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Program Assistant

Education and Training: College degree and certification
Average Salary: $29,050
Job Outlook: Good

Program assistants are also known as administrative assistants in the United States. The term program assistant is specifically used for those who are hired to perform administrative duties for a particular program. For example, a federal organization that is starting a green energy program will require the services for a program assistant.

The role and responsibilities of program assistants may vary depending on the industry they are employed in. Those working as assistants to top executives are responsible for arranging calls and meetings, supervising clerical staff in office, and may handle other responsibilities like billing, invoicing, and other office tasks.

Legal program assistants, also known as paralegals, must be knowledgeable about legal procedures. Similarly, medical program assistants should be adept at transcribing, transcription, and medical writing.

Technical program assistants are employed in research laboratories or as administrative assistants to scientists. Their main responsibilities include scheduling meetings or conference calls, arranging research material, editing papers, and maintaining the library.

Education and Training Requirements

Though a high school education is sufficient to get started in this career, a lot of employers now prefer to hire those with an associate degree or certificate in administrative studies. Legal program assistants should consider getting a degree in paralegal studies since this will improve their chances of getting a job.

You should possess some basic skills like a working knowledge of MS Office and word processing software, good writing and communication skills, and a pleasing personality. Once you get a job as a program assistant, your employer will help you in learning new skills which are important to their business, thus expanding your skill set.

Large businesses typically hire program assistants who have a degree in business administration or a bachelor degree that is related to the industry so a healthcare business may hire a program assistant with a degree in healthcare administration.

A lot of nonprofit organizations provide certifications for program assistants. The Certified Professional Secretary and Certified Administrative Professional examinations are the most respected certifications in the industry.

Getting the Job

There are many avenues for program assistants to get a job. Your first stop should be online and offline job boards or even local businesses who may require the services of a program assistant.

Legal program assistants can visit lawyer offices for any open vacancies. Those without a college degree can start out by interning at a local business. This will help them learn crucial administrative skills and look for alternate opportunities.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development

Employment opportunities for program assistants are expected to increase 11% by 2018. Healthcare and legal industries will have the largest number of vacancies, thus increasing the demand for program assistants with specialized degrees and certifications.

The demand for virtual program assistants will also increase as online businesses and entrepreneurs start hiring freelance virtual assistants to work with them.

Those with an extensive knowledge of computer software, web designing, and English will have the best opportunities.

By adding advanced certifications and taking courses in computer skills and languages, program assistants can find better paying jobs.

Working Conditions and Environment

Working conditions are generally comfortable for program assistants. Most of them work in a typical office setting with the exception of virtual assistants who work from home offices.

Full time program assistants work 40 hours a week. Since the job requires long hours in front of the computer, posture related problems, stress, and hand and wrist injuries can occur.

Salary and Benefits

As of May 2008, the annual median wage for program assistants was $29,050. Those working with businesses, government and healthcare industries can earn more.

Freelance or virtual program assistants can earn anywhere between $25 and $100 an hour, depending on their skill set.

Program assistants working in offices get typical employee benefits like health insurance and sick leave. Virtual program assistants set their own work hours but have to manage health insurance on their own.

Where to Go for More Information

Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals
900 S Washington St., Ste. G-13
Falls Church, VA 22046
(703) 533-1153

International Association of Administrative Professionals
10502 NW Ambassador Dr.
Kansas City, MO 64153
(816) 891-6600

International Virtual Assistants Association
2360 Corporate Circle, Ste. 400
Henderson, NV 89074
(877) 440-2750

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesBusiness