Want to Be an Executive Assistant? Here’s How

An assistant sits at her desk in this inspired 1950s photo.
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Executive assistants have some of the highest job satisfaction rates around. They report high satisfaction when it comes to flexibility and are the second-highest paying job you can get without a degree. They provide high-level administrative support and are a supportive force in a company, as they keep senior leadership highly organized.

Think becoming an executive assistant might be the right job for you? Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an executive assistant, what to expect in terms of salary and work expectations, how to best position yourself for a successful career and how to land a job where you work closely with top executives. We’ll also discuss job boards, like ZipRecruiter, where you can find open positions.

What Does an Executive Assistant Do?

Executive assistants are best known as the right-hand of company leadership. Their title literally says it all: C-level executives depend on their assistants to handle everything from scheduling meetings to writing reports.

The tasks assigned to executive assistants vary from administrative work to client relations. They are well-rounded employees who are able to manage executives’ time, as well as their own, and even handle personal tasks for their employers quickly and efficiently. And, of course, with strict confidentiality.

Executive assistants work as receptionists, editors, bookkeepers, travel agents, researchers and event planners. Their job is never boring, that’s for sure! If you are a jack-of-all-trades, becoming an executive assistant might be the right career choice for you.

How to Become an Executive Assistant

Their skills are varied, but they all have one thing in common: high levels of organization. Because the job description is so wide-ranging, having experience in a number of different positions can give you a leg up.

For example, having previous experience doing bookkeeping, or as an administrative assistant,  can be a great way to get your foot in the door. Executive assistants are not generally entry-level jobs, and having prior experience assisting in some way on your resume can help you score that interview.

As for education, there is no degree one can get to become an executive assistant. Generally, a high school diploma or equivalent is required, and having a college degree can make you more appealing to recruiters, but it’s not always necessary.

While there are no educational requirements for becoming an executive assistant, there are certifications that can make your resume look more professional and make you a more enticing candidate. These certifications include the Certified Administrative Professional and the Organizational Management Certificate. Additional certifications in programs like Microsoft Office or QuickBooks are pluses, too. Many of these are online courses.

What to Expect as an Executive Assistant

Working as an executive assistant can be an exhausting— yet rewarding — job. Senior leadership depends on their assistants to get their job done correctly and efficiently, and their job determines the success of the company. No pressure!

The day-to-day tasks of an executive assistant can vary, but a majority of it will be done at a desk. You’ll be the gatekeeper for their calendar, answer phone calls and schedule everything from client dinners to conferences. Expect to spend a lot of time on the phone and even more on your computer screen.

Other executive assistant duties include planning and scheduling meetings, office duties, managing their own team of personal assistants, attending meetings and sending memos, booking travel arrangements and other clerical work.

An executive assistant’s role can also include taking on a personal assistant role for their bosses. They might run errands like picking up dry cleaning or buying a birthday present for the CEO’s child. Be prepared to be a team player and expect to be asked to do a multitude of tasks on any given day.

How to Be a Successful Executive Assistant

Being a successful executive assistant isn’t dependent on your degree, but on your skill set. These are the most important skills to have if you want to be a successful executive assistant:

  • Time management: Not only are you managing your own time at work, you’ll be managing someone else’s time. And their time costs a lot of money. So being able to manage everyone’s schedule efficiently is an important skill to have.
  • Communication: Exceptional communication skills are key as an executive assistant. You’ll be speaking to people on the phone, in the office and via email on behalf of the executive you report to. Using correct grammar and punctuation is important — but so is being able to speak to people clearly and respectfully. Both written and verbal communication skills will help support your application.
  • Technologically savvy: You’ll be spending a lot of time working with various tools and products on the computer. Being able to master them quickly is important for the efficiency of your job.
  • Trustworthiness: As an executive assistant, you’ll be privy to some of the most confidential information in your organization, and as such, you’ll need to be able to keep this information private.
  • Multitasking: Executive assistants wear a lot of hats and can have multiple projects going at the same time. Being able to multitask — and prioritize — are important skills successful executive assistants have.
  • Problem solving: Company leaders have a lot of responsibilities, and the ideal person to help them manage their job is able to find solutions when the inevitable double-booked appointment/lost document/down Wi-Fi incident happens.

How Much Money Does an Executive Assistant Make?

The average executive assistant salary in the United States is about $63,000 a year. The top 25% make an average of just over $78,000.

In major metropolitan areas, like New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, the median salary is significantly higher — reaching as high as $92k in the heart of Silicon Valley.

According to U.S. News, it ranks as the second highest paying job you can get without a degree, just behind a patrol officer.

Find a Job as An Executive Assistant

On job-search website ZipRecruiter, there are nearly 250,000 open executive assistant positions currently accepting applications.

With hundreds of thousands of options, it may seem intimidating to try to find the ones you’re interested in or even qualify for. But ZipRecruiter makes it easy to conduct your job search based on your preferences.

You can choose to filter by location, distance, salary, type of employment (i.e. full-time, contract, etc.), title and company. There’s even a button you can toggle to only show you remote executive assistant positions.

Click on a posting to read the executive assistant job description and understand the responsibilities of the position. You can apply for free, either as a guest or with a free account. By creating an account on ZipRecruiter, you’ll make it easier for recruiters to find you and streamline your future application processes.

Don’t see your dream job yet? Set up job alerts to get notified when an executive assistant job description that matches your requirements gets posted.

Are you ready to become an executive assistant? Start your job search for free on ZipRecruiter.