What Does an Executive Assistant Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Maddy Price. © The Balance 2019

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 a 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 a company. 

Executive Assistant Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:

  • Accounting/bookkeeping
  • Calendar management
  • Client relations
  • Design and maintain a filing system
  • Organize meetings
  • Keep records
  • Arrange travel plans
  • Typing
  • Event planning
  • Prepare reports
  • Processing expense reports
  • Take meeting minutes

Executive assistant duties include the same duties performed by administrative assistants: making and accepting phone calls; sending memos, emails, and letters on behalf of the executive; receiving visitors; handling scheduling; and more. They also act as gatekeepers, 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 also can act as a liaison between the executive and the rest of the clerical staff.

Executive Assistant Salary

Executive assistants earned a median annual salary of $59,340 in 2018, which puts them just on the outside of the top 10% of earners among all secretaries and administrative assistants:

  • Median Annual Salary: $38,880 ($18.69/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $64,230 ($30.88/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $24,690 ($11.87/hour)

Education, Training, & Certification

There are few educational requirements to getting started as a secretary, but achieving a position as an executive assistant usually comes only after several years of experience.

  • Education: A high school diploma is enough for most entry-level jobs, but those with associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in business-related fields will be more marketable.
  • Certification: No one needs to be certified to be an executive assistant, but there are certifications available through online courses for most software programs that require proficiency. Such certifications can make a job candidate more appealing.
  • Training: Experience and trust is gained by doing the job, are executive assistants generally have proven themselves over an extended period of time.

Executive Assistant Skills & Competencies

Typing, filing, and other clerical skills are important, but the best executive assistants often have strong personalities that are exhibited through several beneficial soft skills:

  • Communication skills: Executive assistants often serve as a gatekeeper, deciding which messages and which visitors or callers need to go directly to their employer and which need to redirected or handled in some other way. This involves the ability to quickly glean information from those demanding time from their boss.
  • Time management: Anyone managing another person’s time, as executive assistants often do for their bosses, also need to be good at managing their own time.
  • Trustworthiness: Executive assistants often have access to sensitive information, and the executives they work for need to trust them fully in order for them to be as efficient as possible at their jobs.
  • Multitasking: Executive assistants are regularly handling more than one task at a time while keeping tabs on their bosses’ schedules and keeping them on track.

Job Outlook

Job opportunities for executive secretaries and administrative assistants are expected to decline by about 17% for the decade ending in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is far worse than the 7% growth projected for all occupations and significantly worse than the 5% decline projected for all secretaries and assistants.

The decline is attributed to the increase in the number of managers in an organization who share one assistant. This is more possible because mobile and other electronic communications have made it so executives are more likely to handle their own correspondence and scheduling.

Work Environment

Executive assistants typically are working in an office setting and interacting with visitors, callers, and other executives in addition to their own bosses. Work can be fast-paced and demanding, and the gatekeeper role sometimes requires executive assistants to say no to people who don’t want to take no for an answer.

Work Schedule

Hours often follow typical those of a typical business work week. However, executives who work late sometimes expect their executive assistants also to be available after hours.

How to Get the Job

APPLY

Apply directly with firms or review openings on sites like Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor.

REFERENCES

Be prepared with people who can attest to your trustworthiness and reliability—important traits for an assistant.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in working as an executive assistant also might consider one of the following career paths, listed with median annual salaries:

  • Accounting clerk: $40,240
  • Court reporter: $57,150
  • Financial clerk: $39,570