Dear Danielle: Is Virtual Assistant Certification Necessary?

Dear Danielle:

I have wanted to start my own Virtual Assistant business for a while now. I’ve been with the same large corporation for 12 years, some of that time spent in the Medical Law department, as a human resources assistant and about six years as an executive assistant juggling multiple managers. Prior to that, I worked from a woman’s home as her assistant as she ran her own company bringing in over $400,000 gross per year. I have the experience, I have the drive and motivation; I learn quickly; I’m resourceful; I am able to work independently and have a record of excellent customer service and problem solving skills. I am concerned that not having a Virtual Assistant certificate from a college may hinder client selection. From your experience, are degree-less Virtual Assistants making a living out there? Do you know of a legitimate online Virtual Assistant certification?

Fabulous! You have listed just about everything you need to start an administrative support business:  experience, drive, resourcefulness, ability to learn quickly and excellent customer service and problem-solving skills. The only other requirement is going to be excellent business sense. Because running a business and doing the work and taking care of clients are two completely different things.

I’ve written extensively on the subject of certification. You do not need anyone’s piece of paper to “certify” that you have the administrative expertise to offer your services. I say this as someone who has been in this business for over 14 years and never once been asked by a single client–ever–whether I was “certified” or not.

Most of the certification programs in our industry are a joke. I’ve even had colleagues go through some of these programs where the administrators themselves can’t spell, litter their correspondence with typos, and get their own exams wrong. There’s a proliferation of opportunists and exploiters out there who are just using these programs as personal sales vehicles and will certify anyone willing to pay. These “certifications” will have absolutely no influence or affect on your success or client attraction whatsoever.

Pay for skills training. Pay for business knowledge and education. Pay for products and services that have actual, practical value and use in your business. But when it comes to “certification,” save your money.

There is only one thing you need to prove to clients and that is done by simply demonstrating your qualifications, competence and service in all that you do. Your site, your messages, your writing and articles, your networking and interactions… every bit of it is an example and sampling for clients of your skills, expertise and competence.

When you demonstrate a professional level of expertise and competence, no one is going to ask you about certification. Those questions only come when prospective clients don’t see those things exampled on your website, your business image, your content and your communications. But when you do demonstrate those things in all those places, you instill credibility. You instill trust. They don’t need to ask because they already get that sense of your competence through all your displays of marketing, presentation and interaction.

No piece of paper will prove those things. And any certification you get becomes meaningless if you can’t demonstrate on a daily basis, in everything you do, the qualities that the certification is supposed to “prove.”

Here are some other posts I’ve written on the topic of certification that may be of interest to you:

It sounds like you’ve got all the qualifications and experience you need to open a business as an Administrative Consultant and offer professional level administrative support and expertise. Learning to be a good businessperson may take some additional skills and education, if you don’t have those already.

Don’t bother with certification, though. Just become a good student of business. Read business books. Find business mentors (formal or informal). Ask lots of questions. If you do take some kind of course, I highly recommend training and guides related to business management and marketing, not a certification course.

And don’t confuse skills training with certification. They are not the same thing.

Good luck to you and thanks for the great question! We need more highly skilled and competent people like you in our field!

8 Responses

  1. Julia Lilly says:

    Couldn’t agree more Danielle. I chose not to get “certified” and spent some money on a 12 week small business course instead. That was money well spent! There was so much I didn’t know about running a business and it was the training I truly needed.

    Thanks for posting about this topic. I have many upcoming VA’s ask me about it and I always say the same thing.. Don’t waste your money!

  2. Verleene says:

    Great post. You can get alot of free training on business through the SBA as well.

  3. Lisa Humphries says:

    In addition to the excellent points mentioned, the more that “certification” proliferates, the more that potential clients could unfortunately come to expect it. There are plenty of great professionals out there who have already chosen to obtain a certification, but they didn’t need it to demonstrate their skill and competence. The way they project themselves has already done that.

  4. I know this post isn’t new but I have just come across it because I’ve been pondering getting certified myself but wondering if it is really necessary. You made some good points for me to think about so thanks!!

  5. Great question! And an even better response.

  6. Tiffiny Holley says:

    I was wondering about this too because I was approached to take some courses to get certified. I researched it a bit and found no reason to get it – other than it is costly. Thanks for clearing that up Danielle!

  7. Lori Kirstein says:


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