The specific qualifications one will need to become a secretary can vary significantly according to the specific work setting. In some cases, secretary qualifications may only include a high school education and basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. Communication skills are vital to any secretary job as well. Sometimes secretary qualifications are more stringent, as the job may require the secretary to perform more complex tasks as they relate to a particular business, industry, or operation. In this case, the secretary will usually undergo some job-specific training either on the job or in a post-secondary setting.
A legal secretary, for example, will need to have secretary qualifications that relate directly to the law profession. This training can be done on the job, but more often it is undertaken at a college or university. The secretary will need to earn a post-secondary certificate, and some licensing tests may also need to be taken as well in certain situations. Sometimes it is possible to become a legal secretary without these secretary qualifications, but the job candidate will need to have exceptional communication skills, research skills, and organizational skills. A basic understanding of legal processes will also be helpful, though the secretary can learn such topics on the job.
An accounting or finance secretary can similarly get a job without necessarily taking any post-secondary coursework, but such education is usually preferred by employers. Once the job candidate graduates from high school or earns a similar credential, he or she can enroll in a post-secondary certificate program that usually lasts six months to a year. He or she can also enroll in a post-secondary degree program such as an associate's degree, thereby deepening his or her qualifications. An associate's degree usually takes about two years to complete, and the job candidate will develop secretary qualifications that can eventually lead to a job hire or even a promotion within a company.
If a job candidate wants to develop secretary qualifications but does not necessarily want to enter a specific industry or field, it is generally a good idea to take courses at a community college that focus on developing math skills, communication skills, or computer skills. Most secretaries will deal with a variety of computer programs, which means they will need to have a solid grasp on basic to advanced computer skills. The secretary can enroll in a course that focuses on a specific computer program, or he or she can take a class geared toward advancing computer skills across the board.