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How to Become an Executive Assistant

By Oluwadamilola Osisanya

Published:

Are you good at managing multiple priorities and staying calm under pressure? Do you possess exceptional multitasking skills and thrive in fast-paced environments? If so, a career as an Executive Assistant might be the perfect fit for you.

In this complete career guide, we will provide you with all the essential information you need to know about becoming an Executive Assistant. From the prerequisites required to kickstart your journey in this role to invaluable tips and tricks for succeeding once you secure the job, this comprehensive guide has got you covered.

Career Summary

Executive Assistant Salary

Executive Assistant Salary

An executive assistant salary can vary greatly depending on experience. According to Glassdoor, an executive assistant salary can be summarized as follows:

Job TitleSalary
Executive Assistant$69,903 /yr
Senior Executive Assistant$92,474 /yr
Lead Executive Assistant$70,969 /yr
Source: Glassdoor.com

The median executive assistant salary is close to the general average salary across the United States, which was US$69,903 in 2022.

What does an Executive Assistant do?

So, what is an executive assistant exactly? An executive assistant plays a crucial role in supporting high-level executives and ensuring the smooth operation of an organization. They handle variety of tasks, including managing schedules, coordinating meetings, and handling correspondence. Typically, an executive assistant is the first point of contact for anyone looking to go further and contact any of the company’s top executives.

Executive Assistant Career Progression

Here is a highlight of executive assistant roles and general progression:

  • Administrative Assistant: This is the starting point for many aspiring executive assistants. You’ll provide general administrative support, handle phone calls, manage calendars, and perform basic clerical tasks.
  • Junior Executive Assistant: In this role, you’ll provide basic administrative support for executives. You may have to assist with organizing meetings, preparing reports and presentations, and conducting research.
  • Executive Assistant: After demonstrating high competence in supporting executives, you’ll handle complex scheduling. This includes coordinating multiple calendars, arranging international travel, and managing conflicting priorities.
  • Senior Executive Assistant: With several years of experience and a track record of success, you may progress to a senior executive assistant role. In this position, you’ll work closely with top-level executives, handle more strategic responsibilities, and may supervise a team of junior assistants.
Executive Assistant Career Progression

Pros:

  • Front-row seat to the decision-making processes of top-level executives.
  • Room for developing a diverse and versatile skill set.
  • Collaboration with professionals at different levels.
  • Contributing to the success of the organization.
  • Personal satisfaction and sense of fulfillment when you support others.

Cons:

  • High level of stress.
  • Long and irregular work hours.
  • Less control over your schedule.
  • Dealing with executives that have very demanding personalities.
  • Your work may not get the recognition it truly deserves.

Useful Skills to Have as an Executive Assistant

Working as an executive assistant demands having a diverse skill set in your toolbox that encompasses various responsibilities.

Here are a few essential skills needed to thrive in an executive assistant role:

  • Exceptional Organization and Time Management
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Attention to Detail
  • Problem-Solving
  • Multitasking
  • Confidentiality and Discretion
  • Technology Proficiency

These skills are crucial components of the executive assistant job description.

Popular Executive Assistant Specialties

  • C-Suite Executive Assistant
  • Legal Executive Assistant
  • Financial Executive Assistant
  • Government Executive Assistant
  • Virtual Executive Assistant

How to become an Executive Assistant

Executive Assistant 5 Steps to Career

Achieving your dream of becoming an executive assistant is much easier when you know the right steps.

So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and join us on this adventure. Before taking the very first step into starting a career as an executive assistant, it’s essential to understand what is an executive assistant and the key factors that contribute to success in this role.

Education

Just how important is education in your journey to becoming an executive assistant? Let’s take a look. Typically, a high-school diploma suffices to kickstart a career as an entry-level executive assistant.

While many employers prioritize relevant skills, experience, and qualifications over a specific degree, having a solid educational foundation can put you a step ahead of your competition and open up more opportunities for career growth.

Let’s answer some vital questions about getting an executive assistant education.

Do I need a degree to become an executive assistant?

This can vary depending on the employer and the specific job requirements. In many cases, a degree is not a strict requirement for an executive assistant position. Instead, employers often focus on relevant skills, experience, and personal qualities.

But remember, while a degree may not be mandatory, having formal education can be beneficial and enhance your qualifications.

A degree in a field such as business administration or a related discipline can provide you with foundational knowledge and skills that can be valuable in an executive assistant role. Additionally, certain employers or industries may specifically seek candidates with a degree for executive-level positions.

Why is it important to get a degree in business administration?

