What does an Executive Assistant do?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

An executive assistant devotes his or her career to aiding a corporate official, usually by providing a combination of professional advice and administrative support. While the responsibilities associated with the work vary depending on the culture that prevails in a given company, there are a few basic tasks that all assistants perform. Most of these are related to secretarial work, scheduling, and contacts management. Many executives treat their assistants as their go-to people for ideas, recommendations, and confidential help, and they assist with everything from photocopying to press briefings.

An executive assistant may coordinate her supervisor's schedule.
An executive assistant may coordinate her supervisor's schedule.


Companies with executive assistants typically assign one assistant per executive. The assistant is responsible for handling tasks that are delegated by the executive who serves as his or her immediate supervisor. In many cases, assistants have desks just outside their executives’ offices, so as to be as accessible as possible.

An executive assistant may be responsible for scheduling appointments.
An executive assistant may be responsible for scheduling appointments.

Executive assistants typically answer to only their named superior. They act as this person’s confidante and office helper. Anything that the executive needs done, the assistant does. They may accompany their executive to business meetings, and are in charge of knowing details on other attendees. Depending on the executive’s needs, assistants may also come along on corporate trips. In this capacity, the assistant is usually responsible for managing the executive’s schedule, arranging meetings, and ensuring that he or she has read the right briefing material and is ready to make any needed presentations or remarks.

Personal assistants are generally responsible for keeping their client's life organized.
Personal assistants are generally responsible for keeping their client's life organized.

Clerical Duties

Not everything about the job is as glamorous as travel and high-profile meetings. Many of an executive assistant’s day-to-day tasks are clerical in nature. Assistants are usually responsible for handling their superior’s paperwork. This includes mail, inter-office correspondences, and basic filing. The assistant may also be called upon to manage a calendar, keeping track of meeting times, official appointments, and important contacts.

Arranging meetings is one aspect of most executive assistant jobs.
Arranging meetings is one aspect of most executive assistant jobs.

Management Requirements

Depending on the structure and size of the company, an executive assistant may have one or more assistants of his or her own to help with the workload. These are typically secretaries or more entry-level clerical associates. The executive assistant is usually responsible for managing their tasks, and delegating assignments to them as required.

Executive assistants may be responsible for ordering more office supplies.
Executive assistants may be responsible for ordering more office supplies.

In most cases, the corporate executive has little to no say over the secretarial structure his or her assistant sets up. Decisions on discipline, commendations, and raises are often left to the discretion of the assistant, often in consultation with the company’s human resources department.

Training and Experience

Securing an executive assistant job typically requires a combination of training and practical experience. In general, executives expect their assistants to be experts in company policies and procedures as well as proficient with basic office functions. It is not unusual for an employee to become an executive assistant after working in another position within the company structure. Many lower level secretaries, for instance, advance to executive assistant status after several years of strong job performance.

Most companies prefer that assistants hold a degree of some type. Coursework in management, human resources, or even sociology can be beneficial, but usually simply holding a degree in something is enough. Corporate hiring managers often view college education as more a mark of prestige and overall intellect than as a source of specific job-related knowledge.

This is not to say that a college degree is required to become an executive assistant, however. In many cases, experience is more important than formal education. While it may be hard to get hired on at the executive level immediately after high school, someone with only a high school diploma who has spend a number of years working as a member of support staff in a corporate setting may be the most compelling candidate. Companies are often more interested in how well a candidate can perform the job than the schools named on a resume.

Prestige and Benefits

Executive assistants are usually considered somewhat elite, at least when it comes to support staff. They tend to have privileges not shared by other administrative assistants, both in terms of resources and salary. In some companies, an executive assistant with a long tenure may be eligible to participate in pension programs or other perks not available to employees in lesser positions.

Relationship to Personal Assistants

In some cases, executive assistants may also perform certain personal duties, such as picking up dry cleaning or making vacation arrangements for a family pet. These are not normal job obligations, however. Most of the time, these sorts of non-office jobs are the tasks of a personal assistant. It can be easy to confuse personal and executive assistants, though the work that they do is technically distinct. An executive assistant’s only official role is to help a superior succeed on the job. A personal assistant, on the other hand, is usually responsible for helping an important person organize his or her life generally, both personally and professionally.

Handling the printing and organizing of paperwork is one of the duties of an executive assistant.
Handling the printing and organizing of paperwork is one of the duties of an executive assistant.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


What college course must I take to become an executive assistant?


Icecream17-Sometimes people seek executive assistant employment by working as an administrative assistant for a number of years.

If you display excellent clerical skills and are shown that you are reliable then you might be a contender for an executive assistant positions.

These positions require a high degree of responsibility and often these positions are reserved for those clerical workers that a track record and have proven to be responsible and reliable.


SauteePan- Most executive assistant qualifications involve a high degree of professionalism and decorum.

They also require expert skills in most Microsoft applications and a typing speed of at least 50 words per hour or more.

Prior experience in clerical positions or as an office manager are often experiences that would be listed on an executive assistant resumes.

In order to establish yourself as having the right executive assistant qualifications you really need to have previous experience in a clerical role.

You also have to be flexible and adaptable. You have to be able to work with a variety of personalities and have the executive be the focus of your work.

Although you will have access to a lot of confidential information, you must be able to keep that information a secret and not divulge it to anyone. Gossiping in this position is prohibited.


Executive assistant qualifications include the ability to keep confidential information out of reach to others.

Many times an executive assistant duties require them to draft memos and paperwork that is highly confidential.

The executive assistant skills also require the person to have attention to detail because they are really hired to support an executive and always have to stay one step ahead.

They also attend meetings and may travel with the executive. They need to take valuable notes for the executive in such meetings and handle all upcoming appointments for the executive that they are supporting.

Executive assistant responsibilities are vast as they have to be able to support the executive in many high profile events.

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