Becoming a Certified Executive Assistant: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about an executive assistant's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of an executive assistant career.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Executive Assistant

Executive assistants handle administrative support for high-level executives in a business. You can learn the upsides and downsides to being an executive assistant by reading below.

PROS of Becoming an Executive Assistant
Income is above the national average ($54,000 or so annually)*
Numerous industries to choose from for employment*
Career advancement opportunities through training and education*

CONS of Becoming an Executive Assistant
Work can be routine and repetitive in some cases*
Little to no growth in employment projected between 2012-2022*
Complex tasks and responsibilities are given to executive assistants*
Familiarity with computer software like Microsoft Office is required*
Supervision of other workers is often necessary*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Occupational Information

Job Description

The offices of an organization along with top executives in the company receive care and support from executive assistants. These administrative workers handle tasks like readying reports, performing research, setting up meetings and examining incoming or outgoing documents. To perform many of these tasks, an executive assistant often uses computer programs like Microsoft Office. With your computer, you might create presentations, spreadsheets or messages for the executive you work for. Executive assistants often oversee a staff of clerical workers as well. The executive assistant generally assigns these workers tasks. The executive assistant also makes sure everyone is operating efficiently in order to keep the organization running smoothly.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014 reported that executive assistants earned a median annual wage of $51,270. Executive assistants saw salaries upward of $77,000 according to the top 10 percent of wage estimates for this career. If you're seeking employment in one of the states that pay executive assistants the highest on average, then look for employment in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland and District of Columbia.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects little to no growth in employment for executive assistants from 2012 to 2022. This lack of growth can be attributed to companies replacing high-level secretaries with with lower-cost administrative assistants. Job opportunities are expected to occur from retirements and career transfers.

Career Requirements

Education and Training

You generally want to focus on computer and English classes while in high school. Some high schools offer basic office assistance programs and courses. You can find similar office assistance degrees and certificates at technical schools and community colleges. At the executive level, many employers prefer assistants that have at least an associate's degree, according to the BLS; in some cases, a bachelor's degree is the bare minimum. Previous office experience is important for executive assistants as well. Some placement agencies can help you in acquiring training in a formal office setting.

What Do Employers Want?

Experience and education are two important factors employers look at when hiring executive assistants. As executives are important members of a company, a trusted and experienced assistant is needed to handle the needs of the executive. Good interpersonal, writing, organizational and computer skills are also considered important by employers. Several job postings from November 2012 were examined and summarized below so that you can see what real employers wanted in executive assistants.

  • An executive assistant opening in Massachusetts calls for applicants to have excellent proofreading skills.
  • A Rhode Island business needs an executive assistant who can maintain a high level of confidentiality.
  • In Missouri, a company requires an executive assistant with advanced experience in Microsoft Office programs.
  • A bachelor's degree and at least 10 years of experience is preferred for an executive assistant job in California.

How Can You Stand Out?

Although there isn't a specific certification for executive assistants, there are other options you can pursue that can help you stand out from others in your career. The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) has a certified administrative professional (CAP) designation available. To qualify for this credential, you'll need at least four years of work experience. By possessing an associate's degree, you only need three years of experience while applicants with a bachelor's degree only require two years of experience. Your employment experience has to have been acquired in the last 15 years. To earn your credential, an examination must be completed and passed.

Other Vocational Options

Becoming a court reporter is an alternative career option for executive assistants. As a court reporter, you'll be present at legal proceedings and make a word-for-word transcript of the event. In order to make this transcript, you'll record dialogue and report on various gestures and actions that are used. This vocation typically requires a license and specialized training. A court reporter earns about $54,000 on average annually according to the BLS in May 2011. The BLS also reports that employment growth for court reporters should be around 14% from 2010 to 2020.

Instead of being an executive assistant, you may want to consider being a paralegal. Paralegals help lawyers by performing research, organizing files and working on documents. The lawyer in a court case uses the information a paralegal prepares. A bachelor's degree or an associate's degree is normally needed to become a paralegal. From 2010 to 2020, the BLS projected an 18% growth in employment for paralegals. As of May 2011, paralegals had an average yearly salary of about $50,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
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      • Associate: Business Admin.
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      • AASBA in Event Planning
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    3. Colorado Technical University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)
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      • BS - Business Administration - Management
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      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
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    4. Full Sail University

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    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
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    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
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    6. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
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    7. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate's - Business Admin
    Certificate
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    8. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
      • Career Diploma: Administrative Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Business Administration - DBA (Doctorate)
    Master's
      • General Business (MBA)
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      • Business Administration - Associate
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
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    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

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Kaplan University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • BSBA - Investment
  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)
  • BS - Business Administration - Management
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

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Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

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Northcentral University

  • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
  • MBA - Strategic Management

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Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Business Studies

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Virginia College

  • Associate's - Business Admin
  • Certification - Business Administration
  • Diploma Program - Business Administration

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
  • Career Diploma: Administrative Assistant

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