How to Become an Executive Administrative Assistant

Mar 04, 2020

Research the requirements to become an executive administrative assistant. Learn about the job description and duties, and see the step-by-step process to start a career as an executive administrative assistant.

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Executive Administrative Assistant

Executive administrative assistants fulfill administrative duties for leaders of public and private organizations. They may process financial reports, take phone calls, set up meetings, make travel arrangements, or supervise other administrative staff members. Many work hours may be spent sitting at a desk in this occupation, and executive assistants might have to sometimes deal with difficult staff members. These professionals work full-time, and some may have flexible schedules.

Executive administrative assistants should have strong time management skills, writing skills, social perceptiveness, coordination and communication skills, and knowledge of accounting, database, and word processing software. Executive administrative assistants tend to make more than administrative assistants or secretaries. As of 2018, executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants earned a median annual salary of $59,340 per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Now let's check out how to get into this career...

Career Requirements at a Glance

Degree Level High school diploma; an associate's or bachelor's degree is required by some employers
Degree Field No specific field is required, but coursework in general office and computer skills, as well as English, is helpful
Certification Certification is not necessary, but it may be helpful for career advancement
Experience Varies; 3-10 years of administrative experience is desirable
Key Skills Writing and time management skills; social perceptiveness; coordination and communication skills; knowledge of accounting software (QuickBooks), database software (Microsoft Access, RefWorks), enterprise resource planning software (SAP), and word processing software (Microsoft Word)
Salary (2018)* $59,340 (median for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Association of Administrative Professionals and Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals, Job Postings, O*Net Online,

Complete Basic Career Training

Also according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aspiring executive assistants may get their initial training in a variety of ways. It's possible to learn the necessary office skills through vocational education programs offered by high schools and technical schools or through associate's degree or certificate programs offered at community colleges. Some employment agencies also provide office skills training.

Employers may look for employees with practical experience using specific software programs, like Microsoft Access and Word. Applicants should be prepared to outline their experience with frequently used software applications.

Gain Administrative Experience

Before advancing to an executive assistant job, it's common to gain experience in a lower-level administrative position with less responsibility. Administrative assistants in entry-level roles tend to get some on-the-job training that can facilitate advancement.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree might be preferred or required for some higher-level positions. Since the career paths for executive assistants are fairly flexible, this step can be accomplished before, after, or in conjunction with gaining experience in the field. Employers typically don't require job candidates to hold a degree in a specific field, so long as they have the necessary experience; however, a degree related to a potential employer's industry may be viewed favorably. It is unusual for colleges and universities to offer 4-year degree programs in office administration, but courses in English, business, computer science, and accounting are generally offered.

College students who think they may want to work as executive assistants should not expect that their degree alone will land them a job in this field. Experience is essential, so a part-time job or internship in an administrative setting could prove invaluable.

Obtain Professional Certification

While it is voluntary, professional certification may help administrative assistants improve their knowledge and skills, which can subsequently help them earn promotions to executive roles. The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credentials, which require passage of a 3-part and 4-part exam, respectively. In order to sit for either exam, candidates must have a bachelor's degree with 2 years' experience or an associate's degree with 3 years' experience; those without degrees need at least 4 years of administrative experience to qualify.

In sum, aspiring executive administrative assistants might consider earning some postsecondary education or working their way up in the field by starting out as a lower-level assistant.

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