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Executive Assistant

Job Duties

Executive assistants perform many of the same tasks as secretaries. They operate telephones and e-mail, and handle the postal mail in the office. They operate personal computers extensively, using them to create spreadsheets, compose correspondence, manage databases, and create presentations and reports. However, they are responsible for a much smaller amount of clerical work than secretaries. They arrange conference calls, schedule meetings, and organize files. But they also handle much more complex duties, such as conducting research, preparing statistical reports, supervising other workers, and training staff.

The role of the executive assistant is constantly evolving due to upgrades in office technology. Automation has allowed them to take on new tasks that before were the domain of managers and other professionals. Executive assistants these days are responsible for providing extensive training and orientation to new staff members, conducting Internet-based research, and troubleshooting and maintaining new office technologies.

Job Skills

Executive assistants should have excellent customer service skills. They also need to have good interpersonal communication skills in general. Because they deal with so many different types of people on a daily basis, they need to have a very tactful personality. Other important qualities include discretion, good judgment, initiative, and independence.

Income

In 2002, executive assistants earned a median annual salary of $33,410. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $22,270, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $50,420. The following shows the median annual salaries in the industries employing the largest numbers of executive assistants:

  • Management of companies and enterprises -- $36,770
  • Local government -- $34,600
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools -- $32,210
  • State government -- $31,220
  • Employment services -- $29,700

Training and Education

Executive assistants usually begin their careers as secretaries. As their skill set grows, they can be promoted to the positions of executive assistant. Secretarial positions usually require, at the very minimum, a high school education and knowledge of basic office skills. However, requirements increasingly surpass this level of training because organizations need secretaries who have greater knowledge of a wider range of software applications, such as word processing, spreadsheets, and database management. 1- to 2-year programs in office administration are becoming more and more common. These programs are usually offered by business schools, vocational-technical institutes, and community colleges. Temporary placement agencies also offer training in computers and office skills. Click on this link to a list of schools offering Executive Assistant Training and to contact their admissions departments for more information.

Regardless of their level of training, newly hired secretaries usually receive a high amount of on-the-job training from other, more experienced employees. There are a couple different professional designations that can be earned, including Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). Executive assistants can advance to instructors or sales representatives. Some obtain additional training and are hired as legal secretaries or paralegals.

Employment

In 2002, executive assistant held about 1,526,000 jobs. They were employed in all different kinds of organizations.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of executive assistants is expected to increase more slowly than the average. This is due to increased office automation, which results in rising productivity. This is expected to increase over the coming years as personal computers, e-mail, scanners, and voice messaging systems allow workers to complete larger quantities of work in fewer amounts of time. However, the personal, interactive, customer-service-oriented aspect of the job cannot be easily automated. Job opportunities will be best for those who have experience as well as strong knowledge of software applications.