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How to Become a Business Office Administrator

A career in a business office administration field can be a rewarding path, giving you job security, a good salary, and a chance to make important contributions to a business. While many upper-level business positions require that you have a graduate degree, there are also plenty of entry-level positions that will hire candidates who haven’t attended college.

If you think that a career in business is right for you but you don’t want to spend a lot of time in school, you can get a certificate of achievement or an associate degree. Both options offer a lower-cost, shorter-term way that you can prepare for your career. 

Find out more about the advantages of business administration.

What Is it Like Working in an Office?

Your experience and day-to-day responsibilities working in an office will partially depend on your position. 

For instance, a secretary or administrative assistant’s duties may include answering the phone, scheduling appointments and staff meetings, preparing and editing memos and documents, performing bookkeeping, and more.1 As a customer service representative, your primary responsibilities will be to interact with customers and answer questions through phone, email, chat, and more.2 If you become an insurance sales agent, you might call and interview prospective clients, process policy renewals and customize programs to a client’s needs, and maintain client records.3 Many professions work in an office environment, each with its own unique set of daily responsibilities.

The type of position you hold may also affect the environment you work in. Customer service representatives sometimes work in large office rooms alongside other employees, which can make for a noisy and distracting environment.4 Some office arrangements may allow you to have your own room within the office, while others may adopt the open office layout in which staff sit at communal desks in large spaces. This open floor plan design can make for a louder environment, but it may also help to facilitate collaboration and communication.5

Entry Level Business Roles

If you think that a business career is right for you, there are many entry-level business roles that you can apply for with a certificate of achievement or an associate degree. 

Administrative Assistant 

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive form the largest subcategory of secretaries and administrative assistants. They handle an office’s administrative activities in almost every sector of the economy, including schools, government, and private corporations. For example, secretaries in schools are often responsible for handling most of the communications among parents, students, the community, teachers, and school administrators. They schedule appointments, receive visitors, and keep track of students’ records.1

Customer Service Representative

Customer service representatives work to help resolve customers’ complaints and respond to requests. They may also work to process orders and provide customers with information about the business’ services and products. Common responsibilities include listening to and responding to questions and concerns, taking orders and processing payments, recording details about customer conversations and interactions, and sometimes referring customers to appropriate staff within the business.2

These responsibilities will vary depending on the industry and the specific job position. While customer service representatives don’t primarily sell products or services, they may have the opportunity to provide customers with important information or recommendations that can lead to sales. Most customer interactions take place via phone, but some businesses may also provide support by text, email, live chat, and social media.2

Receptionists and Information Clerks

Receptionist jobs include various administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments, greeting customers and clients, copying and filing documents, and answering the phone. They help a business to make a good first impression on customers or clients, especially front desk receptionist jobs.7

Information clerks have many similar responsibilities, including preparing reports and bills, collecting information from both customers and staff, filing and maintaining records, and answering questions about the business’ products and services. Common information clerk positions include license clerks, file clerks, court clerks, and more.8

Why Work in Business Office Administration?

Working in office administration can be rewarding in many ways. Before deciding if a career in office administration is right for you, consider the industry’s job opportunities and growth.

Business Salaries

Securing a business position could help you to earn a good salary without having to invest in a four-year degree. According to the BLS, Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive, earn a median salary of $39,850, as of May 2019. The lowest 10% earned less than $25,720, and the highest 10% earned more than $65,510.11 Be advised, salary for entry level positions may be lower than the national average.

More specifically, the following positions had promising median salaries in May 2019:12

  • Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants: $60,890
  • Legal secretaries and administrative assistants: 47,300
  • Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive: 37,690
  • Medical secretaries and administrative assistants: 36,580

Keep in mind that administrative assistant salaries and pay for other business office administrators can vary depending on both industry and location, along with the number of positions available. Other factors including your specialization within your industry can also increase your earning potential.11

Best Places to Work in Business Offices

Where you work can affect both your job opportunities and your earning potential. According to the BLS, the following states had the highest employment levels of Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive, in May 2020.11

STATE EMPLOYMENT EMPLOYMENT PER THOUSAND JOBS
California 239,080 14.32
New York 187,490 20.36
Texas 180,730 15.20
Florida 157,460 18.70
Pennsylvania 99,300 17.18

The BLS identifies the following states as being the top-paying states for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive, as of May 2020.11

STATE HOURLY MEAN WAGE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
District of Columbia $23.57 $49,030
Massachusetts $22.00 $45,760
Connecticut $21.51 $44,750
California $20.19 $41,990
Washington $20.10 $41,810

Find Your Path in Business Office Administration

SJVC is committed to hands-on training in the skills you need as an administrative assistant. Learn more about our program and exciting opportunities.

