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Association Office Professionals



Professional Standards Program Background:

The following guidelines and policies have been developed to assist and encourage USM AOP members to participate in the Professional Standards Program. The program is designed as a series of eight graduated steps through which an enrollee can attain eight certificates, and entry to the program can be made at any point.  Certificates earned under these guidelines, and only under these guidelines, would entitle a member of AOP to be granted a salary increase for exhibiting the desire to improve personally and professionally as a university office employee.


Click here to learn more about the PSP Curriculum Core.         


Click here to learn more about Certificates.


Since the Professional Standards Program is a series of graduated steps and entry can be at any level, AOP members cannot file for skipped certificates and receive salary increases.  However, the national office will allow you to file for the skipped certificates if all requirements have been met, but no monetary increments will be awarded by the university.  All other requirements as stated on page 7 of the February 2019 PSP handbook are to be met as specified.



In addition to the requirements found in the PSP brochure of the National Association of Educational Office Professionals relative to eligibility for certification, the USM AOP PSP Advisory Committee has set the following stipulations:

An applicant must be a current member of the USM AOP, the Mississippi Association of Educational Office Professionals, and the National Association of Educational Office Professionals at the time of application (membership in MAEOP-HED is encouraged but not required). Continuous membership in NAEOP, MAEOP, USM AOP is required from the time of first application to the Professional Standards Program. Application forms should be submitted through the Advisory Committee at least 10 working days before an application deadline date.  The application dates are January 15, May 15, and September 15.

  • In-service training points may be earned through attendance at the following types of professional in-service training programs: conventions, conferences, institutes, workshops (at least a two-hour program), and noncredit courses, including certain audited courses.  A job-related three-hour course or one listed on the Southern Miss curriculum core can be audited for 30 ins-service hours.  Only one audited course per application will be accepted.  The audited course must be approved by the PSP Advisory Committee before the applicant registers for the course.  At least half of the required points from the in-service training area must come from attendance at programs sponsored by an educational association for office professionals.
  • Association responsibility points may be earned by membership and participation in local, area, state, and national associations for educational office personnel and other professional organizations (Professional Secretaries International, business and professional women's clubs, etc.).  University committees such as University Staff Council and Committee on Services and Resources for Women will be accepted for credit.  However, such committees as the United Way or a university departmental committee that would be considered job related will not be accepted for credit.  At least half of the required points from the association responsibility area must come from membership or committee work in an educational association for office personnel.
  • Credit earned or courses taken more than 10 years prior to a PSP application date cannot be counted or used as a basis for monetary rewards.  In establishing a record of credit earned under the professional activity area and in filing a first certificate, an applicant may submit any credit earned up to 10 years prior to a PSP application date. 
  • Any in-service or association responsibility hours/points in excess of the required amounts will apply toward the next certificate.
  • Each applicant is responsible for accumulating and assembling all documents for filing and for obtaining verification and proof for all information listed on the application forms.

To meet the requirements under Option I, courses must be at least two-semester-hour courses.  If you have a particular course that is directly related to your job but not on the list, let the PSP Advisory Committee know so that a request for approval can be processed.

From the linked list of Southern Miss courses, you must take the minimum required core courses and then choose the additional courses required from the subject area listed on page 8 of the February 2019 PSP handbook for the remaining total courses required.  Courses are cumulative from one certificate to the next.

Certificate Level Total Courses Min. Core Courses
Basic 5 3
Associate Professional 8 5
Advanced I 11 8
Advanced II 14 10
Advanced III 17 13


For example, once a member completes the course requirements for the Basic Certificate (five courses)-three from the Southern Miss curriculum list and two general subject- the next level, Associate Professional, requires a total of eight courses.  The member already has five courses (from the Basic certificate) and now only needs three additional courses for a total of eight courses.  Be careful to make sure that the correct number of courses have been taken from the Southern Miss core curriculum list at each certificate level.  The Associate Professional certificate requires a cumulative total of eight courses from the Southern Miss curriculum list; therefore, the member only needs three additional courses.  The member may choose to take the three additional courses required for the next level (Associate Professional) from the core curriculum list or choose from the subject area listed on page 3 of the March 1994 PSP brochure.  Remember that of the eight courses required, five (of the cumulative total of eight) must be from the Southern Miss curriculum list of approved courses.

Membership in the USM Association of Office Professionals is open to any person in a secretarial, clerical, or any other related support-staff position, full- or permanent part-time employment at The University of Southern Mississippi, upon payment of dues (see USM AOP Bylaws, Article III, Section I).  In order for an AOP member to participate in PSP, a statement of intent must be sent to the PSP chairman to remain in the member's permanent PSP file.

