Ask IAAP: What type of degree is most valuable to administrative professionals?

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Q. I'm thinking of going back to school to pursue a college degree. What type of degree is most valuable to administrative professionals?

A. Here are some things to consider:

  • See what degrees are valued in your company. Your industry may place a higher value on certain degrees. If you aspire to move up within the organization, that information will be helpful to you as you make a decision.
  • Ask your exec what degree she might recommend. Maybe she knows of some future restructuring or projects coming your way where that degree might be most useful.
  • Fewer colleges are providing four-year secretarial degrees. Therefore, many administrative professionals are concentrating their final two years on business degrees.
  • As admin roles are expanding, more support staff need managerial skills. Therefore, business-focused programs that teach negotiation, delegation, budgeting, project management, supervision, etc., are becoming the preferred avenues for administrative professionals seeking advanced coursework.
  • Most admin programs highlight technology skills. That's the skill that gets administrative professionals into the doors of a good company. However, once they are settled into their jobs, the skills they say they need the most are interpersonal and business-related. Look at your job carefully and see what skills would be most helpful to you, then find a local program that emphasizes those skills.
  • Many people find that a liberal arts degree is appropriate for job seekers today. It covers a variety of skills that transcends any one particular job. Liberal arts majors are required to take one or more foreign languages, literature, writing classes, speech, mathematics, and so on. All of these courses are valuable in today's marketplace. A liberal arts graduate is perceived as being well-rounded.
  • Identify your personal interests and strengths. Perhaps they will dictate a specific major.

These are just a few of the considerations you may want to think about as you ponder returning to school. There may not be “one right” approach or one size that fits all. So much depends on your aspirations, where you work, what is available within driving distance of your home, what your company will pay for, etc.