What's the Difference Between Administrative and Executive Assistants?

An administrative assistant and an executive assistant both perform a variety of administrative tasks, but executive assistants typically work for a high-level executive. Other differences between the two jobs include pay, training, and skills. Schools offering Administrative Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Difference Between Administrative Assistant and Executive Assistant

An administrative assistant, or admin assistant, is responsible for performing a wide range of administrative tasks in their place of work, while an executive assistant may perform more complex and advanced administrative duties, typically for top executives and other higher ups in an organization. Some of the other main differences may be summarized in their:

  • Education requirements
  • Work experiences
  • Skill sets
  • Salaries

Executive Assistant vs Administrative Assistant

While administrative and executive assistants are both likely to answer phones, maintain schedules, edit documents, and prepare reports, executive assistants take this to the next level and may be responsible for researching topics, reading over documents, and even supervising other clerical staff members. Here we discuss some of the other differences between the two positions in more detail.

Education

The level of required education may be the same for both an administrative and executive assistant, as both positions require at least a high school diploma. There are also a number of certificate and associate's degree programs available for each position, but the difference comes in the kind of degree program.

Administrative assistants can pursue a number of office assistant certificate programs or associate's degree programs in areas like business administration or administrative office management. Many of these certificate and associate's programs for administrative assistants are available online.

Although a high school diploma may also be the minimum required education for an executive assistant, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that most employers like to hire executive assistants with at least some college education or even a bachelor's degree. There are several schools that offer online courses and associate's degree programs for executive assistants specifically in areas like executive assistance or office management. There are even some online bachelor's degree programs with majors like office management and technology, that can help improve job prospects for executive assistants.

Work Experience

While administrative assistants typically do not need any prior work experience, the BLS reported that most executive assistants need a few years of related work experience. Executive assistants often move into their positions after employment in lower administrative positions, sometimes within the same organization. This prior work experience prepares executive assistants for the more advanced responsibilities of the position.

Skills

Administrative and executive assistants both need to be organized and good at communicating, both orally and in written form. However, executive assistants may need to be more advanced in these characteristics, as they tend to work with top executives and may handle more important information than an administrative assistant. Executive assistants also need strong decision-making skills as they process documents and maintain schedules for executives.

Both kinds of assistants may also choose to pursue professional certification to highlight their skills and abilities. Administrative assistants may wish to become a certified administrative assistant through a designation like the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP). Other certification options include the Organizational Management (OM) and the Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE) certification.

Salary

According to the BLS, secretaries and administrative assistants (excluding legal, medical, and executive) made an average annual salary of $38,030 in 2018, while executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants made an average of $61,550 the same year. The BLS reported that in 2018 the highest number of administrative assistants worked in elementary and secondary schools and made an average of $38,080, while the largest portion of executive assistants worked in colleges, universities, and professional schools and made an average of $59,950.

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