Executive Assistant: Job Description, Salary, and Skills

Businessman and woman working together in office
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Executive assistants are similar to administrative assistants or secretaries in that they all support someone else's work - usually an executive - by handling or supervising office duties. The difference is that an executive assistant is specifically the senior office staff member assigned to a top executive. This involves supervising and training other office staff, as well as tackling tasks that could have a dramatic effect on the success of the company. 

While many companies expect executive assistants to have completed some relevant college coursework, few require a degree. Extensive relevant job experience is more important (ideally several years as an executive or administrative assistant). 

Executive Assistant Job Description

Executive assistant duties include the same duties as an administrative assistant: making and accepting phone calls; sending memos, emails, and letters on behalf of the executive; receiving visitors and handling scheduling. But they also act as a gatekeeper, making decisions about who gets access to the executive and what information the executive receives.

They often conduct research and prepare reports that influence company policy. These responsibilities mean that executive assistants must thoroughly understand their employer’s work. As a result, these workers can also act as a liaison between the executive and the rest of the clerical staff.

Executive Assistant Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, executive assistants earned an average of $57,410 in 2017. The top ten percent of executive assistants earned at least $85,280, while the bottom ten percent earned less than $35,720.

Examples of Executive Assistant Skills

The following list is not exhaustive. Required skills may vary slightly from one company to another, or even from one office to another within the same company. Nevertheless, most of the most important and sought-after skills a prospective executive assistant must have are here.

Administrative Skills
Executive assistants wear many hats. On any given day, they may be called upon to arrange travel, review general ledgers and budgets, train or supervise administrative assistants, or orchestrate all of the complex details of major corporate events. Here are the most common administrative skills sought in executive administrative assistant job candidates:

  • Accounting/Bookkeeping
  • Administrative Support
  • Appointments
  • Calendar Management
  • Clerical
  • Client Relations
  • Designing and Maintaining Filing System
  • Organizing Meetings
  • Maintain Calendars
  • Record Keeping
  • Travel Arrangements
  • Typing
  • Event Planning
  • Preparing Reports
  • Processing Expense Reports
  • Scheduling
  • Taking Meeting Minutes

Written and Verbal Communication Skills One way to think about the executive assistant role is, in fact, as a specialist in communication. A significant part of the job includes communication and coordinating with people throughout the company, and sometimes with clients as well, depending on the type of business. The ability to be professional, clear, articulate, and accurate, both verbally and in writing, tops the list of requirements for impeccable communication skills

  • Correspondence
  • Customer Service
  • Managing Relationships with Clients
  • Processing Telephone Calls and Requests
  • Proofreading
  • Written/Verbal Communications

Computer and Technical Skills
Executive assistants need more than simple proficiency with word-processing and spreadsheet programs. Necessary computer-based skills also include the ability to set up and maintain email systems, file-sharing systems, and calendars, as well as proficiency with statistical software, publishing software, and databases. Being one’s own tech-support specialist is always a plus, especially since executive assistants are often expected to do everything from fixing the printer to suggesting new software.

  • Coordinating Video and Audio Conference Calls
  • Creating and Maintaining Databases
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Word
  • Office Equipment

Interpersonal Skills / Personal Characteristics
Strong interpersonal skills are also a necessity for interacting with clients, training other administrative staff, and working with CEOs and top-level managers. Since executive assistants often handle sensitive company information, it is important not only to be able to maintain proper confidentiality but also to always behave in a way that suggests personal discretion and integrity. In short, it is necessary to inspire trust. Personal characteristics such as cheerfulness, empathy, and diplomacy are also highly valued in executive assistants.

  • Accuracy
  • Active Listening
  • Ability to Follow Directions
  • Assertiveness
  • Collaboration
  • Energetic
  • Diplomatic
  • Decision Making
  • Dependability
  • Motivated
  • Maintaining Confidential Information
  • Proactive
  • Reliability
  • Self Confidence
  • Self Directed
  • Teamwork
  • Working Well Under Pressure

Time Management
An executive assistant must not only handle his or her own time well but also that of the boss. That means coordinating the needs and demands of multiple people to create a workable schedule and then often changing that schedule on short notice as situations change. The job might also include tactfully making sure the executive stays on schedule, without getting distracted.

  • Ability to Work Independently
  • Dependability
  • Flexibility
  • Meeting Deadlines
  • Multitasking
  • Prioritizing
  • Working Quickly

Research Skills
Research is itself a skill, requiring a familiarity with multiple search engines as well as the information resources that are relevant in the particular fields of interest to the company. Without these abilities, an executive assistant would not be able to prepare the reports the executive needs.

  • Analytical Skills
  • Detail Oriented
  • Follow Through
  • Initiative
  • Good Judgment
  • Problem Solving
  • Project Management

How to Use Skills Lists

Be sure to write your cover letter and resume to highlight the skills your prospective employer wants. You can use the following lists and examples to get an idea of what these desired skills might be, but remember to always read over the job description carefully, because not all companies look for the same thing in an executive assistant.

Also, check out our compilations of skills listed by job and types of skill. While preparing for your interview, plan to give examples of specific times you have embodied the various skills your prospective employer wants.

More About Executive Assistant Jobs and Skills

Are you seeking to improve your skillset as an executive assistant? Here are 7 tips for effective time management, a handy list of related officer manager skills, and suggestions about how to work faster and more efficiently.