrative professionals recruited to help keep businesses running during the war effort.

Our association members had an important role in promoting and recognizing professionalism within this industry. Secretarial work was seen as an excellent option for thousands of bright, well-educated and career-minded young people entering the labor force and IAAP was the first organization of its kind dedicated to helping them make that transition.

In 1943, we started publishing The Secretary magazine, now known as OfficePro, to keep members informed about industry news and provide innovative educational content. Around the same time, NSA chapters started training sessions for local administrative professionals. The association hosted its first-annual national conference in 1946. This gathering is now known as EFAM and includes more than 60 hours of cutting-edge professional development for attendees from more than a dozen countries.

One of most important steps we took as an association was the launch of the Certified Professional Secretary certification in 1951. Our certification program set a high bar, and it established that our members were not merely support players. They were and are full, professional members of their office teams. Certification made it clear that being an administrative professional is a career, not just a job.

All these efforts paid off when the professionalism and economic value of our members was recognized in 1952. That’s when we launched the inaugural National Secretary’s Week in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce to honor “the American secretary, upon whose skill, loyalty and efficiency the functions of business and government offices depend.” In 2001, this event was renamed Administrative Professionals Week and is among the most widely recognized celebrations of its type.

NSA changed its name to Professional Secretaries International in 1981 to reflect the important status of our members in modern business. By the late 1990s, only a minority of association members had “secretary” in their job titles. Executive and administrative assistants dominated the ranks. The association recognized this shift by changing its name in 1998 to the International Association of Administrative Professionals.

The Retirement Trust Foundation and Research and Educational Foundations are also great examples of our work supporting administrative professionals. In 1958, IAAP members recognized the need to help ensure the long-term housing needs of their retired colleagues, and so the RTF was formed. This led to the construction of Vista Grande, our retirement community in New Mexico, which, over the years, has been a comfortable home for hundreds of members in their golden years.

The R&E Foundation was launched in the late 1960s because our members saw a need to provide educational support for their colleagues, especially those entering the profession. A generation of administrative professionals entered their careers through the gateway opened by R&E scholarships. Over more than four decades, the R&E raised more than a half a million dollars for scholarships and to support research and benchmarking studies related to administrative professionals.

In 2012, the RTF and R&E Foundation were combined into The Foundation of IAAP. The Foundation is dedicated to investing in the success of office professionals. Visit The Foundation website to learn more about this charitable organization.

We have always been an innovative association. In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, IAAP was seen as an authority on cutting-edge trends in business. Our leaders were invited to national and international events and conferences in order to contribute to important conversations about office productivity and the workplace. Office technology companies like IBM sought out opportunities to market its products through IAAP because it understood that our members were the real innovators.

That hasn’t changed. While the IT department may be the first to get their hands on new technology, it’s the admins who figure out how to make it actually work. Admins are masters of gathering and tracking data. They’re also leading remote teams, running projects, planning events and managing websites. And they do all this while maintaining their traditional role as gatekeepers for customers, contractors and employees. IAAP regularly tracks industry trends with our biannual benchmarking survey for administrative professionals. In addition to helping guide the association’s decisions, the survey report has become an important source of information for the news media, businesses and members of the profession.

In 2001, we continued to innovate when IAAP introduced the Certified Administrative Professional certification in response to the new high-tech, fast-paced expectations for office admins. The former CPS designation was phased out completely, and we are leading the profession by introducing innovative certification specialties in organizational management and technology applications.

We are also always looking for ways to innovate our education programs. We launched our Options Technology training program to help admins prepare for the MOS exams. The association overhauled its annual spring conference to focus on the needs of tomorrow’s admins. It’s now known as the Technology Education Conference or TEC. We also added more tech sessions at EFAM. In the fall of 2013, IAAP launched its new educational webinars series as a way to facilitate busy administrative professionals who need the convenience of remote learning. This is yet another example of how the association is constantly evolving to meet the needs of its stakeholders.

In 2013, we asked our stakeholders to corporately define this association and map out a path to relevance during The Futures Conference. About 200 people participated, including members of every demographic, association leaders, industry experts and business representatives. Over two days, they examined every aspect of IAAP. In addition, we solicited input through a series of focus groups and in-depth telephone interviews, plus a questionnaire that was sent to nearly 17,000 members.

Together, this research, input and dialogue helped define our core purpose as an association, which is to ensure that individuals working in office and administrative professions have the opportunity to connect, learn, lead and excel. We also crafted a new strategic plan that will guide the association as it strives to achieve that mission.

It has been and remains our mission to be a go-to resource for administrative professionals. Our members provide vital support for businesses across North America and around the world. Our history and our current programs and services demonstrate that we’re here to provide the support those administrative professionals need to succeed.