Getting a degree in business administration can be valuable for several reasons:

  • Foundational Knowledge: A business administration degree provides a broad understanding of various business concepts and principles. You’ll gain knowledge in accounting, finance, marketing, management, operations, and strategic planning. This comprehensive understanding of business fundamentals can help you make informed decisions and perform effectively in various business roles.
  • Skill Development: Certain essential skills are highly valued in the business world, and a degree in business administration can help you develop them. These skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, data analysis, communication, teamwork, leadership, and decision-making. These transferable skills can be applied across different industries and job functions.
  • Business Networking: Pursuing a degree in business administration allows you to build a network of peers, professors, and professionals in the business field. Networking can provide valuable connections and opportunities for internships, mentorship, and job placements. Building relationships with individuals in the business community can enhance your career prospects and open doors to new opportunities.
  • Job Market Advantage: Many employers prefer candidates with a degree in business administration for entry-level and mid-level positions. A degree can give you a competitive edge in the job market, as it demonstrates to employers that you have acquired a certain level of knowledge and skills in business-related areas.
  • Entrepreneurial Skills: If you aspire to start your own business or become an entrepreneur, a business administration degree can be particularly beneficial. The curriculum typically covers topics such as entrepreneurship, business planning, and small business management, providing you with insights and knowledge to navigate the challenges of running your own venture.

How long does it take to get a degree in business administration?

The duration to obtain a degree in business administration can vary depending on several factors, including the location, the educational institution, the program structure, and whether you are pursuing it full-time or part-time.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Associate’s Degree: If you choose to pursue an Associate’s degree in business administration, you should expect to complete it in about two years. An Associate’s degree provides a foundational understanding of business concepts. It can be a stepping stone for further education or entry-level business positions.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A typical undergraduate Bachelor’s degree in business administration takes about three to four years to complete if you are enrolled full-time. This duration may vary based on the required credits, co-op or internship components, and whether you take summer courses or study abroad.
  • Master’s Degree: For those interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in business administration (MBA), the duration can vary. Full-time MBA programs generally take one to two years to complete, depending on the program structure and any additional requirements such as internships or capstone projects.

Some universities offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete their Bachelor’s degree in business administration in a shorter time frame. These programs may condense the coursework or offer additional classes during summer or winter breaks, enabling students to graduate sooner. Accelerated programs typically take around two to three years to complete.

On the other hand, part-time or executive MBA programs designed for working professionals are often spread out over a longer period, ranging from two to five years.

How much does it cost to study business administration at university?

Now you might be wondering how much of an investment you will need to make to study executive assistant programs at the university.

Prices can vary based on the institution and program, but the average cost ranges from USD$35,000 to USD$76,000.

If you’re worried about the high cost of tuition coming between you and your dreams, then there’s good news for you! Many universities offer scholarships, grants, and financial aid options to students, which can help offset the cost of tuition.

It’s worth researching and applying for these opportunities to reduce your expenses.

Can I become an executive assistant through online education?

Yes, it is possible to become an executive assistant through online education. Online education has become increasingly popular and widely accepted in recent years, providing flexible learning options for individuals who may not have the opportunity to attend traditional in-person classes.

Several online platforms, universities, and vocational schools offer programs and courses specifically designed for executive assistants.

These programs typically cover essential skills and knowledge required for the role, such as organizational skills, communication skills, time management, office technology proficiency, and more.

It’s important to ensure that the online program or course you choose is reputable and recognized by employers in the industry. Research the institution, check for accreditation, and read reviews or testimonials from past students to evaluate the quality and credibility of the online education provider.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become an executive assistant?

Several web resources are available to learn skills and enhance your knowledge to become an executive assistant.

Here are some useful platforms and websites:

  • International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP): IAAP is a professional organization dedicated to supporting administrative professionals, including executive assistants. Their website offers a range of resources, including webinars, certification programs, career development tools, and a community forum. IAAP aims to enhance the skills, knowledge, and professional growth of administrative professionals worldwide.
  • Executive Support Magazine: Executive Support Magazine is an online publication focused on providing insights and guidance to executive assistants and administrative professionals. The magazine covers various topics relevant to the role, including career development, communication skills, productivity tips, and industry trends.
  • Practically Perfect PA: Practically Perfect PA is a website and resource hub specifically designed for personal assistants (PAs), executive assistants, and administrative professionals. The platform offers articles, tips, and resources to support career growth, develop skills, and stay updated on industry best practices. Practically Perfect PA covers a wide range of topics, including time management, event planning, technology tools, and professional development.
  • All Things Admin: All Things Admin is a website and blog dedicated to providing administrative professionals with practical resources and support. It offers articles, templates, checklists, and tips on various aspects of administrative work. The website covers topics such as organization, communication, project management, technology tools, and career advancement. All Things Admin aims to empower administrative professionals to thrive in their roles.
  • Office Dynamics: Office Dynamics is a training and development company that specializes in administrative excellence. They offer courses, webinars, articles, and resources specifically tailored for administrative professionals, including executive assistants. Their aim is to equip administrative professionals with the knowledge and tools to excel in their roles and contribute to organizational success.

