Executive Assistant Job Description (Salary, Duties, Skills, Education & More)

By Jeff Gillis

Let’s be frank.

Without their executive assistants, a lot, and I mean A LOT of executives around the country (and the world) would be lost! (Not taking anything away from executives of course 😉 )

Executive assistants (and administrative assistants) often form the backbone of a company or operation. They keep things organized and running smoothly. And that’s just scratching the surface of their value!

More and more in certain sectors, executive assistants (EAs) are being called upon to go beyond the traditional support role that they have provided in the past and are taking on more strategic duties as well.

So whether you’re looking to pursue a job as an executive assistant or are looking to hire one, this article is for you.

In it we’re going to breakdown exactly what makes up a fantastic executive assistant worthy of hiring and being hired!

Let’s go…

What Is An Executive Assistant?

The base role of an executive assistant (or EA) is to act as critical support staff for executives in upper management, including CEOs.

Their job is to make sure the executive’s day is fully organized and optimized allowing them to focus fully on making the critical business decisions they get paid the big bucks to do.

For example, one of the most critical duties an EA performs is to organize the executives calendar.

Beware. This is a lot more critical and difficult than it may sound.

Scheduling, organizing and optimizing an executives calendar can be very complex. There will be competing appoints that you will have to prioritize and then interface with the various parties smoothly so as not to put anyone off.

NOTE: When you are doing this, you are representing the company. That’s why the utmost level of professionalism is needed.

But that’s just one facet of what an executive assistant does. Let’s take a look at some of their other duties and responsibilities.

Executive Assistant Duties And Responsibilities

Here’s a list of core EA duties and responsibilities you’ll often come across on a job description:

    • Schedule meetings
    • Organize the executives calendar (Includes prioritizing and resolving competing appointments)
    • Booking travel (can include: flight booking, hotel, rentals, visas, expense reports etc)
    • Coordinating office repairs
    • Clerical duties
    • Coordinate and schedule events, programs, conferences etc
    • Answering and screening calls
    • Order and maintaining supplies
    • Budget tracking

As you can see, there’s real range of duties that an EA can be responsible for.

As we’ve alluded to earlier in this article, one of the most important over arching duties of an executive assistant is to act as gatekeeper for their executive.

A lot of people will be attempting to gain access to him or her whether it be via calls, meetings, appointments etc and you will need to have to the ability to prioritize what gets through to the executive.

Your job is to keep your executive’s time streamlined and optimized.

Here’s something to keep in mind when thinking about the duties you’ll be responsible for: As an EA you are often the person representing the executive and/or the company to the world, whether it be with clients, partners or others. Therefore, it is critical that you always act with the utmost levels of professionalism.

EA’s in this day and age can sometimes be called upon to provide strategic help on top of support duties. This can be incredibly rewarding and also put you on a possible path towards an upper management position.

Take a look at this quote from Glassdoor:

“It’s not uncommon for an Executive Assistant position to eventually lead to an executive position. Jenna Lyons, Executive Creative Director of J.Crew; Cindy Gallop, Ad Executive behind If We Ran The World; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice; and Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox all started their careers as Executive Assistants.”

Source: Glassdoor

Clearly, working as an EA can provide huge upside.

Think about this, not only are you giving yourself the opportunity to advance to the executive level, you are learning and watching at the right hand of top level executives. The quality of on the job training can be incredible.

Sounds great right?

Well yes, but there are a few questions you should as yourself:

    • Do you like being surprised by what the day could hold?
    • Or do you like a more structured and predictable workflow for your job?

If you’re looking to become an executive assistant I hope you answered yes to the first question! Every day as an executive assistant can be different. You need to be prepared for that.

Also you need to be ready to work long hours including possibly holidays and weekends.

Welcome to the world of high end executive assistants!

JEFF'S TIP: For an inside look at just how high powered EA roles can get, take a look at this article from USA Today that discusses executive assistants in Silicon Valley. Now obviously, this is a specialized situation but I still think it's an interesting case study to look at.