In order for an AOP member to participate in the Professional Standards Program at this university and receive monetary increases for completion of the requirements for PSP certification, the AOP member should have the supervisor's approval to participate in the program.  This approval should be filed with the applicant's letter of intent.

For any AOP member who holds a bachelor's degree or higher and wishes to pursue a PSP certificate, the member may choose to enter the program by advancing step-by-step through Option 1, or the member may choose to pursue the bachelor's or higher PSP certificate (Option 2).  Courses from the bachelor's degree may be accepted for credit toward a PSP certificate if not more than 10 years old and not previously used for a PSP certificate.  Additionally, the date of the diploma cannot be more than 10 years prior to the PSP application date.  All other membership requirements and guidelines must be followed.

Since the university gives monetary increments for achievement of advanced degrees, under no circumstances may an AOP member receive a salary increment for receiving an advanced degree (bachelor's, master's, doctorate) and the same PSP degreed certificate.

If the AOP member has earned one or more PSP certificates and then completes a degree program, the member must choose whether or not to continue step-by-step in the program (PSP) or to file for the university monetary increment for completing degree requirements.  If the member chooses to receive the university salary increment upon completing the degree program, the member may continue step-by-step in the PSP and receive salary increments for the remaining PSP certificates except for the bachelor's PSP certificate.  Once the member has completed the certificate levels under Option I (Basic, Associate Professional, Advanced I, Advanced II, Advanced III) and is ready to file the Option II, Bachelor's PSP certificate, the member may apply for the Bachelor's PSP certificate, but NO salary increment will be received since the salary increment was received at the time of the completion of the bachelor's degree.

If the AOP member earns a degree and files for the monetary increment through the university (and has not enrolled in PSP yet) and then chooses to pursue a PSP certificate, all previous rules apply.

Example 1:  Jane Doe holds the Basic and Associate Professional, Option I , PSP certificates.   She doesn't have enough in-service points to apply for her next certificate, the Advanced I.  Meanwhile, she completes her degree program in Office Administration.  Jane must decide whether or not to  1) wait until she can apply for the Advanced I PSP certificate and continue in the program, advancing step-by-step under Option I; or 2) complete the paperwork now and receive the monetary salary increment for receiving a bachelor's degree through the university; OR 3) wait until she has enough in-service points to apply for the bachelor's degree under Option 2 through the PSP.  If Jane decides to receive the monetary salary increment now (for earning the bachelor's degree), she can continue in Option I and complete the Advanced I, II, and III certificates and receive a monetary salary increment.

Example 2: Jane Doe holds a bachelor's degree.  She has been employed at Southern Miss in a degree-required job, is nearing completion of a master's degree, and has decided that she wants to continue her career at Southern Miss and become involved in the USM AOP and participate in the PSP.  Jane may  1) begin at the Basic Certificate level, Option I, but all requirements must be met, including the undergraduate course requirements. Undergraduate courses from the bachelor's degree may be used as long as the courses are not more than 10 years old and the employee did not complete the undergraduate degree while employed at Southern Miss.  If the undergraduate degree was completed while employed at Southern Miss within the past 10 years, a salary increment would have been earned upon completion of the degree.  The employee would have to begin working on the in-service/activity points required to complete the Bachelor's PSP certificate.  If the employee did not receive a salary increment upon completion of the undergraduate degree, the employee may participate in the PSP step-by-step using the undergraduate courses as long as the courses are not more than 10 years old; or 2) wait until she has enough in-service/activity points to apply for the bachelor's certificate (as long as her undergraduate degree is not more than 10 years old), at the same time working toward her master's degree requirements; or 3) wait until she has enough in-service/activity points to apply for the master's certificate (as long as her graduate degree is not more than 10 years old).

Once a participant skips a PSP certificate and applies for a higher-level certificate and receives the monetary salary increment for that certificate, the participant cannot apply for a lower-level certificate and receive a monetary salary increment for that lower level certificate.  The participant may apply to NAEOP and be awarded the lower-level skipped certificate, but the university will not award the employee with a monetary salary increment for completion of the lower-level certificate that was skipped.

The PSP Advisory Committee functions as an advisory group to answer questions concerning PSP, obtains information from the National Office as needed, checks eligibility of applications, and apprises the president and the director of Human Resources as to when a member has received a certificate.  The committee is appointed by the AOP president; its members serve two-year terms and may be serve consecutive terms.  If possible, the chair of the PSP Advisory Committee should have received a PSP certificate. 


Per the Employee Handbook, Professional Standards Program certificates qualify as education enhancement, similar to completing a degree.


QUESTIONS:  Contact Cory%20Williams, PSP Chairman  

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