Skills for Business Administration Workers

While specific skills and requirements of business administration workers can vary depending on the position, some core skills and abilities are valuable in nearly any office setting. 

A secretary or administrative assistant qualifications include strong active listening, speaking, reading comprehension, writing, and service orientation skills. They will also benefit from excellent oral comprehension and expression, and written comprehension and expression skills. Technology skills and experience working with software like Intuit QuickBooks, database management software like Apache Hive, and operating systems including Apple macOS and Microsoft Window will also be helpful.13

Customer service representatives need to have many of those same skills, including active listening, speaking, service orientation, and reading comprehension. Oral comprehension and oral expression are also important, in addition to speech recognition and speech clarity. Necessary technology skills differ slightly, with programs like The Raiser’s Edge, Salesforce, Microsoft Access, and even coding systems becoming more important in this role. However, many of those core skills can benefit you in different types of administration positions.14

How to Become an Administrative Assistant

If you want to become an administrative assistant, the following steps can help you to accomplish your goal.

  • Develop your skills – Before you start to apply to administrative assistant positions, you can take additional steps to make yourself a more competitive candidate. Administrative assistant job duties include a working knowledge of common word processing, spreadsheet, and database software. If you’re unfamiliar with this type of software or want to brush up on your skills, consider taking a course at a local technical school or community college. You can also find courses available online or you may find them offered by a local temporary placement agency.15
  • Gain experience and training – While administrative assistant job listings may not require a degree, in the competitive job market, it’s always recommended that you make yourself as strong a candidate as possible. That’s why SJVC’s Business Office Administration program helps students learn useful, practical skills like practical application of business accounting fundamentals, principles of basic business math, written and digital business communication, and the basic elements of HR, marketing, customer service, and social media for business.
  • Make the most of on-the-job training – It’s common for an administrative assistant to learn additional skills through on-the-job training provided by an employer. This short-term training is usually just a few weeks long and often covers information about administrative procedures. If you’re planning to become an administrative assistant in a medical or legal office, that training may last for months to ensure that you learn the industry-specific nuances that come with these fields.15

Do I Need a Degree to Work in Business?

Although there are entry level business positions that do not require you to have a college degree, furthering your education with a Business Office Administration program can help to make you a more competitive candidate. This additional knowledge can provide you with the skills and knowledge that can benefit you as you grow in your business career.16

What to Look for in a Business Office Administration Program

A Business Office Administration program can be a valuable investment in your career, but it’s also important that a program is the right fit for you and your career goals. Consider the following qualities when choosing a business office administration program.

  • Program cost – The cost of a Business Office Administration program can vary. When you’re considering a program, it’s helpful to calculate its total cost, including expenses like books and additional required materials. While a program may help you to advance your career, it’s important to consider the salary that you’re likely to earn in your new position to help you decide if the program is worth the investment. 
  • Location – The location of a program can affect its cost. If you have a long commute or even need to relocate to attend a program, then it’s important to include those expenses into your budgeting for your education. Some programs feature a traditional face-to-face delivery, while others are available online. Online programs offer convenience and increased scheduling flexibility, and they may be a good choice if you don’t have a traditional program available locally or are looking for the flexibility to balance your education with full-time employment or family obligations.
  • Accreditation – When a school or college is accredited, that institution has proven that it’s met certain quality and rigor standards. Considering only programs offered by accredited institutions can help ensure that you’ll be getting a quality education from the program that you do choose.16
  • Instructor quality – Instructors can play a large role in the quality of your experience with a business course or program. As you research available business administration programs, look into who will be teaching you. Instructors who have real-world experience in the industry can often provide you with valuable insights and advice that go beyond what you’d learn from a textbook.
  • Hands-on experience – A program that gives you hands-on experience, like the chance to use the types of software that are commonly used in administrative settings, can help to enhance your education and leave you well-prepared for your career.

How Long is a Business Office Administration Program?

