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Personal Assistants: Job Description & Career Info

Research the requirements to become a personal assistant. Learn about the job duties, and walk through the step-by-step process to start a career in personal assisting. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a…
  • 0:57 Step 1: Get an Education
  • 2:03 Step 2: Gain Experience
  • 2:33 Step 3: Earn…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Personal Assistant?

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; some employers prefer postsecondary coursework
Degree Fields Business administration, healthcare administration, or legal studies
Experience None
Key Skills Strong written and oral communication, time management, critical thinking, decision-making, and office skills; people-oriented personality; proficiency with database, spreadsheet, and word processing software; knowledge of scanners, copiers, and phone systems
Salary $35,200 (2015 average)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, Payscale.com

Personal assistants, sometimes called secretaries or administrative assistants, provide office support to managers and supervisors. Personal assistants may manage all incoming and outgoing information, including directing or answering phone calls, letters, and e-mail. They schedule business meetings, set appointments, and file important documents. The duties of a personal assistant include arranging the administrators' personal affairs and ensuring that commitments don't conflict with business obligations. Most work hours are spent sitting at a desk.

The requirements for entering this career are fairly lax and often a high school diploma or the equivalent will suffice. However, salary potential is generally low compared to other office careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for personal assistants was $35,200 as of May 2015.

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Step 1: Get an Education

Many personal assistant positions require a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some employers may prefer applicants who have completed some college-level work. Prospective candidates can receive the necessary education at technical colleges and vocational institutes, which provide training in business administration and computers. Job seekers with experience performing clerical duties, secretarial tasks, and bookkeeping may have an edge.

Personal assistants in a medical, legal or executive business setting may need a certificate or an associate's degree in legal studies, business, or healthcare administration. Depending on the field, these programs include courses in accounting, marketing, and law.

No matter what setting you intend to work in, it is essential to develop strong communication skills. Personal assistants frequently communicate with customers, clients, and staff members in person, over the phone, and through a variety of other channels. High school or college courses in mass communication, public speaking, and English help students learn effective methods of communication.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Personal assistants typically learn company policies, procedures, and systems through on-the-job training. As they gain office experience and knowledge about a company's operation, personal assistants are promoted to executive assistant or assigned to assist a higher-level employee. These positions consist of preparing reports and other materials for executives, arranging business travel, taking notes at meetings, and screening callers and visitors. In addition, executive assistants are involved in training other administrative staff members.

Step 3: Earn Certification for Career Advancement

Some administrative professional organizations offer voluntary certification which may increase a professional's employment prospects. For International Association of Administrative Professionals certification, applicants with no college education must have four years of experience in the field, while professionals who have earned their associate's degree need three years of experience. The final step to certification is an exam that assesses the assistant's knowledge and skills. Personal assistants in medical environments may want to pursue industry-specific certifications.

Personal assistants often need only a high school diploma or the equivalent, though some employers prefer some college course work and certification can lead to advancement opportunities.

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