The duties of executive assistants are in a middle ground between the roles of business executives and clerical workers. As offices become more automated, their jobs become more varied and sophisticated. Some entry-level positions may call for only a high school degree, but applicants can often benefit from a college education, specialized training or certification.
The projected job growth for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS, was 3% for the period from 2014-2024, which is slower than average. The BLS also reported the median income to be $53,370 as of May 2015.
Executive Assistant Career Duties
Also known as executive secretaries, executive assistants are technically knowledgeable administrative workers responsible for cataloging and distributing information, assisting top-level business staff and arranging schedules. Typically, the job involves less clerical work than found in general secretary positions.
An executive assistant's duties vary by employer, but tasks may include screening and prioritizing mail and phone calls, researching and writing memos. They may maintain executive calendars and meeting agendas, prepare materials used in executive presentations and make travel arrangements. They can also organize and maintain files and office libraries of books, papers, and digital media.
Executive assistants are increasingly called to do jobs once exclusively handled by executives, such as the research and preparation of reports. Often they perform tasks once reserved for lower- and middle-level managers, such as negotiating with suppliers, purchasing supplies, maintaining leased equipment and managing stockrooms. They also train new staff members.
Organization and flexibility are important skills for executive assistants, along with the abilities to multi-task, meet deadlines and work as part of a team. They are highly accountable and often responsible for safeguarding confidential information. Familiarity with computers and common business applications are necessary in the modern business office. They should have well-developed communications and reading skills and knowledge of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Employers may prefer executive assistants who have specific knowledge in their field of business through a degree or past experience. Assistants with a relevant background may have a greater understanding of business operations and may make a greater number of informed decisions.
Workers who can demonstrate knowledge of office administration, management, technology and systems may want to obtain Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) or Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) status by taking a three-part exam offered by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). Certification is not required for executive assistants, but it may lead to improved job opportunities or increased responsibility.