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Productivity software skills—spreadsheets and word processing—may seem basic, but are still the skills that set workers on the first rung of the career ladder and bring an immediate pay boost over workers who don’t have them.

You can see the impact of these skills in that they enable greater pay for the same job and vertical movement on career ladders. An HR Specialist with more-advanced productivity software skills can earn nearly 20% more than an HR Specialist without those skills. An Operations Coordinator can use more-advanced productivity skills to build qualifications for the next rung up that specific career ladder, Operations Supervisor. This brief, growing out of research Burning Glass Technologies conducted for Capital One, provides a roadmap for workers wondering what types of productivity software skills can help them get ahead in their careers.

At the heart of the productivity skills cluster is the Microsoft Office Suite and other basic spreadsheet and word processing programs. However, other, more advanced skills matter too. Enterprise management software, project management programs, and specific spreadsheet capabilities comprise the next steps in the productivity skills hierarchy.

Salary Premium for Productivity Software Skills, Selected Occupations

Average Advertised Annual Salary
MS Office OnlyMS Office with Advanced Excel capabilities
Customer Service Representative$35,512$38,839
Bookkeeper / Accounting Clerk$39,196 $41,588

Productivity Software Skills Can Increase Pay for the Same Job

Spreadsheets and word processing are critical door openers into the middle-skills market, particularly in occupations such as Customer Service Representatives, Administrative Assistants, and Operations Coordinators. These positions have relatively low demand for bachelor’s degrees and high entry-level opportunity. In many cases, acquiring more advanced productivity skills can lead to higher salaries within specific door opener positions. For example, Customer Service Representatives and Bookkeepers can earn 9% and 6% more, respectively, by acquiring advanced spreadsheet skills such as knowledge of Pivot Tables and Macros.

Productivity Software Skills Build Qualifications for Better Jobs

Not only do greater productivity software skills lead to higher salaries within the same occupations, but they also qualify workers for jobs higher up in many Clerical, Customer Service, and Business Management careers.

Office/Administrative Assistants are one of the door opener positions most in demand and Office Manager and Administrative Manager jobs lie higher up on the same career ladder. An Office/Administrative Assistant can earn a 13% premium for more specialized productivity skills, such as. enterprise resource software like Oracle or SAP. But after being promoted to Office Manager, these skills provide an even bigger premium: salaries increase from approximately $41,000 a year on average to nearly $65,000 a year – roughly a 60% jump in salary.

A similar dynamic plays out in Business Operations careers – where a Scheduler/Operations Coordinator can increase their pay by 34% by acquiring more advanced productivity skills, but making the jump to Operations Manager/ Supervisor for that well-qualified coordinator can yield a 40% pay increase.

Clerical and Administrative: Skills and Salary Premiums

Career LadderAverage SalaryAdditional SkillAdditional Skill
OccupationMS Office onlyMS Office with Advanced ExcelMS Office with any other advanced productivity skill
Office/Administrative Assistant$36,942$37,565$41,132
Office Manager$48,238$60,063$64,872
Administrative Manager$65,616$77,136$79,078

Business Management and Operations: Skills and Salary Premiums

Career LadderAverage SalaryAdditional SkillAdditional Skill
OccupationMS Office onlyMS Office with Advanced ExcelMS Office with any other advanced productivity skill
Scheduler / Operations Coordinator$43,742 $48,530$58,108
Operations Manager / Supervisor$70,566$72,232$82,220

What Productivity Skills and When?

What specific digital skills should workers seek out to make the lateral and vertical career movements mentioned above?

While Microsoft Office and other basic spreadsheet and word processing programs serve as prerequisites for all other skills in this category, some skills yield greater salary premiums than others. For the 12 months from May 2016 to April 2017, job postings asking specifically for Microsoft Office and other basic productivity capabilities advertised a median salary of $47,231. Job postings asking for higher productivity skills above and beyond Microsoft Office were higher – sometimes up to 60% higher.

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