How to Become an Executive Assistant
An executive assistant plays a crucial role in supporting high-level executives and ensuring the smooth operation of their offices. As an executive assistant, you’ll be responsible for a wide range of administrative and organizational tasks, acting as a key point of contact between executives, staff, and external stakeholders. This guide will outline the steps to becoming an executive assistant, including education, certifications, salaries, and job opportunities.
An executive assistant is an administrative professional who provides comprehensive support to high-level executives, such as CEOs, presidents, or senior managers. Their responsibilities often include:
- Managing executive calendars, schedules, and appointments.
- Handling correspondence, emails, and phone calls on behalf of executives.
- Organizing meetings, conferences, and business travel arrangements.
- Preparing reports, presentations, and other documents.
- Conducting research and gathering information for decision-making.
- Coordinating and liaising with internal teams and external stakeholders.
- Maintaining confidentiality and handling sensitive information.
- Prioritizing and managing multiple tasks with tight deadlines.
- Providing general administrative support as needed.
While a specific degree is not always required to become an executive assistant, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (BBA) or a related field can provide a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that are highly valued in this profession. Consider the following aspects when pursuing a BBA degree:
- Relevant Concentrations: Some universities offer concentrations or specializations in office administration, executive support, or business management, which can provide focused coursework and practical skills directly applicable to the role of an executive assistant.
- Typical Curriculum: A BBA program typically covers subjects such as accounting, finance, management, marketing, business communication, and organizational behavior. Courses that focus on office administration, project management, and interpersonal skills can be particularly beneficial.
- Online Program Options: If you require flexibility due to work or personal commitments, consider online BBA programs that offer coursework in business administration and related subjects. Ensure that the program is accredited and recognized by reputable institutions.
- Internships and Experiential Learning: Seek internships or part-time positions in administrative roles to gain practical experience and apply classroom learning in a real-world setting. These experiences can help you develop essential skills and make valuable professional connections.
Certifications are not typically required to become an executive assistant, but they can enhance your skills and credibility in the field. Consider the following certifications that may be relevant to your career development as an executive assistant:
- Certified Administrative Professional (CAP): Offered by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), this certification demonstrates proficiency in various administrative competencies, including office systems, technology, communication, and organization.
- Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS): Obtaining certifications in specific Microsoft Office applications, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, can showcase your proficiency in using these tools, which are commonly utilized in executive support roles.
- Professional Associations: Joining professional associations for administrative professionals, such as IAAP or local networking groups, can provide access to resources, training opportunities, and networking events that can enhance your professional growth and development.
While certifications can be valuable additions to your resume, gaining practical experience and developing strong interpersonal and organizational skills are equally important for success as an executive assistant.
The salary of an executive assistant can vary based on factors such as experience, location, industry, and the complexity of the executive’s role. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants was $65,980 in May 2021. However, it’s important to note that salaries can range significantly, with highly experienced and specialized executive assistants commanding higher compensation packages.
Executive assistants can work in various industries and environments. Some common workplaces/organizations that hire executive assistants include:
- Corporations: Large corporations and multinational companies often have executive assistants to support C-suite executives or senior management teams.
- Nonprofit Organizations: Nonprofit organizations, including foundations, charities, and associations, may employ executive assistants to support executive directors or senior leadership positions.
- Government Agencies: Federal, state, and local government agencies often have executive assistants to support high-ranking officials, such as department heads or elected officials.
- Professional Services Firms: Law firms, consulting firms, accounting firms, and other professional services organizations may hire executive assistants to support partners or senior executives.
- Entrepreneurial Ventures: Startups and small businesses with entrepreneurial leaders may employ executive assistants to provide vital administrative support and organization.
To find job opportunities as an executive assistant, explore online job boards, and professional networking platforms, and consider reaching out to staffing agencies or executive search firms specializing in administrative support roles.