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advice on benefits of higher education

Greetings all: I have 20 years of administrative assistance experience with an Associates Degree in Business Administration, along with being a Certified Computer Applications Specialist. I can't say however, that these credentials have really got me very far. I am currently beginning a study group to prepare for the CAP exam in the spring in the hopes that do something for my stagnant career and open some doors. My question to you is what is your opinion on the benefits of furthering my educational in order to gain my BS? I am hesitant as this is a heavy committment and I am getting up there in years, with heavy family and communtiy committments already but also see many more job postings where a BS is required. Thanks for your time.

Submitted by: Shayne Lauchnor


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When I was 50 years old, in 2005, my husband suddenly died of cancer. While I had 17 years of admin experience, I had not worked since 1996 because I stayed home to raise a family. I decided I wanted to receive maximum pay, and be a business partner to an executive, which required ?thinking? like an executive. I wanted to look at business from the top down so I could effectively leverage an executive?s time. And, I wanted to strive to be ?the best? and show objectively I had the qualifications. I received MOS certification in Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. I went to a university for 3 years and finished a B.S. in Business Management and B.S. in HR Management. I read over 40 highly rated business books. I attended four Administrative Professional Conferences through ASAP, and Joan Burge?s ?World Class Assistant.? I attended over 20 Rockhurst University day-long seminars. I took AMA?s ?Finance and Accounting for the Non-Financial Executive.? I joined IAAP, AEAP and I spent 3 long years looking for employment because employers wanted administrative assistants who were experienced on web-ex, SharePoint, etc. I was just hired by a high-tech company, and administrative workers are in demand again. Education is a powerful tool, but it is also important to ?sell? yourself and be future-focused. If you are studying for CAP certification, that will be a great step. I highly recommend attending the amazing Administrative Professionals Conference through ASAP. If you have an Associates Degree, I would begin to take a class each term at a university. Credits add up and you can say you are working on your Bachelors. Each business class I took expanded my knowledge, and gave me ideas of how I could add more value and be a defacto manager as an Executive Assistant. I gained confidence. My B.S. has opened doors because I can apply to positions that require a degree, and I believe it will be of benefit beyond my retirement years, as well as showing my children and grandchildren that it is important to continue to learn. If you are interested in project management, I would work towards obtaining CAPM certification through the Project Management Institute. I would assess your ?weak links? and make those areas strong. Some companies encourage employees to move to other areas to learn new skills, and I?ve known people who limit their years in a position so they are exposed to new environments. If you want to continue to work and take on more responsibility, I would work towards a degree. I believe that will be of value to you now and in the future, and is a highly recognized symbol of accomplishment. While it may not provide a great increase in salary, it may provide intrinsic value, or help you find a position in a different area of business. It sounds like you have a rich life, so going back to school may not be the path for you. Whatever you choose, I wish you success! Anonymous on 9/13/2013 11:11:29 PM
You are right; going back to school for a BS is a major commitment. I would say enjoy your time with your family and community. I also have an Associates Degree (Management) with over 35 years experience. I've found that a person with your level of experience is generally making what the new college grad is making with similar position. Oftentimes, job requirements will say BS preferred (or equivalent education plus work experience). That's what we have. I know assistants with Masters degrees who remain assistants. So I agree with another writer, unless you plan to go into management or another career, I don't see the added value of obtaining a BS. It can be too costly financially and timewise. ON THE FLIP SIDE: If your job pays the TOTAL tuition and you'd like to take a class here and there, I'd say go for it. Years go by and credits add up to degrees. :) Carolyn Clemons on 9/13/2013 4:10:53 PM
We live in a world where there are more people than there are jobs. In the admin world, the problem is made worse because the IT world is working very hard to replace EA's with software. I believe they are winning. This results in employers being very selective about who they hire, and a huge discriminator is credentials. The BA/BS is the new high school diploma, and the MBA is the new BA/BS degree. Unfortunately, there are many, many overeducated people looking for work! CAP certification would set an individual apart from peers even further. I believe rock solid references are also very important. I also believe it is possible to be overqualified, too seasoned, overly specialized, and just plain too old in the EA field, especially since most employers consider these jobs soft and not core to the business. Anybody can type and file for minimum wage, even if it is only with two fingers and done phonetically. I live and work in the Washington, DC job market. Seems every time I do something to get ahead, the standard shifts to the right. I am now exploring