The duration of a Business Office Administration program can vary. At SJVC, you can earn a certificate of completion in as few as eight months, or an Associate Degree in as few as 15 months.16 While it might be tempting to choose the shortest program that you can find so you can get started in your career sooner, remember that you’re likely to learn more and be better prepared for your career with a longer program. 

Can I Earn a Business Office Administration Degree Online?

Many Business Office Administration degree programs are offered online. These online programs offer scheduling flexibility and they typically provide the same quality education as an in-person program. When learning online, self-motivation and discipline play important roles in your success. It’s a good idea to consider how you learn best when deciding whether you should take a program in-person or online. 

What Will I Learn in SJVC’s Business Office Administration Courses?

SJVC’s Business Office Administration courses teach you a framework of business fundamentals that you can then apply to your career in any business. You’ll learn essential skills like basic business math; how to use business accounting fundamentals; important elements of HR, customer service, marketing, and more; how to use productivity software; and how to produce quality written and digital communication for a business. With this knowledge and these skills, you’ll be well-prepared for various opportunities within the business industry.16

Business Office Administration Classes

SJVC’s Business Office Administration degree consists of the following classes:17

Core Courses: 

  • Accounting Cycle Concepts
  • Business Math Applications
  • Business Communication
  • Principles of Management
  • Principles of Human Resources
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Spreadsheet Management
  • Business Externship
  • Computer Literacy and Applications for the Professional
  • Graduate Readiness Seminar

General Education Course Requirements: 

  • Composition and Reading – Part A
  • Composition and Reading – Part B
  • Intercultural Communication
  • College Algebra – Part A
  • College Algebra – Part B
  • Introduction to the Natural Sciences
  • Ethics
  • Critical Thinking
  • General Psychology
  • Introduction to Sociology

Start Your Career as an Administrative Assistant

Small class sizes, individual attention, and hands-on training in the skills you need. Learn more about how to become an administrative assistant with SJVC.

Prepare for a Career in Business With San Joaquin Valley College

If you don’t have a college degree but feel that a career in an office setting is right for you, then exploring one of the many entry-level positions in the business industry can help you to get started. While an entry-level position doesn’t require that you have a degree, pursuing a Business Office Administration program can help to further prepare you for your career and make you stand out from other applicants. 

San Joaquin Valley College offers a Business Office Administration program both online and at 14 locations throughout California. This program provides a comprehensive education on essential skills like accounting fundamentals and the use of productivity software. If you’re ready to take the next step in preparing for your business career, contact us today to request more information about this program. 

Information Technology FAQ

What Are Some Entry-Level Business Careers?

You can explore many entry-level business careers, including administrative assistant, customer service representative, receptionist, information clerk, and sales representative jobs.16

What Does an Administrative Assistant Do?

Administrative assistants are responsible for routine administrative duties that help to keep a business running smoothly. Some of those duties can include handling mail and faxes, answering phones and taking messages, scheduling appointments and staff meetings, managing databases, and editing documents.

What Are the Duties of a Receptionist in an Office?

Receptionist jobs include various administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments, greeting customers and clients, copying and filing documents, and answering the phone. They help a business to make a good first impression on customers or clients, especially front desk receptionist jobs.7

Do I Need a Degree to Work in Business?

You don’t necessarily need a higher education degree to work in business. However, completing a Business Office Administration program can help to prepare you for your career and can help you to stand out from other applicants.16

Can I Study to Work in Business Online?

Yes, there are many opportunities to study to work in business online. A variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business are offered online. If a multiyear degree program isn’t right for you, then you can take online business office administration courses to help prepare you for your career.

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Sources

  1. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-2
  2. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/customer-service-representatives.htm#tab-2
  3. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/insurance-sales-agents.htm#tab-2
  4. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/customer-service-representatives.htm#tab-3
  5. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/327142
  6. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-1
  7. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/receptionists.htm#tab-2
  8. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/information-clerks.htm#tab-2
  9. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-6
  10. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/insurance-sales-agents.htm#tab-6
  11. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436014.htm#st
  12. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-5
  13. https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/43-6014.00
  14. https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/43-4051.00
  15. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-4
  16. https://www.sjvc.edu/program/business-office-administration/
  17. https://static.sjvc.edu/_downloads/consumerinfo/2021-Catalog.pdf
  18. https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2016-11-11/accreditation-of-online-degree-programs-frequently-asked-questions
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