Becoming a Personal Assistant: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about a personal assistant's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a personal assistant.
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Pros and Cons of a Personal Assistant Career

Personal assistants spend their time doing administrative tasks, managing schedules and completing various personal tasks. Find out the pros and cons of becoming a personal assistant so that you can decide if it's the right career for you.

Pros of a Personal Assistant Career
Job growth is expected (12% from 2012-2022)*
Entry-level positions might only require a high school diploma*
Could receive training by seeking employment through a staffing agency*
May have a flexible work schedule**
Could work in an office or home environment**

Cons of a Personal Assistant Career
May need a bachelor's degree for some positions**
Outlook and pay vary by specialty*
Many years of experience could be required for high-level positions**
May work weekends**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Multiple job postings (April 2012).

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

The job of a personal assistant may vary from position to position. Some personal assistants might be responsible for providing transportation, scheduling travel, managing personal files or organizing events. Many personal assistants complete office tasks, such as providing customer service to clients and setting appointments. Employers may look for someone to fill the position of an executive-level personal assistant. Executive secretaries and administrative assistants are responsible for completing tasks similar to those required by a personal assistant, such as arranging meetings, preparing reports and completing research.

Salary and Job Growth Info

In July 2015, PayScale.com reported that most personal assistants earned from $23,000-$70,000. Experienced individuals and those who work in a larger city may earn more. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for secretaries and administrative assistants are expected to increase 12% from 2012-2022.

Career Skills and Education Requirements

Many employers seeking entry-level personal assistants require only a high school diploma. However, for those interested in becoming an executive-level personal assistant, a bachelor's degree could be required. This profession requires a diverse set of professional and personal skills, including:

  • Good organization and planning abilities
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Writing ability
  • Computer knowledge

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers typically look for personal assistants with word processing, organizational and interpersonal skills. Depending on the position, employers may have different levels of experience requirements. Because personal assistants generally work for an individual, they may work in an office or home setting, or a combination of both. Below are some job postings advertising for a personal assistant in April 2012:

  • A private residence in Florida is looking for a personal assistant to assist with an in-home business, as well as the day-to-day happenings of the house. Candidates should have at least a high school diploma, computer skills and a willingness to provide care for children.
  • A recruitment and staffing firm in New York City is looking for an executive/personal assistant who has a bachelor's degree and ten years of experience in a corporate setting. The candidate will work under a managing partner and his wife.
  • An accountant in Kentucky is looking for an entry-level personal assistant with some college coursework completed. The candidate should have excellent typing skills and an ability to communicate effectively with clients.

How to Stand out in the Field

For those looking to gain experience and applicable skills, you might consider attending a program at a community college, vocational or technical school. For example, with only a high school diploma you can enroll into a secretary certificate program. You might also consider a certificate or associate degree program for administrative assistants. Additionally, you might consider taking a personal assistant skills course where you can learn about communication, research and making presentations.

Other Fields to Consider

If you decide that being a personal assistant isn't the right career path for you, there are several related occupations that you may consider. These careers include similar duties, such as completing administrative tasks and providing customer service.

Paralegal

Much like personal assistants, paralegals complete a variety of administrative tasks, such as filing, research and document creation. Paralegals may work long hours, including overtime. Although some law firms are willing to train paralegals on the job, many require an associate degree or certificate in paralegal studies. In May 2011, the BLS reported that the median salary for paralegals was about $47,000. In addition, the BLS anticipates an average job growth rate of 18% from 2010-2020.

Receptionist

To be a receptionist, you may only need a high school diploma and may receive on-the-job training. Receptionists also complete office tasks, focusing on answering the phones and providing customer service. Receptionists may have to work evenings and weekends due to the need of an office to accommodate clients. Working as a receptionist could be repetitious and you may need to deal with irate customers. The BLS indicates that the 2011 median annual salary for receptionists and information clerks was around $26,000. According to the BLS, there is expected to be a faster than average job growth rate of 24% for receptionists from 2010-2020.

Personal Care Aide

Personal care aides help the elderly, disabled and terminally ill with everyday tasks, including scheduling appointments, providing transportation and meal planning. A personal care aide generally requires a high school diploma at the most. However, if you'd like to work for a home health or a hospice agency, you might need formal training and be required to pass an exam. Being a personal care aide comes with an increased risk of injury as you help clients move around or deal with difficult patients. Due to the aging of the baby-boom generation and an increase in the amount of people who would like to be cared for in their home, the BLS predicts a drastic increase of 70% in job openings for personal care aides from 2010-2020. In May 2011, the BLS reported that the median salary for these individuals was approximately $20,000.

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