Personal Assistant Job Description, Duties and Career Options

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a personal assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and additional skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

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.

A person who is professional, efficient and open to working in a fast-paced environment might thrive in this career. Assistants with a 4-year college degree are in increasing demand. Certification is also available for this field.

Required Education Some college or a bachelor's degree (preferred)
Certification Office-skill proficiency (recommended)
Additional Skills Professionalism; writing skills; communication skills
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 1% decline (executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants)
Median Salary (2013)* $49,290 (executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Personal assistants are highly organized, detail-oriented multi-taskers who can work under pressure and meet deadlines. They might specialize in a particular field, 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 might also ask personal assistants to 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 might 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 (www.bls.gov). Employment of executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants was expected to decline slightly over the 2012-2022 decade due to executive assistant duties being distributed to lower-level assistants.

Personal assistants with the strongest software and typing skills will fare best in the job market. The median annual salary for such top-level executive secretaries and administrative assistants was $49,290 as of May 2013, according to the BLS.

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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