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Executive Assistant: Career Education Overview

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an executive assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and job growth outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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Executive assistants provide support in corporate environments by performing high-level administrative tasks. Prior administrative experience and a bachelor's degree is generally recommended.

Essential Information

Executive assistants work for corporate leaders and generally are assigned more complex tasks than secretaries. Experience in clerical work is essential to advance to an executive assistant position. A certificate or associate's degree in a relevant field might be sufficient, but many employers prefer to hire assistants who hold a bachelor's degree in business, communications or a related subject. Professional certification is also available. While jobs for all types of secretaries are expected to increase over the next few years, those for executive secretaries and administrative assistants are projected to show a slight decline.

Required Education Bachelor's degree recommended
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -6% for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants
Median Salary (2015)* $53,370 for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Overview

Executive assistants are detail-oriented secretarial professionals who work for corporate executives. Unlike general secretaries, executive assistants perform less clerical work and more expanded functions. Duties can include bookkeeping, payroll management, transcription, copyediting and agenda planning. They also might schedule meetings and maintain their offices' events calendars. While executive assistants perform these complex assignments, they might also answer phones, file paperwork and fulfill other basic office tasks.

Employment Outlook and Earnings

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of executive secretaries and administrative assistants was expected to decline by about 6% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the median annual salary for executive administrative assistants and secretaries was $53,370 in May 2015.

Education and Training

These professionals often have some secretarial experience before advancing to executive assistant positions. While executive assistants usually receive on-the-job training after obtaining employment, employers generally prefer to hire those who hold a bachelor's degree in an applicable major, like communications or business.

Many 2-year and 4-year colleges offer programs specifically for executive assistants, which might result in a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree. Such programs might be offered online. Executive assistant education typically includes courses in keyboarding, Microsoft Office software, word processing, accounting, office management and interpersonal communications.

Certification

Although certification is not required for executive assistants, it's a way to demonstrate proficiency in office management. The International Association of Administrative Professionals offers the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designation to qualified applicants who pass certification exams (www.iaap-hq.org). Candidates must have four years of experience, a bachelor's degree coupled with two years of experience or an associate's degree coupled with three years of experience. CAPs must renew certification every five years by accumulating continuing education points.

Executive assistants support business operations by performing complex tasks such as bookkeeping, report generation, and copyediting. A bachelor's degree and prior related experience is usually preferred.

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