Practical Experience

When it comes to pursuing a dream to become an executive assistant, the role of practical experience cannot be ignored. A great way to gain the required skills and expertise is through on-the-job training, workshops, and internships.

What are internship opportunities for an executive assistant?

Internship opportunities for executive assistants can provide valuable hands-on experience and a chance to apply the skills and knowledge learned in a real-world work setting.

Here are some internship opportunities you can consider:

  • Corporate Internships: Many companies, especially large corporations, offer internships for administrative or executive assistant positions. These internships provide exposure to the day-to-day responsibilities of supporting executives, managing calendars, arranging travel, coordinating meetings, and handling administrative tasks. You can search for internships directly on company websites, through job portals, or by networking with professionals in the field.
  • Startups and Small Businesses: Startups and small businesses often have limited resources and rely on versatile team members who can handle various tasks, including administrative duties. Interning at a startup or small business can provide a dynamic and fast-paced environment where you can work closely with executives and gain exposure to a wide range of responsibilities.
  • Government Agencies: Government agencies, such as local, state, or federal offices, may offer internships for executive assistant roles. These internships can provide exposure to the public sector, government operations, and administrative support for officials or departments.
  • Professional Associations: Consider reaching out to professional associations, such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), to inquire about internship opportunities. These associations often have connections with organizations and may offer resources or guidance on finding internships in the field.
  • Non-profit Organizations: Non-profit organizations often have internship programs that include administrative roles. These internships can offer the opportunity to support executives or senior staff members, assist with event planning, manage databases, and contribute to office operations. Working in a non-profit environment can provide a unique experience and the satisfaction of contributing to a cause you believe in.

What skills will I learn as an executive assistant?

If you’re considering an executive assistant career, you are in for an enjoyable ride! While on the job, you can expect to develop a wide range of skills crucial for supporting executives and managing administrative tasks effectively.

Here are some key skills you can expect to learn and enhance in this role:

  • Communication: Effective communication skills are essential for an executive assistant. You will learn to communicate professionally, verbally, and in writing with executives, colleagues, clients, and external stakeholders. This includes active listening, clear and concise writing, professional phone etiquette, and effective interpersonal communication.
  • Organization and Time Management: Executive assistants manage busy schedules, calendars, and appointments. You will learn to prioritize tasks, coordinate meetings, handle travel arrangements, and meet deadlines. Strong organizational and time management skills will enable you to juggle multiple responsibilities and maintain efficiency.
  • Problem-Solving: Executive assistants often encounter various challenges and unexpected situations. You will learn to identify problems, think critically, and find practical solutions. This involves being resourceful, adaptable, and proactive in resolving issues and mitigating potential risks.
  • Attention to Detail: Paying close attention to detail is crucial in administrative roles. As an executive assistant, you will learn to maintain accuracy in tasks such as proofreading documents, managing sensitive information, preparing reports, and maintaining records. Attention to detail helps ensure that work is error-free and meets high-quality standards.
  • Technology Proficiency: Executive assistants work extensively with various digital tools and software. You will learn to use productivity software like Microsoft Office or Google Workspace for tasks such as document creation, data analysis, and presentation preparation. Additionally, you may gain proficiency in specialized software or tools for scheduling, project management, or customer relationship management.
  • Confidentiality and Discretion: Executive assistants often handle confidential and sensitive information. You will learn the importance of maintaining confidentiality, exercising discretion, and handling sensitive data with professionalism and integrity.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Executive assistants work in dynamic environments where priorities and tasks may change quickly. You will learn to be flexible, adaptable, and resilient in managing shifting demands and unexpected situations.
  • Professionalism and Ethics: Executive assistants represent the executives and their organization. You will learn the importance of professionalism, ethics, and maintaining a high level of integrity in all interactions and decisions.

What is the work-life balance of an executive assistant?

The work-life balance of an executive assistant ranges from being very amazing to not so much. It all boils down to factors such as the organization, industry, supported executive(s), and individual work styles.

While executive assistant roles often involve demanding and fast-paced work environments, there are ways to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

  • Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Communicate your availability and define expectations with your executive(s) regarding after-hours work, weekends, and vacation time.
  • Being flexible and adaptable is often necessary as an executive assistant, however, it’s important to strike a balance and avoid constantly being on call.
  • Discuss flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, with your employer if it aligns with your needs and the nature of your work.
  • Prioritize self-care to maintain your well-being. Take breaks during the workday, practice stress management techniques, engage in hobbies, exercise, and spend time with loved ones. Prioritizing self-care helps prevent burnout and promotes a healthy work-life balance.

