How to Become an Executive Assistant


If you have exceptional organizational abilities, you like looking after administrative affairs, and you're not afraid of some 9-5, then a career as an executive assistant might be right up your alley!


This field offers great pay, plenty of room for advancement, and the chance to make proper use of your organization, time management, and professional communications abilities.


If this career field sounds promising, then read on below; we’ll fill you in on what you’d be doing, how much you could make, and what you need to do to get into this field!



What is an Executive Assistant?

An executive assistant is responsible for coordinating administrative procedures, public relations activities and research functions for corporate officials and executives, as well as members of parliament and members of legislative assemblies.



Education You'll Need

The educational requirements that employers will list on job postings will vary from job to job. Some employers do not require any formal post-secondary education, whereas others may require a certificate, diploma or degree in a field related to business administration.


Success Tip: Coursework related to business administration can be of great value, even if it's not required. It can provide you with many skills and competencies, such as time management, meeting deadlines, business communications, and proficiency in the use of relevant computer programs.





Experience You’ll Need

Most employers will prefer to hire candidates with some relevant work experience. But fear not, you can avoid trapped in the catch-22 of not being able to get an executive assistant job because you’ve never had one before.


Relevant experience doesn’t have to come from working in a previous executive assistant role, it can be in virtually any role wherein you had to use similar skills, or perform similar duties as an executive assistant (for a list of those skills and duties, scroll down a little further).


This could include working as an office or data-entry clerk, a general administrative assistant, or working as a receptionist. It could even include work with more responsibility, such as event planning, or owning your own business. 



Skills You’ll Need

In order to qualify for most executive assistant jobs, and to perform your duties effectively, you will need some or all of the following skills:


• Strong knowledge of office procedures and practices

• Proficient with Microsoft Office Suite (Outlook, Word, Excel, Power Point)

• Strong customer service skills and excellent interpersonal skills

• Exceptional organizational and time management skills, with strong attention to detail

• Able to supervise the work of junior staff, including coaching and providing performance evaluations

• Demonstrated proficiency taking and preparing meeting minutes

• Excellent written and verbal communication skills to deal with a high volume of inquiries (telephone, incoming/outgoing correspondence, reports, memo and letter writing)



What You'd Be Doing: General Job Duties

Although the functions you would perform could vary from job to job, the tasks you would be responsible for performing would probably be very similar to those listed below:


• Work closely with other department administrative staff to support efficient operation of the office of the executive

• Review all incoming reports and correspondence prior to executive review for compliance to department and company standards

• Track the preparation of reports, projects, commitments, events deadlines and other activities

• Anticipate the administrative needs of the executive, take initiative to obtain details and work independently

• Manage the executive’s business schedule (coordinate meetings and business activities)

• Identify potential problems and shifting priorities and suggest ways to resolve these

• Adhere to records management standards

• Be a positive and professional liaison between executive offices

• Prepare, draft, proof and edit various support materials (i.e. agendas, reports, memorandums, letters, and other correspondence)

• Recognizes politically sensitive and/or confidential issues and bring matters to the attention of the executive  

• Assist with orientation and on-boarding of new employees

• Perform various project-specific project assignments





Who Creates Jobs for Executive Assistants?

Jobs for executive assistants may be found with virtually any kind of organization, of almost any size, within any industry. For example, an executive assistant may be hired to assist the owner of a one-person operation, or they may be hired to assist a an executive within a large multi-national corporation.


Most jobs in this field are on a full-time basis, although part-time jobs do exist, especially within smaller organizations. Some executive assistants are even self-employed, and work from home as virtual assistants.



Typical Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as an executive assistant can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your professional qualifications (education and experience)

• The scope of your job duties

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work


Executive Assistant Salary - Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Executive Assistants occupational group earn an average salary level of $73,736 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 10, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, American workers in the Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants occupational group earn mean annual salary of $53,950.



Is this Profession Right for You?

You might be very well cut out for work as an executive assistant if you have the following personal characteristics and attributes:


• Flexibility in your work schedule, including holidays and weekends

• Punctuality and a professional demeanor

• Self-confidence

• A willingness to shoulder the responsibility for scheduling an executive’s business activities

• Able to take constructive criticism

• A willingness to manage complex and highly confidential information

• You’re comfortable working autonomously and across multiple tasks

• You’re interested in a well-paying, office-based career



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "executive assistant" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Typical Work Environment

Hours: Most jobs are full-time, and usually involve working between 33-40 hours per week, from Monday to Friday. Part-time work may take place during the daytime, evenings or weekends. Overtime may be required on occasion.


Setting: You would likely work in an office environment. There’s a chance that you could partially or completely work from home, as a virtual assistant. You would likely not have to travel often for work, although it may be required from time to time, such as if you are accompanying the executive to conferences, meetings, or other events.


Conditions: You would spend a good amount of time working in front of a computer or on the phone, in order to record and file data using office software, to schedule meetings, and to communicate with various people. Your work would involve paying close attention to scheduling details, and carefully reviewing e-mail correspondences and communications.



Career Advancement Possibilities

Working as an executive assistant is a great way to capitalize on your organizational and time management skills, while also getting your foot in the door with a large organization.


The best part about getting in with a large organization is that there will be many opportunities to move into other roles or to otherwise advance your career (should you wish to do so), if you display a good work ethic and competence in your duties. For example, you could:


• Get in a raise in pay or level of responsibility

• Be promoted to administrative officer or supervisor

• Become a department manager, such as Finance Manager (may require additional education)

• Be promoted to a role such as office manager



Similar Career Profiles

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or be in the same sector of industry, as "executive assistant":

• Accounting Clerk

• Administrative Assistant

• Administrative Officer

• Event Planner

• Legal Assistant

• Office Manager

• Personal Assistant to the Director

• Politician’s Assistant




Salary information for this career guide, as well as other information, was retrieved from the websites listed below. Some information has also been compiled from actual job postings from various organizations.


Wages & Salaries in Alberta:Executive Assistants.” (n.d.). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants.” (March 29, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

Explore Careers:Personal Assistant.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

Please Note: Much of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.



Scholarships for Becoming an Executive Assistant

The “Applicable Majors” section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as an executive assistant. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our Business Administration Scholarships and Sociology Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or are necessary) for becoming an executive assistant. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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