Executive assistants and administrative assistants have different job responsibilities and skill sets. Executive assistants typically support high-level executives with strategic tasks, while administrative assistants handle more routine administrative duties. When deciding which type of assistant to hire, consider your specific needs and budget.
The backbone of efficient organizations hinges on the support of both executive and administrative assistants. An executive assistant is often responsible for specific, complex tasks and works directly with senior management or higher-ups, while an administrative assistant is responsible for various admin tasks around the office to support the greater team.
Catering specifically to upper management, executive assistants navigate a dynamic environment, resulting in higher salaries compared to their administrative counterparts.
The major differences between the two types of assistants are centered around:
- Roles and duties
- Work experience
What is an Executive Assistant?
An executive assistant is a high-level project manager who works closely with senior team members. Executive assistants have specific experience with project management and administrative tasks and typically work on specific tasks. They’re the go-to person who works exclusively with upper and senior management, often assisting with calendar management, expenses, errands, and scheduling.
What Tasks Do Executive Assistants Perform?
A lot of independent work is expected of an executive assistant, so being comfortable with autonomy and self-management is essential. If the executive is the type of busy professional with a dozen things on their plate, then the executive assistant makes it all possible for them. Though responsibilities will be specific to the company employing them, below are a few examples of duties often expected of an executive assistant:
- Stay on top of correspondence both inside and outside of the company
- Calendar management
- Appointment scheduling
- Organize meetings
- Arrange travel plans
- Prepare and process reports (statistical, expense)
- Take meeting notes
What is an Administrative Assistant?
An administrative assistant is more of a task manager than a project manager. These assistants provide entry-level support to the wider team by handling general tasks such as data entry, inbox management, note-taking, client greeting, and more.
What Tasks Do Admin Assistants Perform?
Administrative assistants can take on a variety of roles, as an admin VA is meant to provide flexible support for a department or the entire office. An effective administrative assistant should enable their team to focus on their own responsibilities and goals, without being bogged down by lingering busy work. Although duties and responsibilities will vary based on the company and who they’re supporting, here are some examples of typical tasks expected of an administrative assistant:
- Greet and guide clients, both in-person and over the phone
- Route and distribute physical mail/packages
- Monitor a general email inbox and phone line
- Operate office equipment such as fax machines, printers, and scanners
- Create and manage spreadsheets, databases, and inventories
- Complete forms in accordance with company procedures
- Research, schedule, and coordinate meetings and events
What’s the Difference Between an Executive Assistant and an Administrative Assistant?
Executive assistants often require a higher educational level, such as a bachelor’s degree in business or related fields, due to their complex duties like managing executive schedules and handling confidential information. Advanced computer skills and a deep understanding of corporate operations, typically acquired through formal education, are essential.
Conversely, administrative assistants may enter the field with a high school diploma or an associate’s degree, focusing on basic office skills and organizational abilities. Vocational training or certificate programs in office management and basic accounting are beneficial. Despite less stringent educational requirements, this role demands meticulous attention to detail and effective multitasking in a dynamic office setting.
Both admin and executive assistants need to be organized and have strong communication skills, and time management to excel in their roles. However, an executive assistant often needs a bit more advanced experience to keep up with the top executives and CEOs.
An administrative assistant will require some off-the-cuff thinking and planning, but a lot of their typical duties are predetermined procedures with routine steps to follow. Whereas an executive assistant should expect a more dynamic and challenging experience.
Understanding the distinctions between the roles of executive assistants and administrative assistants is key to appreciating how they each contribute uniquely to the efficiency and success of an organization.
Executive assistants work closely with high-level executives, managing complex and confidential tasks. Their responsibilities include scheduling, organizing high-level meetings, and serving as a liaison between executives and others. They handle sensitive information and are integral in organizational communication, requiring discretion and advanced organizational skills.
Administrative assistants provide general office support with more routine tasks. They handle phone calls, manage correspondence, maintain files, and schedule appointments. While their duties are less specialized, they are crucial for the smooth operation of the office. Administrative assistants must be organized, adept at multitasking, and have strong communication skills, ensuring that day-to-day office tasks are executed efficiently to support the organization’s functionality.
According to statistics from salary.com, the average salary of an administrative assistant in the US is $36k-57k annually. The average salary of an executive assistant in the US is $53k-85k annually. Both figures are as recent as October 25, 2023. While factors like experience and education obviously come into play when budgeting for these roles, the executive assistant typically starts higher as it means working more closely with higher-level executives.
Typically most administrative assistants require little to no experience for an entry-level position. Usually, a demonstration of basic technical skills like data entry, Microsoft and Google suite proficiency, as well as confidence in phone conversations will be enough to get started.
However, executive assistants typically require a couple of years of experience as an assistant. They are often promoted within the same organization, from an administrative position.
Tips For Deciding Between an Administrative or Executive Assistant
When deciding between hiring an administrative assistant and an executive assistant, consider the following key factors to ensure you choose the right support for your organization’s needs:
- Assess the level of responsibility. If your needs include handling confidential information and strategic decision-making, an executive assistant is more suitable. Executive assistants are trained to manage sensitive data and assist in high-level organizational tasks.
- Consider the scope of work. For general office tasks like answering phones and scheduling, an administrative assistant is ideal. Administrative assistants excel in managing routine office duties and maintaining organizational flow.
- Evaluate required skill sets. Executive assistants often require advanced skills in communication and project management. They are equipped to handle complex tasks and assist in executive-level management.
- Determine budget constraints. Executive assistants typically command higher salaries due to their specialized skills and responsibilities. Budget considerations are crucial, as executive assistants are generally more expensive to employ than administrative assistants.
- Analyze long-term organizational goals. If your organization anticipates rapid growth or complex projects, an executive assistant can provide valuable support. Their ability to manage high-level tasks efficiently makes them an asset in dynamic and evolving business environments.
Hiring a Virtual Administrative or Executive Assistant
An easy way of looking at it is administrative is for the team/office, and executive is for the individual. Executive assistants require more hands-on experience, whereas administrators are more entry-level but with time can lead up to an executive role.
Here at MyOutDesk, we specialize in providing proven virtual assistants for a wide variety of roles in a wide variety of industries. That includes experienced and tested professionals with experience as both types of assistants, from administrative assistants for your office to personal executive assistants for leaders. And we offer both at up to 70% savings compared to a local hire for the same roles. Thanks to our thorough interview process, which includes FBI-grade background checks and skill assessments, you get the same quality of professionalism as you would from a local hire.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an executive assistant higher than an administrative assistant?
Yes. Admin assistants typically juggle duties that serve an entire office or specific department. Executive assistants are reserved for supporting individual leaders, from department managers to executive leaders.
Is an executive assistant an admin role?
Yes, an executive assistant is a specialized administrative role that focuses on supporting high-level executives and managing complex tasks within an organization.
What are the top three most important skills for an executive assistant?
According to teambuilding.com, the most sought-after skills for this role are 1. Organization skills, 2. Multitasking abilities, and 3. Time management.