Executive Assistant: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become an executive assistant. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Administrative Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Executive Assistant?

Executive assistants provide high-level administrative support to executive officers in business. You'll need to have good organizational skills, prepare documents such as invoices and financial statements. Good communication skills are also necessary, as you'll answer and direct phone calls and greet visitors. Some computer skills are also needed for making spreadsheets, presentations and other documents.

The following chart gives you an overview about a career as an executive assistant.

Degree Required High school diploma (for entry-level positions); post-secondary certificate; associate's degree
Education Field of Study Office administration
Key Skills Written and oral communication skills; good organizational skills; supervisory skills; able to work without supervision or direction
Licensure and/or Certification Certified Administrative Professional certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) -6% (for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants)*
Median Salary (2015) $53,370 (for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as an Executive Assistant?

You use assorted business applications to perform a broad range of information management and administrative support duties for top executives. In smaller offices, basic filing, typing and bookkeeping may be part of your job; but for larger organizations, you can concentrate on more complicated tasks. These include conducting research; composing letters, memos, reports and presentations; creating spreadsheets and financial statements and preparing invoices; screening phone calls and controlling visitor access to administrators; reading, organizing and prioritizing incoming correspondence; scheduling meetings; and making travel arrangements.

Where Do Professionals Work?

Nearly all types of medium and large organization - wholesale, retail, manufacturing and service businesses, government agencies and postsecondary schools - could provide you with job opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 766,600 people were working as executive secretaries and executive assistants in 2014. By 2024 employment is projected to drop to roughly 732,000. Medical secretaries are expected to see the fastest employment growth among all secretaries of 21% and therefore provide the most opportunities.

What Education and Training Will I Need?

Consider earning at least a certificate in office administration, if not an associate's degree. Figures from O*Net Online as of 2015 show that 33% of surveyed executive secretaries and executive assistants had at least some college education and 26% had an associate's degree (www.onetonline.org). The training you receive on-the-job from interacting with co-workers and computer technology vendors and classes you take on your own can play a large part in how far you rise. Office administration programs provide training in basic office procedures and an introduction to common business practices. Because they last two years, associate's degree programs have more latitude to present content on business practices than do 1-year certificate programs. Courses may address business writing, business math, business software applications, accounting principles and records management.

What Certification Is Available?

Certification is voluntary, but can help you establish your professional skill. Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designations are available from the International Association of Administrative Professionals. The CPS exam consists of three sections covering office systems and technology, office administration and management and human resources. The CAP exam tests your knowledge of communications, organization and planning, information resources, information distribution, records management and document production. Both the CPS and CAP tests present questions in a multiple-choice format.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Secretary is a related career that requires only a high school diploma or postsecondary training. Professionals in this field must also be highly organized and have good communication skills, and work in a variety of settings. Receptionists also require a similar level of education, and they must have good communication skills.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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