What Does an Executive Assistant Do? (Definition and Skills)
Updated 26 March 2023
Executive assistants are an asset to a company's executive team because of the administrative support they provide. They're dependable professionals with excellent interpersonal and time management skills. Understanding what this position entails can help you determine if this career is right for you. In this article, we describe what an executive assistant does, outline what the job title means and investigate what qualifications and skills are necessary for you to have in this role.
What does an executive assistant do?
Executive assistants perform administrative tasks that often have a direct effect on the company's success. While these tasks may vary depending on the particular business, there are some common duties and responsibilities, including:
Handling schedules is an important aspect of this job. It involves managing the employer's calendar, organising meetings and making travel arrangements. This means planning the details of various important meetings, prepping your employer and taking meeting minutes. When the executive wants to travel, you're responsible for coordinating the details, such as the bookings and itinerary. Scheduling is crucial because it helps the executive improve their time management and level of productivity.
Another common task is to act as a supervisor or mentor. This includes training new employees by teaching them about company policy or how to use the filing system, for example. This task can also involve elements of office management, such as restocking supplies or making new office floor plans.
One of the key tasks is event planning, both on a large and small scale. This can include conferences, employee parties and team-building events. Planning these events means you're in charge of communicating with vendors, finding a venue and creating the agenda and guest list. It's important that you're ready to handle any emergencies that may arise, such as planning an alternative vendor if the catering company fails to deliver the meals on time.
Managing emails and phone calls
Managing communications is another important aspect of this job. This includes keeping the executive's inbox organised, drafting correspondence and responding on the behalf of your employer. It also involves answering phone calls and setting up appointments or meetings with clients. Furthermore, you can be responsible for preparing, composing and proofreading business correspondence.
Another crucial role of this position is to process expense reports of your employer. It's also important to ensure that these reports adhere to company policy and meet the deadlines for submission. Besides preparing expense reports, you may also track payments and manage invoices.
What is an executive assistant?
An executive assistant (EA) is a professional who provides administrative support to an organisation's executive, such as the chief executive officer. Their role is similar to that of a personal assistant or secretary, but they enjoy a much higher level of responsibility and influence.
EAs contribute greatly to a company's success because they help keep the business organised, increase the office's productivity levels and help boost morale through their efforts. They can work for a variety of employers, including:
Work environment for an executive assistant
The work environment is likely to change depending on the employer and type of industry, but there are some common aspects to this job that you can find regardless of the company. For example, the majority of EAs work in an office environment. It's possible for EAs to work from home, but they usually work at a physical location.
When at the office, they usually sit at a desk with their own computer and phone. A typical work day can last up to eight hours. Therefore, it's important that they're comfortable looking at a computer screen for extended periods of time. Some executive assistants work in small teams with coworkers and managers while others work exclusively with the company's executive.
Executive assistant job description example
The following is an example of what a typical job description may look like:
We are looking for a reliable executive assistant to support our president in a one-on-one working relationship. The key responsibilities include managing the daily executive calendar, organising events at the office, filing expense reports and other important administrative duties. The ideal candidate is results-oriented and has exceptional interpersonal and organisational skills. Their written and verbal communication skills are excellent and they feel comfortable using the full range of Microsoft Office programs. They also have at least five years of administrative experience and preferably hold a bachelor's degree.
What are the necessary qualifications for an executive assistant role?
The qualifications you need when applying for an executive assistant position tend to change depending on the specific employer and position. These are some of the most common requirements:
While not all employers require candidates to have a bachelor's degree, many do. This is especially the case when you're applying for a higher-level position. Therefore, it's advisable to obtain such a degree so you can increase your chances of finding a job and improve your earning potential. It's unusual that the employer asks for a specific field of study. It's recommended that you choose a degree that offers courses in subjects relevant to this role, such as:
It's usually a strict requirement that candidates applying for this position have a certain amount of administrative experience. Typically, employers ask for at least three years of experience. You can obtain such experience through volunteering, working at a related job or completing an internship. To gain administrative experience, consider first working as a receptionist, secretary, administrative assistant or research associate. This can help you grow your network and develop the necessary skills you need for an executive assistant job.
Consider pursuing certification in administrative skills to give yourself a competitive advantage and increase your earning potential. Look for certifications that offer training in skills such as database management or office administration. Gaining certification in computer skills is also advisable. This can showcase your knowledge of word processing, presentations and spreadsheets.
What skills does an executive assistant need?
Your position and type of employer can influence what skills are necessary. As you advance in your career, you're also likely to acquire new abilities and responsibilities. This is an overview of some important skills you can develop to help you succeed in this career:
It's necessary to have strong organisational skills in this job. This helps you manage filing systems and keep up to date with the various schedules, budgets and communications you're responsible for overseeing. It also helps you keep your workspace tidy. Having organisational skills ensures that you keep the business running efficiently and smoothly.
Solid written and verbal communication skills are also essential in this role. For example, your written communication skills are necessary if your employer asks you to send an internal email within the company introducing a new employee or regulation. Likewise, your verbal communication skills can be of great help when you perform tasks such as reaching out to new clients, training staff or giving presentations.
It's important to have a basic understanding of the various online tools you may encounter during your work. This includes knowing how to create spreadsheets, presentations and documents. Every company has its own specific needs, but having general technological knowledge can prove imperative to your success.
A key skill to have in this line of work is the ability to manage your time. This allows you to not only keep track of your own schedule and deadlines but also keep track of your employer's. Developing your time management skills can help you succeed because they prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or overburdened with your work. This skill helps you perform tasks such as scheduling meetings, coordinating travel arrangements and managing calendars.
Average salary of an executive assistant
The average salary of an executive assistant is $45,793 per year. This can change depending on their level of professional experience and what job title their employer holds. Factors such as their location and the size of the company can also affect their salary. Furthermore, whether they work full-time, part-time or on a temporary basis can influence how much they're able to earn. Common benefits include:
You may find the following related careers worth exploring:
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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