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How to Become an Executive Assistant

Do you enjoy working closely with top level executives? Are you an expert in organizing and managing a wide variety of important communications and schedules for executives? If so, you may thrive in the position of executive assistant.

Executive assistants will prioritize and filter calls and emails, while also communicating on the behalf of the executives they support. Another important role of an executive assistant is to arrange travel and schedule meetings. 

Executive assistant work may also include being the eyes and the ears for the executive they work for. As an assistant, you may also be responsible for preparing reports, such as data collection, coordination, copy preparation, and distribution. An executive assistant plays a critical role in the success of a fast-paced office. 

Executive assistants need to be friendly and enthusiastic towards visitors and clients. They are excellent problem solvers, with the ability to prioritize time-sensitive matter.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is searching for a highly organized individual to plan and manage personal and professional needs of our high-level executives. This individual will assist the office manager and include both short and long-term projects. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience in a fast-paced business working with executives who need travel and other meetings scheduled on a daily basis. Your ability to evaluate and prioritize complex scheduling should be a known quality, and you should have a natural desire to help executives stay organized and informed.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Provide administrative assistance including writing and drafting emails and memos
  • Oversee overall office functioning
  • Create a positive workplace culture
  • Assist with community outreach
  • Prepare communications on the executive’s behalf
  • Organize and schedule meetings and caterings 
  • Answer and screen incoming calls in a professional and friendly manner
  • Welcome visitors and direct them to the correct department
  • Manage the executive’s calendar and appointments
  • Add valuable input when participating in events and committees 
  • Work with executives to ensure productivity and profitability
  • Ability to deescalate angry customers before handing them off to executives

Education and experience

  • Administrative or secretarial experience
  • While a college degree is not needed to perform the work of an executive assistant, an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree will benefit you in this role

Required skills and qualifications

  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills
  • Flawless attention to detail
  • Proficiency using Microsoft Office Suite
  • Ability to convey and prioritize incoming calls and emails
  • Excellent multitasking and organization skills
  • Great interpersonal skills 
  • Experience being a leader

Preferred qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Experience working in a fast-paced office
  • Experience remaining calm under pressure
  • Outstanding collaborative skills 
  • Experience working with top-level budgeting and expense reports
  • Experience in prioritizing and understanding the urgency of incoming emails and calls 
  • Experience scheduling, coordinating, and executing successful team meetings

Typical work environment

Executive assistants are often viewed as the head of the administrative team within an office. They often screen and prioritize calls and emails to ensure the most important tasks and meetings are executed in a timely manner. There may be a secretary that they work hand in hand with as well. Executive assistants are the gatekeepers to their executives. While many assistants are needed as full-time employees in a company, there are some who will work part time.

Executive assistants usually keep regular office hours. Depending on the company, there may occasionally be a need for these assistants to work late or over weekends for events or meetings. Executive assistants should expect to sit in an office, most of the time in front of a computer, while answering the office telephone for extended periods of time to ensure all client inquiries are handled in a timely manner. 

Typical hours

The typical work hours for an executive assistant in an office setting are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Hours may be shortened or lengthened depending on holidays and busy seasons.

Available certifications

Although a certificate is not needed to be an executive assistant, professionals may seek certifications to set themselves apart from others. 

  • Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE). This program is designed to develop interpersonal skills, task and project management, computer and internet technology, and management skills. It’s offered by the American Society of Administrative Professionals and includes online study programs. 

Career path

The journey to becoming an executive assistant begins by gaining office experience as a secretary, office assistant, administrative assistant, or other relatable areas. 

Those who aspire to be an executive assistant are encouraged to pursue internships with companies that you are most interested in working with in your future career. It can also be useful for executive assistants to make valuable connections that could lead to career growth in the future. 

Executive assistants need to develop strong interpersonal skills to ensure the work flow of the office is smooth and successful. Writing emails and memos is a collaborative process, involving multiple members of the office team to make sure the messages sent are clean and concise. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 43-6011

2020 Employment538,800
Projected Employment in 2030438,200
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 19% decrease
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift100,600 decrease

Businesses need the diverse skill sets that executive assistants offer. As technology evolves, executive assistants will need to be well-versed in computer software applications, IT hardware, and web conferences. Supervisory and management skills can also be expected as the role of executive assistants are evolving. Unfortunately, executive assistants will notice a decline in employment over the next 10 years. This is because many companies are turning to software to keep track of meetings and more. To keep working as an executive assistant in this changing environment, make sure that you have skills to set yourself apart from the crowd.