Personal Assistant Job Description, Duties and Career Options

Personal assistants, also called executive secretaries, provide administrative support for top-level managers of companies and organizations. Their work involves information management tasks that often require higher level thinking. Assistants with 4-year college degrees are in increasing demand.

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Personal Assistant: Job Description

Personal assistants are highly organized, detail-oriented multi-taskers who can work under pressure and meet deadlines. They may specialize in particular fields, such as public relations, advertising or manufacturing. Having a business-related degree is a great advantage in the job market.

Job Duties

Personal assistants analyze, respond to and send out communications. Since they usually work in close proximity to top management, they generally need to pay particular attention to maintaining a professional appearance and manner. Some personal assistants, however, work from home and perform their job duties remotely.

The core skills needed to be successful include touch-typing and the use of desktop publishing and other office software programs. Since much of their responsibility involves the preparation of documents, personal assistants generally need strong writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar skills. They also manage documents by organizing both electronic and paper files; some companies may also ask personal assistants set up or maintain a corporate library. Finally, some companies or industries require assistants to have the ability to read, write and speak a foreign language.

Personal assistants maintain executive schedules, organize and attend meetings, make travel arrangements and record minutes. Other duties may include completing personal tasks for executives, such as shopping for gifts.

Career Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), secretaries and administrative assistants comprise the largest occupation in the country ( Employment was expected grow at an average rate during the decade ending in 2018. Personal assistants with the strongest software and typing skills will fare best on the job market. Median annual earnings for such top-level executive secretaries and administrative assistants were $40,030 as of May, 2008.

One way to advance in this field is to be certified for office-skill proficiency. Certification is issued after a review of a personal assistant's education, experience and successful completion of tests. Various certifications are offered by organizations such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals and the International Virtual Assistants Association.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics