what is an executive assistant?

An executive assistant is a clerical professional who assists high-level employees within businesses. Executive assistants work alongside CEOs, chairpersons and board members. In this role, you work closely with the executives you serve and get to know their personal preferences. What sets executive assistants apart from secretaries or administrative assistants is the people you report to.

As an executive assistant, you are also a mediator, revising an executive's speeches, receiving phone calls and preparing publicity material. Your work enables your superiors to focus on the core requirements of their job rather than day-to-day management tasks.

Although you hold a subordinate role, you can advise your executive on essential issues. Your direct access to internal policies and memos gives you valuable insights. You're in a position to manage team leaders, guide board members and keep your executive updated with new data. This role is also personal, calling for an awareness of the executive's private life.

Would working as an executive assistant suit your interest then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an executive assistant role.

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average executive assistant salary

Would you like to know what an executive assistant earns? Where the highest salaries are paid for an executive assistant then check out this salary page and find out all about the salary of an executive assistant in the USA.


types of executive assistants

An executive assistant supports executives and senior-level managers in achieving business goals. You help multiple executives in smaller companies, but you work with one senior executive in large organizations. Apart from regular executive assistants, some companies' top-level leaders require chief executive assistants or a chief of staff. As the chief of staff, you handle lesser responsibilities on behalf of the executives. For instance, you attend meetings on their behalf and take charge of strategic planning operations. You also act as an advisor to the executive and supervise other workers to ensure that all functions are running smoothly.

close up, smiling male
close up, smiling male

working as an executive assistant

As an executive assistant, you work in a fast-paced environment that requires flexibility and organization to keep up with demands. Here is an overview of an executive assistant's tasks and typical work schedule.


executive assistant skills and education

To qualify for an entry-level position in this field, you typically need a high school diploma or GED (general educational development test) and proficiency in word processing and spreadsheets. Consider taking industry-specific training courses to meet the requirements of your desired industry, such as medicine, law or technology. Developing computer skills, including word processing and data entry, is crucial in any industry segment.

Once you start as an office assistant, secretary or administrative assistant, you can gain valuable work experience to advance to an executive assistant position. This role relies on your interpersonal and organizational skills, which you could develop over time through relevant work experience.

While licenses and professional certificates are not mandatory, they can demonstrate your competency and increase your earning potential. Explore certifications offered by Microsoft or those tailored to executive and administrative assistant roles, such as the Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant, recognized by Qualifi, and the Certified Administrative Professional Certification, which requires either an associate or bachelor's degree, relevant experience or successful completion of an exam to showcase your knowledge.

skills and competencies

  • organization: Developing strong organizational skills is important to excel as an executive assistant. Create efficient systems to handle multiple tasks and information effectively, ensuring you meet deadlines and do not overlook important details. Improve your organizational skills using project management software or reading books on the topic.
  • multitasking: You must master the art of multitasking as an executive assistant. Be ready to switch gears quickly when urgent needs arise and then smoothly transition back to previous tasks. Develop your ability to prioritize effectively and handle interruptions with ease. Explore books on focus to enhance your multitasking abilities.
  • time management: Having excellent time management skills is crucial for success as an executive assistant. Stay focused, complete tasks on time, and manage your workload effectively. Prioritize your tasks wisely, seek assistance or delegate when needed and establish efficient workflows. Maintain work-life balance by setting boundaries and unplugging after hours. Discover valuable insights in books on time management and utilize timekeeping software to manage your schedule.
  • communication skills: Communication is key for executive assistants. Mastering professional spoken and written communication to interact effectively with executives, business partners and clients is important. Pay attention to grammar, formatting and tone. Tailor the length and medium of your communication to suit the situation. Develop clear and respectful communication when giving instructions and coordinating with other staff. Enhance your communication skills through vocabulary games and practice.
female at work in the office
female at work in the office

FAQs about working as an executive assistant

Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about executive assistants.

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