Good Skills To Have

Let’s take a look at some of the most common skills needed to make a great executive assistant:

    • Communication
    • Problem solving
    • Organization
    • Reliability
    • Diplomacy
    • Efficiency
    • Multi tasking
    • Attention to detail
    • Time management
    • Positive attitude
    • Self motivated
    • Analytical skills
    • Interpersonal skills
    • Computer skills (Microsoft Office, Excel, Powerpoint, Word, Outlook, Salesforce etc)
    • Ability to stay calm under pressure
    • Ability to prioritize
    • Discretion
    • Collaboration
    • Excellent writing skills

I want to go over a few of these in more detail…

Not surprisingly executive assistants need to be extremely organized. If you aren’t a particularly organized person then I would think twice about going after an executive assistant position. For example, if you often miss meetings, have to often reschedule or are late to things all the time… an executive assistant is the wrong job for you!

Executive assistants are also often privy to confidential information, so utmost discretion is also critical for any executive assistant. (NOTE: It’s interesting to see how often “discretion” comes up as a desired quality on executive assistant job descriptions.)

JEFF'S TIP: If you want to do some sleuthing, head over to Glassdoor.com and type in executive assistant in the "jobs" search bar and comb through the real life job descriptions there to get a real feel for what companies are looking for in terms of skills.

Executive Assistant Salary

Ok let’s get down to brass tacks here. How much can you actually make as an executive assistant? Can you actually survive on an EA salary before any type of career advancement?

Not surprisingly, your EA salary is heavily dependent on what part of the country you’re working in as well as what industry.

Let’s take a look at some stats from the 3 biggest salary aggregators in the US (Because they differ somewhat):

Salary.com gives a median salary for executive assistants of $68,098.

Source: Salary.com

Glassdoor.com gives an average salary for executive assistants of $48,797.

Source: Glassdoor.com

Payscale.com gives an average salary for executive assistants of $55,219.

Source: Payscale.com

As you can see, there’s a quite a bit disparity in the average salaries. This gives you a ballpark though. Obviously a good idea would be to go to these sites yourself and search in your local area.

Executive Assistant Education

You’ll find that a lot of companies want their executive assistants to have a bachelors degree at minimum (for example, a business administration is a useful degree to have).

NOTE: You will sometimes see companies accepting equivalent work experience in lieu of a degree. So keep an eye out for those.

Often companies will prefer you having some form of previous executive assistant experience depending on the job.

How To Use The Job Description To Prepare For Your Interview

When interviewing for an executive assistant position, the most important thing to remember is that the job description is your best friend when it comes to preparing for your interview.

The job description will list the skills and qualities that the company doing the hiring is looking for in their perfect candidate. It’s your job to make sure that you are demonstrating that you have these skills in the job interview.

How do you do this?

Use our tailoring method when answering your interview questions of course!

You want to answer the interview questions you face by highlighting the skills and qualities that are highlighted in the job description (and you possess), and use a “success story” from your past that provides concrete evidence of you demonstrating the skill. (Especially for behavioral interview questions.)

As we’ve discussed in this article, the skills and qualities that companies are often looking for in an executive assistant are most likely going to include (but are not limited to) organization, diplomacy, communication and the ability to prioritize. So you need to go into your interview having prepared answers that clearly show you demonstrating these qualities.

Do you see how powerful this strategy is?? Most job seekers just take a quick glance at the job description and move on…

You’re not going to do that! You’re going to mine the job description for skills and qualities. Take the skills and qualities that you find there and that you possess and then craft killer answers to the interview questions showing the hiring manager you’re the perfect executive assistant candidate for the position!

Putting It All Together

Becoming an executive assistant can offer you an exciting challenge where you never quite know what might be in store for you on any given workday. But can also provide you with the potential to learn at the right hand side of high level executives and even giving the possibility of advancing to an executive level position yourself. If this sounds like a position tailor made for you, then go after it!

Good luck!

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About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.