What Does an Executive Assistant Do? (And How to Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 December 2022

Published 11 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An executive assistant's primary duties involve providing administrative, business and personal support to an executive-level figure. Executive assistants work with the senior management team consisting of executives, board members and directors to ensure a company or organisation runs smoothly. Knowing what an executive assistant does can help you decide if it's a career you'd like to pursue. In this article, we discuss the answer to the question 'what does an executive assistant do?', what it can take to acquire the job and answer some frequently asked questions.

What does an executive assistant do?

An executive assistant works to support the senior management team, often answering to an executive. This support is vital in ensuring their manager can do their job effectively. Executive assistants usually handle their manager's administrative tasks. Depending on the company they work for, executive assistants may have one or more assistants to support them in their role. They may manage their assistants' tasks and delegate assignments to them. Executive assistants can work in a broad range of industries. These industries may include construction, engineering, financial services, healthcare and management consultancy.

Some of the common duties an executive assistant might complete include:

  • scheduling and calendar management

  • handling all correspondence directed to the executive

  • sending and receiving emails, calls and letters

  • sending gifts on behalf of the executive

  • researching a variety of topics

  • managing assistants and deleting tasks

  • planning and executing meetings

  • planning travel for the executive such as flights, hotels and transportation

  • sourcing areas for meetings, interviews and appointments

  • managing invoices, personal finance and expenses on behalf of the executive

  • filing reports, organising databases and managing the office

  • maintain documents for a client on behalf of the executive

Related: What Is an Executive? (With Responsibilities and Careers)

How to become an executive assistant

Formal qualifications are not necessary to become an executive assistant, though they may be beneficial. If you're interested in becoming an executive assistant there are a few steps you can consider taking to reach your goal. Here is a guide to help you:

1. Obtain a qualification

To aid your career as an executive assistant, you could consider beginning by completing a Certificate III in Business Administration or Certificate IV in Business Administration. You can complete these courses at a registered training organisation such as TAFE. You may then consider completing a bachelor's degree in business administration or a bachelor's in business, for example. You may wish to progress your education further at this point by completing a master of business administration.

2. Gain experience

You can find that experience in other types of jobs can help you to become an executive assistant. Many executive assistant roles may require previous experience as an administrative assistant. It can be a great idea to begin your career by building your industry-relevant experience in a temporary or support role.

3. Apply for an executive assistant job

Once you have obtained your qualifications and experience, you can begin searching for executive assistant jobs. One of the benefits of a career as an executive assistant is you can aim to carry out this role in an industry that interests you. It can be a good idea to make sure your resume lists all your relevant experience and skills and use keywords related to the job description of the role you're interested in.

Skills needed to succeed as an executive assistant

To become an executive assistant, a skill set consisting of both hard and soft skills can be beneficial. Below you can find some helpful skills for succeeding in this role:

Business skills

An executive assistant may use complex business skills to support senior management members. They may need knowledge of marketing, public relations, human resources and project management. Business skills can be advanced through education and experience.

Computer skills

Executive assistants often work closely with computers and various software to track a project. These professionals often may have learned this through their experience and education. Whether it's writing reports or processing invoices, computer literacy is a good skill to have for executive assistants.

Related: Computer Skills: Definition and Examples

Administrative skills

Administrative skills are crucial in becoming a successful executive assistant. Administrative skills can include successfully completing jobs, such as filing, managing supplies, and answering emails and phone calls. These skills can help project administrators complete duties that aid in managing a business. Administration skills can be important because they keep projects running smoothly.

Teamwork skills

Having strong teamwork skills can help executive assistants when collaborating on administrative projects. These skills can also help with developing new processes, communicating or delegating tasks. Being a good teammate often includes practising empathy, humility and being a good communicator.

Written and verbal communication skills

Executive assistants work with a variety of individuals. As such, the ability to collaborate with senior management is often necessary. It's common for executive assistants to closely work with clients, board members, executives and other staff. Establishing a good flow of written and verbal communication can be important for completing administrative duties.

Related: Written Communication Skills: Tips and Examples

Organisational skills

Executive assistants usually oversee many administrative tasks at once. This can include many components, and these professionals ensure each component operates efficiently and effectively With strong organisational skills, deadlines can be far easier to meet. Strategic planning, goal setting and delegation are all good methods of keeping things in order.

Related: Top Organisational Skills For Your Resume and Workplace

Self-motivation

Executive assistants often receive little supervision from the management team. They generally need a certain level of self-motivation to ensure their work gets done effectively and on time. One thing that can help you stay motivated is holding yourself accountable. Another way could be to reward yourself for your accomplishments.

Related: How to Find the Motivation to Work Hard

Attention to detail

Executive assistants often undertake many different jobs at once. They ensure they're all completed seamlessly, and often there is little room for error. Concentration, taking breaks and eliminating distractions are valuable tactics for developing your attention to detail.

Related: Attention to detail: Definitions and Examples

Salary

Executive assistants salaries can depend on the level of expertise and education. Their salaries can also depend on what industry they are working in. This means salaries may change depending on the type of work you want to do. The level of the executives they support can also influence the salary of an executive assistant. The average salary for an executive assistant is $78,549 per year.

Salaries also may vary between cities:

  • Melbourne Victoria: $77,849 per year

  • Sydney New South Wales: $87,161 per year

  • Adelaide South Australia: $74,228 per year

  • Darwin Northern Territory: $79,169 per year

  • Hobart Tasmania: $70,370 per year

  • Perth Western Australia: $78,783 per year

  • Canberra Australian Capital Territory: $76,575 per year

  • Brisbane Queensland: $78,073 per year

Frequently asked questions

Becoming an executive assistant can be an interesting and diverse career choice. Here you can find the answers to some frequently asked questions:

What is an executive?

The term executive simply refers to someone high in position, specifically in business, who makes decisions and puts them into action. Often referred to as c-level titles, or "chief" titles, executives are the most influential and senior titles to hold in a company. Executives are often responsible for management, supervision and project execution. Executive positions may include:

  • executive director

  • chief executive officer

  • chief operating officer

  • chief information officer

  • chief marketing officer

  • chief financial officer

  • vice president

What's the difference between a personal assistant and an executive assistant?

The roles of a personal assistant and executive assistant are not the same, even though their titles are interchangeable. A personal assistant usually focuses on the employers daily life and job, whereas executive assistants focus primarily on supporting an executive's job.

Typically, personal assistants may work for individuals with high-level skills in a particular area, such as an actor or athlete. This allows their employers to devote the majority of their time to their core area of expertise. Executive assistants tend to work for a business or organisation supporting a member of senior management. The role requires an in-depth understanding of the executive's job and the company's goals.

What are similar jobs to an executive assistant?

Although being an executive assistant is quite specific, there are other administrative and management roles you might want to consider. Some popular options to consider include:

  • project assistant

  • project administrator

  • tactical execution manager

  • planning manager

  • administrative director

  • administrative manager

  • administrative services manager

  • office administrator

  • administrative services officer

  • project administrator

  • administrator

  • assistant director

  • office manager

  • strategic delivery manager

  • project procurement manager

  • project quality manager

  • business analyst

  • meetings coordinator

  • implementation manager

  • change manager

  • administrative technician

  • human resources administrator

  • legal secretary

  • medical secretary

  • program administrator

  • receptionist

  • chief administration officer

  • senior administrative coordinator

  • special events coordinator

  • delivery manager

  • value delivery manager

  • tactical execution manager

  • planning manager

  • strategic delivery manager

  • project advisor

  • project principal

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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