As an administrative assistant, your skills are top-notch. But are they strong enough to move up to an executive assistant position? Both roles involve many of the same abilities and experience, but there are some differences in the types of duties each is expected to handle; hence, the higher executive assistant salary.
Typically, the duties of an executive assistant include clerical, administrative and logistical support for executive management, along with supervision of office staff. Most employers expect to see at least some college experience on the resumes of executive assistants.
What executive assistant salary can you expect?
With increasing levels of responsibility come rising salaries. The midpoint starting salary (or median national salary) for an executive assistant in the United States is $59,000, according to the latest Robert Half Salary Guide. An administrative assistant can expect a salary of $39,000 at the midpoint, which is the level at which candidates have average experience with the necessary skills to meet the job requirements, in an industry where competition for talent is moderate.
An executive assistant salary can rise even higher at the senior executive assistant level, and you can find that projection in the Salary Guide. The responsibilities are similar, but a senior executive assistant supports the most senior executives, particularly in large corporations, and is expected to have specific industry expertise.
Access the Salary Guide to find salary information for your market.
Typical duties of an executive assistant
While responsibilities differ depending on the specific needs of a company, department or executive, you can expect to perform these kinds of activities:
- Performing office and administrative duties to assist executive management, such as managing calendars, organizing files and making travel, meeting and event arrangements
- Attending meetings and taking detailed notes
- Preparing reports and financial data
- Training and supervising other support staff
- Screening calls and maintaining client/customer relations
- Monitoring supplies and inventory and placing purchase orders
In-demand skills for executive assistants
Here are seven skills and abilities employers typically look for in an executive assistant:
- Versatility and flexibility. The responsibilities of executive assistants vary greatly and are rarely the same each day. They must be resourceful and adaptable enough to handle tasks ranging from the mundane to the more complex on a daily basis. From screening calls to organizing documents for a board meeting, a first-rate executive assistant must be prepared to help out in areas like corporate responsibility, budgeting, hiring and social media.
- Verbal and written communication skills. A large part of the job involves speaking with employees and stakeholders at all levels, from shareholders to mailroom employees, and clients to top executives. Executive assistants also need to write memos and letters, and prepare reports and information for distribution. Whatever the means of communication, the ability to be clear and concise is frequently at the top of an employer's checklist when hiring for this role.
- Strong technical know-how. An executive assistant's computer proficiency must extend beyond spreadsheet management and word processing. Executive assistants often use their computer-based skills to maintain company records, set up filing systems or digitally manage daily operations. They may also be asked to take on special projects typically outside the realm of the administrative assistant, such as conducting market research for statistical reports.
- Excellent interpersonal skills. Executive assistants are often required to work closely with other staff members, so it's important for them to relate well with people. For example, sometimes they may be charged with managing or training lower-level administrative staff. Strong people skills are also a must for interacting with clients and vendors.
- Discretion regarding confidential matters. Executive assistants must be committed to maintaining strict confidentiality regarding any “inside” information they may be privy to. Working with senior managers and CEOs, they might hear about sensitive issues, such as upcoming personnel changes or company trade secrets, and it's essential they can be relied upon for absolute discretion.
- Organizational abilities. Depending on the company and role, an executive assistant may be expected to coordinate key projects, such as coming up with solutions to office-related issues. They may be charged with finding a better way to track employee's travel expenses or planning a firm's annual party for employees, which requires managing the catering budget, finding a facility and sending invitations. They also may coordinate vacation schedules and training for technology and software.
- The ability to lead. Executive assistants often manage the administrative assistants in their group, whether formally or informally. They may be expected to provide guidance and training for administrative assistants, and even to help hire new assistants when there's an opening on the team.
If you're thinking of making the move from administrative to executive assistant, you'll need to sharpen your skills accordingly to meet the demands of the job and earn the added compensation that goes along with it.