Personal Assistant vs Executive Assistant: What's The Difference?
Updated 29 January 2023
A personal assistant is often mistaken for an executive assistant. This is because, although both roles have different responsibilities, there are also a lot of similarities between them. Personal and executive assistant roles may vary according to who you work for, which makes it hard to distinctly characterise these jobs' duties. In this article, we define what a personal assistant vs executive assistant is, what their key differences are and useful skills for both roles.
Personal assistant vs executive assistant: key differences
The daily duties of a personal assistant vs executive assistant in a company are similar, but there are also some key differences. Here are some of the differences between personal assistant and executive assistant duties:
Executive assistants sometimes move beyond administrative tasks and get involved with company aims and objectives. This means that they often have a more thorough understanding of an organisation's processes and industry. An executive assistant also supports chief executive officers (CEOs) and chief operating officers (COOs), whereas a personal assistant may work with lower-ranking staff. Moreover, personal assistants mainly work behind the scenes on administrative tasks, whereas executive assistants have higher-profile positions. They're known by clients and considered a key face in the company and at events.
Becoming an executive assistant is usually a natural progression from a personal assistant. This means they usually take on more responsibility and have a more hands-on approach in upcoming projects. An executive assistant can usually make decisions on behalf of an executive and may also be the point of contact for prospective clients and other business partners. However, they must report back to their executive manager in the same way that a personal assistant does.
The average salary of an executive assistant is £30,750 per year. An executive assistant's salary is usually higher than a personal assistant's. For instance, the average salary of a personal assistant is £23,827 per year.
However, salaries can vary a lot according to location. For example, personal assistants in London can earn £32,517 per year on average, while personal assistants in Liverpool might earn £23,936 per year. The average salary in London for executive assistants is £38,619 per year, while in Liverpool, an executive assistant can make £24,772 per year.
An executive assistant may have a bachelor's degree or associate's degree that facilitates their understanding of business. Their degree may be in business management, maths, statistics or travel management. This allows them to give sound advice and help with business projects. Alternatively, a personal assistant doesn't require any certain education level. Despite these differences, both jobs have the same skills and characteristics.
Related: How To Choose A Career Path
What is an executive assistant?
An executive assistant supports an executive or other senior official in an organisation or business. They're administrative professionals who help an executive's day-to-day operations and may carry out important tasks in their absence. These can include managing projects, attending corporate events or handling business deals.
Executive assistants are middle management, which means they are a point of contact between executives and other business branches. For this reason, they may have strong communication skills. They may answer to one executive or multiple, depending on the size of the company. Smaller companies often have fewer responsibilities, which allows them to perform all subordinate tasks in an allocated time frame. They may also train new employees to assist with business growth. Their exact duties may differ from business to business. However, some general responsibilities include:
organising an executive's calendar
preparing corporate documents
taking calls from clients and responding to emails
providing administrative and clerical support
What is a personal assistant?
A personal assistant carries out administrative tasks for one individual. They typically work for lower-ranking officials within a business rather than executive managers. They preside over minor matters so that their manager can focus on more important issues, such as decision making and company targets. On a daily basis, a personal assistant usually:
manages personal and professional calendars
monitors emails and phone calls
arranges travel and accommodation
There is a lot of variation as to the job personal assistants perform. Since they're usually designated to one individual, they may handle their personal tasks too. These can include coordinating the family calendar with work responsibilities or doing food shopping. This is usually reserved for officials who struggle to manage their busy lives and hire a personal assistant on that basis.
For this reason, you want to always review the job description before applying for a personal assistant role. This ensures you understand whether the person or organisation is looking for a personal assistant to cover business or domestic duties.
Personal assistant vs executive assistant: how to choose
Knowing the differences between a personal assistant and an executive assistant allows you to make an informed decision about your career. However, you may want to consider other factors to ensure that either one of these positions is right for you. Here is how to choose between an executive assistant and a personal assistant role.
A personal assistant may have a high level of trust with their manager to deal with their personal life alongside administrative tasks. If you think household management is something you would enjoy, then a personal assistant job might be right for you. If you have other responsibilities beyond your job, such as your own family or another position, then a personal assistant role is more likely to accommodate that rather than an executive assistant position.
An executive assistant is predominantly based in an office environment which is good for those who prefer formal work settings or organised desk space to perform their duties. Personal assistants also work in an office, but their work setting may vary day-to-day, especially if they carry out personal tasks too.
Both job titles come with their own unique pressures. An executive assistant holds more responsibilities and usually has an increased level of authority. They typically support senior managers and executive teams and must stay up to date with business projects and insights to facilitate them. As priorities shift, so does an executive assistant's key responsibilities.
If you prefer a less-pressured environment, a personal assistant is more suited to you. They must remain calm in the face of change and must balance someone else's personal and private affairs. However, a personal assistant has a strategic relationship with their manager, and corporate affairs are usually left to them. Personal assistants are also not subject to public scrutiny in the same way an executive assistant might be.
An executive assistant usually works traditional business hours, from 9 am to 5 pm. This gives structure to the day, which may be an important factor. However, personal assistants often have greater flexibility when it comes to the working day. For example, they may be allocated time to deal with other obligations or be able to work from home on some days.
An executive assistant is a long-term role that allows you to move into other areas of business or climb the ladder within a company. A personal assistant would have to get used to executive assistant responsibilities before moving up in their career. This might include business knowledge and corporate experience. However, a personal assistant can grow in their role through personal development. There are various refresher training courses that allow them to excel and gain credible qualifications.
Related: Top Tips For Career Progression
Personal assistants don't always operate in a professional environment, which means that their work culture is often more laid-back. This carries over into their work attire, which may sometimes be informal. By contrast, executive assistants wear formal attire on a daily basis and must remain professional throughout the working day. This is only required of a personal assistant during formal events or where they have to step into the office.
Executive assistant and personal assistant skills
Both job positions require individuals with certain characteristics. Executive assistants and personal assistants must be proactive, self-motivated and flexible enough to adapt to new business needs. They also pay attention to detail and must be able to support others. Accompanying these characteristics is a set of skills that allow them to perform their roles efficiently. These skills include:
IT (calendar software, spreadsheets and word processing)
good oral and written communication
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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