Executive Assistance (EA)

The Role

What Executive Assistants Do

Executive assistants are often seen as the right hand of an organization’s leadership. While they still handle many of the same clerical duties as administrative assistants, the executive assistants are entrusted with greater responsibilities. They set up the exec’s schedule, field his or her calls, make travel arrangements, and may sit in on meetings for the executive as well.

Who would enjoy a career in Executive Assisting?

The executive assistant holds a relatively senior role in administration and is often seen as the executive’s gatekeeper and the face of the organization. For this reason, the role is best-suited for trustworthy individuals who genuinely appreciate being polished in terms of appearance and ability. Those who are detail-oriented, organized, and who operate well under pressure do best. It’s also important for executive assistants to have a wide range of clerical skills, be comfortable with technology, and possess leadership qualities.

Who mightn't like the career?

Executive assistants face a great deal of stress, whether it’s because they’re always on duty, wind up helping the exec with personal matters, or have to untangle business issues. For this reason, it’s not a good fit for someone who lacks diplomacy or the ability to create calm amidst the chaos. Because the effectiveness of the exec rests heavily on his or her assistant’s scheduling and organization, it’s also not a good choice for someone who cannot manage their own time well or is not self-directed.

 

GETTING IN

Qualifications

While it’s technically possible to become an executive assistant without a formal education, most execs expect their assistants to have at least a bachelor’s degree in business or a field related to the organization as well as experience working as an administrative assistant. There are many certification programs for aspiring executive assistants as well, and these may help improve one’s chances of landing a position.

Interviewing

Candidates should prepare themselves by researching the executive(s) they’ll be serving as well as the company. It’s also important to dress the part, as executive assistants represent the company and interviewers will be looking for someone who makes a stellar first impression. Questions asked typically surround prior experience, ability, and problem-solving skills.

Moving into Executive Assisting from another career

The most common transition to executive assistant is from administrative assistant, though individuals who have the right set of skills may be considered regardless of their background.

 

CAREER PATH

Administrative Assistant

Role: Administrative assistants take on office support roles. They field phone calls, schedule, research, perform data entry, run errands, cover accounting duties, write correspondence, and more.

Executive Assistant

Role: Executive assistants work directly for the executive(s) and often oversee administrative assistants and other auxiliary staff. They perform many tasks to help keep the executive organized, including scheduling, planning, arranging phone calls and meetings, setting up travel, and being responsive for the executive when he or she is not available.

Travel Opportunities

The amount of travel involved depends wholly on the executive. Some prefer that their assistants remain at the office and cover things while they’re away, while others want their assistants to travel with them. In the latter cases, extensive international travel is possible, though is somewhat uncommon.

 
SALARY AND BONUSES

Salary

Administrative Assistant: Data from PayScale indicates that base salaries average USD$34,000 in the United States, ₤16,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$39,000 in Canada, and AU$45,000 in Australia.

Executive Assistant: USD$53,000, £31,000, CAD$52,000, and AU$68,000.

Bonuses

Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission are not always a big part of an administrative assistant’s salary, but can sometimes add several thousand dollars onto take-home pay or more than $10,000 onto an executive assistant’s pay.

 

LEAVING THE CAREER

Why Executive Assistants move on

When people find the right executive to work for, they often continue to work for that individual for decades. They may even pick up skills that enable them to climb the corporate ladder and attain more senior positions. However, sometimes the right match isn’t made or the stress of the job burns executive assistants out. In these cases, most executive assistants will simply find a similar position with a new employer. Moving out of the field can be challenging without returning to school, but there are a few options.

For further reading, see “A Hilarious C-Level Executive Assistant Spills Insider Thoughts You Wish People Knew” and “My Career Path from Executive Assistant to Vice President.”