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administrative assistant

What does an Administrative Assistant do?

While specific responsibilities vary according to the needs of the employer, an Administrative Assistant is a person who provides various kinds of support to individuals or groups, particularly in a business setting. Most often, the term Administrative Assistant is a formal title, although it can also simply be a designation for the role that person plays in the organization.

Administrative Assistants can be found in many industries, including government agencies, corporations, legal and medical offices, hospitals, schools and universities.  They are often critical to ensuring that everything runs smoothly within an organization.

Some of the duties an Administrative Assistant might perform include:

  • Coordination and communication between departments
  • Scheduling of meetings, interviews and events
  • Handling sensitive information and communications
  • Data entry and note taking
  • Resolving day-to-day operational issues in an administrative role
  • Assisting with various aspects of management, logistics, and inventory

Training & Education

While a formal education is not always necessary, a degree is sometimes required and will help an applicant in negotiating for a higher salary. For most entry-level Administrative Assistant positions, a high school diploma or GED along with some office skills are all that is necessary. Exceptionally strong communication and time management skills are required for most administrative assistants. Vocational programs exist that will help in training for administrative support positions, as they teach the specific skills required for such a role.

Employers hiring Executive Assistants are more likely to seek out candidates with a college degree, especially one closely related to the business or industry the executive works in.


While applicants with a formal education are usually at an advantage, experience and location will play a role in salary, as will the type of administrative assistants position. For example, office support positions usually pay significantly less than executive assistant roles.

What does an Executive Assistant do?

At the end of April every year, we celebrate and recognize the individuals who make business around the world run more smoothly: administrative and executive assistants. The profession has changed a lot since the 1950s, and taking dictation is mainly a thing of the past.

executive assistant

Today’s executive assistants come from all walks of life, but they have many things in common: they usually have a solid educational background, very good computer skills, are highly organized, have perfected the art of multi-tasking, are excellent problem-solvers, are diplomatic and professional and can work well under pressure. As demands for the job have shifted, many executive assistants have taken on duties that were once reserved for professional or managerial staff, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Educational requirements

According to the BLS, applicants with extensive knowledge of computer software applications should have the best chances for success, so be sure you have solid working knowledge of software and hardware if you are thinking about becoming an executive assistant. Many times, the executive assistant solves the exasperated boss’s computer problems and/or knows whom to call when things aren’t working as they should.

Many employers prefer to hire applicants with college degrees. A bachelor’s degree can usually be completed in four years of full-time study. For more entry-level secretarial positions, a vocational program at executive assistant schools is usually sufficient. These programs last from a few months to two years and are offered by vocational-technical schools and community colleges. Many executive assistants specialize in specific areas, such as legal or medical.

The future for executive assistants

We have good news: the BLS projects en employment growth of 11 per cent for executive assistants (also called exacutive secretaries). Job growth is expected to be particularly solid in a variety of industries, such as scientific and professional services. There is virtually no sector or industry in which executive assistants are not needed, so your options should be wide-ranging.

Do toy factories need executive assistants? How about clothing designers, law firms, non-profits, colleges, medical offices and government contractors? You bet they do! The BLS lists the top-paying industries as the postal service, the computer industry and the federal executive branch. The sectors that have the highest amount of employed professionals on this career path are the financial industry and the real estate business.

Does this ever-changing and always-in-demand profession sound like a good fit for your skills, abilities and interests? If it does, then have a look at the different educational programs available in your area and start working toward a fulfilling and challenging career.

What does a Personal Assistant do?

You might think that only movie stars have a personal assistant, but the field has become broader than that. This is great news for those looking to break into the field, since breaking in with non-stars is markedly easier.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the field of administrative assistants, also known as executive assistants, has among the highest number of job openings. While these jobs differ from personal assistants, there are some overlaps.

Odds and ends for assistants

Administrative and executive assistants assist executives and top-level administrators; their job tasks include planning for conference calls and meetings, supervising clerical staff, reviewing/preparing memos and reports, and conducting research.

personal assistant

Personal assistants differ in multiple ways. For one, their jobs are usually not office-based. Instead, personal assistants will work wherever their employers need them to be. This might include an office, at home, at a party or running alongside the employer. People who hire personal assistants include music executives, high-level executives, musicians, and celebrities.

As a personal assistant, your primary job will be to keep your employer’s life in order, which might include the following duties:

  • Responding to fan mail, email and phone calls
  • Booking meetings and events
  • Managing budgets
  • Writing reports or newsletters
  • Updating websites

In essence, your employer will want you to be like a second skin. But not an itchy second skin: as a personal assistant, you will need a great deal of tact and the ability to become visible or invisible at any moment.

A growing field

The field of personal assistants has grown with technology. Virtual assistants are popping up all over the Internet, allowing non-celebrities, and even non-wealthy, the personal-assistant experience. As a virtual assistant, your tasks will obviously vary from an in-person assistant, but the idea is the same: you will help your employer keep his/her life in order.

Virtual personal assistants, in many ways, act like life coaches. They might help in job searches, submit manuscripts for aspiring authors, or simply help keep up with day-to-day life.

Personal assistant dirt

The author of the 2008 book, Fame Junkies, Jake Halpern likes to dish the dirt about celebrity assistants. In a NPR interview Halpern refers to the words of celebrity recruiter Rita Tateel to sum up the life of a celebrity personal assistant: “The bottom line, she concludes, is that you need to be available to serve your celebrity’s every need and above all you must banish the word no from your professional vocabulary.”