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Executive Assistant Skills and Necessary Attributes

Executive assistants require some formal education. Learn about the educational requirements, job duties and necessary skills to see if this is the right career for you.

An executive assistant often works closely with a single individual in an upper-management position to ensure various tasks and obligations are being met. Although there are no specific educational requirements, it is increasingly common for an executive assistant to have an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Essential Information

Executive assistants work in an office setting where they manage appointments, communications and schedules for an upper-level manager. Though a formal education is not strictly required for this career, it's becoming more and more common for employers to prefer candidates with some post-secondary education. Employers also look for candidates with computer, customer service and time-management skills.

Required Education Some college; associate's or bachelor's degree preferred
Other Requirements Work experience
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for secretaries and administrative assistants
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $49,290 for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Executive Assistant Career Overview

Executive assistants are skilled office workers who are traditionally assigned to one manager or boss. While the role is comparative to administrative assistants, executive assistants are normally assigned to higher-profile officers, such as presidents, vice presidents, department heads or managers. They may also handle more demanding tasks and assignments that may be sensitive or confidential.

The day-to-day duties of an executive assistant often include administrative activities, like typing letters, writing reports, arranging meeting and conference calls, conducting research and overseeing other administrative assistants. Some workers may also arrange their manager's personal schedules or represent him or her at meetings. Much of this work is self-appointed and requires a high degree of professional independence, initiative and self-discipline.

Most administrative assistant positions do not have an education requirement; however, many managers prefer executive assistant candidates with an associate or bachelor's degree in areas such as business or the industry in which they are seeking a job.

Skills and Attributes

Because an executive assistant may be required to make actions for their boss, skills in leadership, critical thinking and organization are three general attributes that employers look for. Other such attributes include troubleshooting, custom service and orderliness. Executive assistants are often called upon to manage both their own time and their boss's time, so time management is a particularly important attribute.

Computer skills are also extremely important for executive assistants. As computer technology becomes more and more widespread, it is increasingly necessary for executive assistants to be proficient in spreadsheet management and word processing, as well as possessing other computer-based skills to digitally manage all manner of daily operations. Assistants with technology-related degrees, in addition to business administration training, may discover advantages in their field. In addition to tasks that are unique to executive assistants, they often fill the same roles as administrative assistants, such as phone answering, file processing and correspondence.

Executive assistants provide high-level administrative support to a senior manager through research, preparation, messaging, clerical tasks, etc. Facility with computers, computer programs and modern technology is essential, as are professional telephone and face-to-face communications skills. Formal education is not mandatory, but is often preferred, and may give an applicant an edge in obtaining a job.

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