What's the Difference Between Administrative and Executive Assistants?

If you aren't sure what the difference is between an administrative assistant and an executive assistant, read on. Learn about the specific job duties for these careers as well as what employers look for in applicants. Schools offering Administrative Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Administrative and Executive Assistant Job Overviews

As an administrative assistant, you handle basic clerical duties and assist with the running of a business office. If you progress to an executive assistant position, your job can involve aiding company executives. In general, job duties for the two careers are similar, but executive assistants typically take on more high-level duties than administrative assistants.

Whether you work as an administrative or executive assistant, you'll likely work with computers and other office equipment, such as fax machines, copiers and telephone systems. Training new office staff members may also be a duty for both administrative and executive assistants.

Important Information About Administrative and Executive Assistants

AdministrativeExecutive
On-the-Job TrainingShort-term (a few weeks)Longer-term (one-two years)
Work EnvironmentOffice settingOffice setting
Key SkillsInterpersonal, organizationalWriting, computer skills
Similar OccupationsReceptionist, transcriptionistHuman resources assistant, bookkeeper

Job Duties for Administrative Assistants

If you work as an administrative assistant, your job duties often include answering phones, directing visitors, maintaining files, entering company data into computer databases and scheduling meetings. Administrative assistants can further specialize in a particular field, such as medicine or law. Medical administrative assistants greet patients, file medical records and schedule appointments. Legal administrative assistants conduct basic research and organize legal documents under the oversight of attorneys and paralegals.

Job Duties for Executive Assistants

As an executive assistant, your work is usually more focused on catering to the needs of the executives that you work for. You may set up personal appointments and manage the daily schedule of one executive, or you may manage appointments for several high-level professionals. Supervision of other office staff may also fall under your authority, and you might oversee office projects, such as the preparation of slides or demos to be used by executives.

Training Requirements

You can usually qualify for an entry-level administrative assistant job with general office skills and a high school diploma. Courses in keyboarding, word processing and information management can also prepare you for administrative assisting. If you're interested in increasing your job prospects, you can complete an office assistant certificate or 2-year degree program at a community college or vocational school.

Executive assistant positions typically require postsecondary education and employers may be more likely to hire you if you have an associate's or bachelor's degree in business, office management or a related area.

Certification

To secure a better job in either position, you may consider earning a professional certification. The International Association of Administrative Professionals offers the designation of Certified Administrative Professional for those who pass an exam and hold administrative experience (www.iaap-hq.org).

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of positions for all types of administrative assistants was projected to grow about 3% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The average yearly wage for executive administrative assistants as of May 2014 was $53,590, while general administrative assistants made a lower average salary of $34,500 during the same time.

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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