advancement opportunities as well as alternative career paths. I hope for a lucky break and take solace in knowing that it is not me; everyone else is facing the same hurdles, too. Follow your heart. IAAP certification is a reasonable and inexpensive goal. You might want to carefully consider a new major if you decide to pursue your bachelor degree. And don't be afraid to branch off into something new if your heart is in it. If your job is a major part of your life, shift your priorities. Is the root of your discontent the job or is it the take home pay? Since it is not rewarding you any more despite your efforts, why not find something else (besides chocolate) such as church, family, or a new hobby that is? This is that passion thing we keep hearing about. Sometimes what we really need is a good kick in the butt to shake us out of our rut and give us a refreshed perspective on this thing called life. Shake it up and good luck! Anonymous on 9/13/2013 7:57:13 AM
I might be taking a different tack here - but you allude to age and experience and feeling like you're stagnating. Before you spend a lot of money on higher education - it might be beneficial to take an honest look at your "personal brand". How are you presenting yourself in the workplace or on interviews? Attire, grooming, health, attitude and communication skills are all part of the package we bring to a position, as well as our skills and experience. The higher you aspire - this can assume even more importance. Work with a good friend who you can truly trust to be honest and see if your personal brand can use some polishing or overhauling. Fresh confidence might bring fresh opportunities - wishing you best of luck! Anonymous on 9/12/2013 9:44:26 AM
I had been considering the same thing Shayne. I've worked for the same company for the last 12 years, but I still wondered if it would be to my advantage to get a degree beyond my current AAS. Like you, it would be a heavy committment on my end both financially and personall (family). It's good to see the responses from everyone! Anonymous on 9/12/2013 9:39:46 AM
If you plan to remain in an Executive Secretary/Administrative Assistant position, the reality is that a B.S. will not be an added value. The reason for this is because positions within organizations are placed in employment grades and pay ranges. An executive secretary/administrative assistant position is therefore weighted at a specific pay grade and range. If you have been in that profession for 20 years, you are probably already at the ceiling of your grade and pay range and will not likely find advancement opportunities. If, however, you are planning to change your profession, a B.S. in a marketable field will be beneficial to move you along. I agree that the commitment to advanced education is a great one, but I do believe it is never too late to make a change if that is your dream. Find your passion and go for it! Anonymous on 9/12/2013 9:30:03 AM
Hi Shayne, You did not mention if you are currently employed or not. If you are not employed and are having a difficult time finding employment then it would most likely be beneficial to further your education. I myself am an Administrative Support professional with over 20 years experience. I lost my job back in April and have not yet found employment. I have noticed that more Administrative Assistant positions are stating that a BS degree is beneficial. I personally do not feel that a degree is necessary for that specific field especially if you have the experience. Furthering your education is a personal choice and you have to take into account the expense and the commitment. Good luck to you. Marian Jaskowiak on 9/12/2013 8:57:21 AM
I don't know that in this day & age and with the current economic situation that a BS will get you very far. You have significant experience in administrative assistance but what does that look like? Is it the same job with the same responsibilities for 20 years or has it been a few different jobs, each with increased responsibility from the last? This type of growth is particularly attractive to hiring managers, and managers in general, as they look within their organization for rising stars. Maybe there are opportunities you can explore within your current company. With that being said, furthering your education is never a bad thing, at any age. It definitely can't hurt (except your wallet). I am a 37-yr-old Executive Assistant with over 10 years experience and decided to go to law school. Is it expensive? Definitely? Is it A LOT of really hard work, reading, and studying? You bet. Will it guarantee me a job in the legal field or an increase in my salary? Maybe, maybe not. But, do I absolutely love every minute of it? Yes, I do. Remember, getting a BS gives you no guarantees. If you will feel fulfilled with a BS even if it does not improve your current circumstances, then definitely do it. Good luck in whatever you choose! Dawn Kelliher on 9/12/2013 8:53:11 AM
You have 20 years experience...the Chairman/CEO that I support looks at experience over a degree. He feels that experience counts and a great track record, plus a great attitude - that will go far! I personally believe getting your CAP certificate will help and also keeping current with technology. I don't feel that you need to go back to school at this time when your schedule is already full unless you really desire to do this. Good Luck! Anonymous on 9/12/2013 8:46:55 AM
While a BS has great value, we are finding that seasoned workers with experience in the field and current certifications related to the field have become quite valuable in the workplace. This definitely shows a trend toward continuing education. We target our searches more in that direction. Anonymous on 9/12/2013 8:45:07 AM

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