It’s important to note that there may be occasions where urgent matters or executive needs require additional availability or extended work hours. However, establishing boundaries and open communication can help ensure that such occurrences are exceptions rather than the norm.

Remember, work-life balance is a personal and ongoing pursuit, and it may require adjustments and open communication with your executive(s) and colleagues.

Regularly assessing and reassessing your priorities and boundaries will help you maintain a work-life balance that suits your needs and enables you to thrive professionally and personally.

What’s the Career Outlook for Executive Assistants?

Various factors, including the overall economic conditions, industry trends, and the evolving nature of administrative roles, influence the career outlook for executive assistants in the USA.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to decline by 8% from 2021 to 2031. The executive assistants fall into this category.

This decline is attributed to several factors, including technological advancements, automation, and the shifting responsibilities of administrative professionals. However, job prospects can vary depending on the industry and individual circumstances.

While the overall job outlook may indicate a decline, some industries continue to rely on skilled executive assistants. Sectors such as healthcare, education, legal, finance, and professional services often require executive assistants to support high-level executives and maintain efficient operations.

Also, the role of executive assistants is evolving to encompass a broader range of responsibilities, including project management, event planning, data analysis, and communication coordination. Executive assistants who can adapt to these changing demands and acquire new skills may find increased opportunities for career advancement and job stability.

Executive Assistant Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of an Executive Assistant?

The appeal of the executive assistant profession lies in its adaptability and broad applicability. Executive assistants can find employment across various industries, including healthcare, finance, and legal sectors.

What makes this career even more exciting is the exceptional transferability of executive assistant skills, making it feasible to transition between industries seamlessly!

If you’re an aspiring executive assistant, it’s time to update your resume, and prepare to showcase your abilities to prospective employers!

What Type of Companies Hire an Executive Assistant?

Here are some examples of the types of companies that commonly hire executive assistants:

  • Corporations: Large corporations across industries, such as technology, finance, manufacturing, retail, and pharmaceuticals, often hire executive assistants. These companies may have multiple C-level executives, such as CEOs, CFOs, and COOs, who require comprehensive support in managing their schedules, communication, and administrative tasks.
  • Professional Services Firms: Companies in professional services, including consulting firms, law firms, accounting firms, and advertising agencies, often employ executive assistants. These firms rely on executive assistants to provide efficient administrative support to senior partners, executives, or project managers.
  • Healthcare Organizations: Hospitals, medical centers, clinics, and healthcare providers employ executive assistants to support healthcare executives, department heads, or medical directors. Executive assistants in the healthcare sector may handle tasks such as managing schedules, coordinating meetings, and assisting with administrative responsibilities specific to the healthcare industry.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Non-profit organizations, foundations, and philanthropic institutions hire executive assistants to support their executive directors or CEOs. Executive assistants in the non-profit sector may handle donor communications, board meetings, fundraising efforts, and program coordination tasks.
  • Government Agencies: Local, state, and federal agencies employ executive assistants to support high-ranking officials, administrators, or department heads. These executive assistants are crucial in managing schedules, coordinating meetings, preparing documents, and handling communication within and outside the government organization.
  • Startups and Entrepreneurial Ventures: Startups and entrepreneurial ventures often hire executive assistants to support founders, CEOs, or executives in managing day-to-day operations and administrative tasks.

Executive assistants in these companies may have the opportunity to be involved in diverse aspects of the business and contribute to its growth.

It’s important to note that these examples are not exhaustive, and executive assistants can find job opportunities in various industries and organizations.

The demand for executive assistants exists across various sectors where there is a need for high-level administrative support and efficient management of executive tasks.

Should I become an Executive Assistant?

The decision to become an executive assistant is significant. It requires careful evaluation, understanding, and assessment of all the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the role.

When considering a career as an executive assistant, it is important to understand what does an executive assistant do, as well as if that aligns with your interests, strengths, and skills. Succeeding as an executive assistant requires genuine passion, excellent communication skills, top-notch attention to detail, and a desire to never stop learning.

Consider your long-term goals and aspirations as well. Becoming an executive assistant offers many opportunities, and it is vital that you select the path that most aligns with your professional ambitions and desired work-life balance.

Becoming an executive assistant is a commitment that requires that you always give your 100%. It requires unending dedication, persistence, and an optimistic attitude.

Once you’re convinced the role perfectly fits you, go all in and never look back. The next thrilling chapter of your professional journey awaits, brimming with potential and possibilities!

Careers Related to Executive Assistant


Oluwadamilola Osisanya

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