Executive assistants can work in many capacities to aid top managers in a variety of organizations. An executive assistant needs at least an associate's degree, but many employers require a bachelor's degree or professional certification. Job opportunities are expected to decline in this field through 2024.
Executive assistants provide administrative and clerical support in a variety of office settings and often work directly for high-level business managers or CEOs. Because they work for high-ranking professionals in the company and may supervise other administrative staff, some employers may prefer executive assistants who have earned a bachelor's degree or have been certified through an administrative professional organization.
|Required Education||Associate's degree|
|Other Requirements||Certification is voluntary|
|Projected Job Growth||-6% from 2014-2024 for all executive secretaries*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$53,370*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
A high school diploma is typically the minimum requirement for an entry-level administrative assistant position; however, applicants for executive assistant positions may need a college degree or certificate. Many colleges offer executive administrative assistant programs that teach administrative functions and include courses in topics like accounting, keyboarding, databases and basic office procedures. Additional classes may cover customer service, communication techniques and specific software programs, such as Microsoft Office.
Administrative assistants without postsecondary training may advance to the executive assistant level through work experience and additional training. Candidates who obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree in another area may be hired directly into an executive assistant position, especially if their degree is related to the company to which they are applying. For example, a student who majored in political science might find a position in a law firm.
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Executive assistants perform clerical duties, such as maintaining files, scheduling meetings, drafting and editing correspondence, creating reports and greeting guests. They should be comfortable with standard office equipment, including personal computers, printers, fax machines, scanners and multi-line telephones. Many employers also expect assistants to know how to use advanced computer software programs, including spreadsheet, word processing and accounting programs.
Executive assistants usually work directly for company executives and sometimes hold supervisory roles over lower-level support staff. They must be highly organized, have good interpersonal skills and possess managerial abilities. Additional skills requirements may including being able to prioritize work, communicate effectively and learn new skills as needed.
Professional organizations offer certification to executive assistants who can prove their proficiency in the field by passing a standardized examination. Certification is not required to work as an executive assistant, but many employers prefer to hire certified assistants.
The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers two designations: Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). The CPS exam has three sections covering fundamental administrative techniques, while the CAP exam has four parts and is slightly more advanced.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, executive administrative assistants and secretaries earned an average salary of $55,460 in May 2015, compared to general secretaries, who earned an average of $35,200. Executive administrative assistant and secretary positions were predicted to see little or no job growth from 2014-2024. Applicants with bachelor's degrees should have an advantage in the hiring process.
While executive assistants earn significantly more than an administrative assistant or secretary, projected job growth is not expected to be good for the next ten years. A candidate could become more qualified for this position with some post-secondary education or by passing a certification exam.