Executive assistants (or EAs) provide focused support to a senior staff member at a company, in order to keep them working at their most optimal level.
They help executives and directors to make the best use of their time by coordinating and controlling a range of administrative, business and operational procedures and tasks on their behalf.
This complete guide includes a full executive assistant job description and details everything else you need to know about executive assistants, including typical salaries, requirements, career progression and more.
- Executive assistant job description
- How much do executive assistants earn?
- What does an executive assistant do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs executive assistants?
- Which junior jobs progress to executive assistant roles?
Executive assistant job description
Executive Assistant | J&J Recruitment Co
About J&J Recruitment Co
Established in 1995, we are a multi-award-winning global specialist recruitment agency who focus on placing the best marketing, design and tech professionals into a range of temporary, permanent and fixed term contract roles with leading employers all over the world.
About the role
A rare opportunity has arisen to support one of our senior executives on a 1:1 basis, working closely with him to ensure his working life is structured, coordinated and organised in a way that enables him to maximise his productivity and carry out his job effectively.
- Dealing with the executive’s incoming emails, calls and enquiries – organising communications and acting as “gatekeeper”
- Meeting and greeting visitors of the executives from all levels of seniority
- Managing the executive’s schedule and complex diary across multiple time zones
- Coordinating board meetings, including agenda setting, presentation materials, tracking and distributing minutes
- Streamlining all administrative processes to ensure the executive and the wider team consistently operate at the highest level of efficiency
- Booking travel, transport and accommodation for the executive and other senior members of the business
- Carrying out advanced internet research to provide the executive with detailed information regarding potential clients and business partners
Location & commitments
- Permanent, full-time role based in our London head office
- 8 am – 5 pm hours with an hour for lunch, totalling 40 hours per week
- Overtime outside of core office hours may be required in line with the executive’s schedule
- Occasional UK & international travel required
- Previous business support experience within a large organisation – ideally reporting to C-level
- A fast and accurate typing speed (ideally 60 words per minute)
- Excellent computer literacy, especially with the Microsoft Suite; including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Keynote
- Exceptional multi-tasker with experience of working at a very fast pace whilst prioritising conflicting demands
- Excellent communicator with the ability to connect with people and build relationships quickly
- A good level of organisational skills and discretion when dealing with confidential company matters
- A strong academic background; ideally holds relevant ICM qualifications or other relevant training
- Strong knowledge of, or experience within the recruitment industry
Contact us to apply
Send your CV and cover letter to Susan Williams at S.Williams@JJrecruit.com, letting us know why your skills make you a perfect fit for the job.
How much do executive assistants earn?
The average salary of an executive assistant in the UK is £32,500.
Executive assistant salaries in the UK
- Low: £28,000
- Average: £32,500
- High: £42,500
Executive assistant salaries will vary depending on:
- Who is being supported – Speaking generally, senior executive assistants who support CEOs and directors earn a higher salary than those supporting lower-level management staff
- The size of the employer – Larger companies tend to offer higher salaries to attract the best quality candidates, whereas start-ups often have a much smaller budget
- The location – For example, the average executive assistant salary is significantly higher in London than it is in Manchester
For example, an experienced executive assistant working for a property firm in London supporting a CEO, will normally earn more than a graduate working their first executive assistant role in the media or not-for-profit sector in a small town, supporting a mid-level manager.
The average figures shown above are taken from a range of job advert samples and do not include extra benefits like commission, bonuses, overtime and non-financial benefits such as healthcare.
What does an executive assistant do?
While the job description may vary depending on the nature of the organisation, executive assistants are generally responsible for:
- Managing diaries – Managing the diary of an executive and ensuring they meet important tasks and deadlines
- Maintaining correspondence – Monitoring and processing emails, post and fax and screening phone calls on behalf of the executive
- Organising meetings – Organising and coordinating meetings, presentations, appointments, events, appearances and conferences
- Managing office systems – Supporting administrative and office systems, including data management and filing
- Writing emails and reports – Drafting letters, emails and reports to employees, stakeholders, clients and business partners on behalf of the executive
- Booking travel – Arranging the executive’s travel, transportation, visas and accommodation for events, meetings and trips
- Travelling to events – Accompanying the executive on business trips to provide general assistance
- Attending events – Attending events with the executive, or representing the executive at events and meetings that they are unable to attend
- Taking minutes – Taking accurate minutes during meetings, creating official written records, and distributing across the business
- Ensuring compliance – Making sure that the executive and the wider business are complying with legislation and regulations
- Managing projects – Overseeing office support projects where required
- Upholding confidentiality – Managing data and sensitive material or information with discretion and confidentiality
What do executive assistants need?
Although there are no set-in-stone entry requirements to gain an executive assistant job, employers will be looking for a wide range of skills, experience, knowledge and relevant qualifications in candidates.
The specific criteria will vary from role to role, but here’s what’s generally required:
Executive assistant jobs will usually require the candidate to have had several years of experience in a personal assistant or senior administrative assistant role, with strong knowledge of how businesses operate and experience of supporting senior staff members.
Senior executive assistant roles will normally require the candidate to have several years experience as an executive assistant, with a proven background of supporting senior and executive staff members in challenging, fast-paced environments.
Executive assistant skills
Alongside the industry-specific skills — such as minute taking and diary management — executive assistants need the following skills in order to thrive within the role:
- Communication: Strong written and verbal communication to represent executives and the company via email, phone and face-to-face meetings
- Interpersonal: Working closely with executives and senior managers – and dealing with requests from colleagues and external parties in a personable manner
- Organisation: Coordinating executive’s diaries, appointments, schedules and events and prioritising conflicting tasks and demands
- Microsoft Office suite – Using a range of MS Office tools, such as Word for minute taking and distribution, Outlook for organising emails, Excel for managing data etc.
- Attention to detail: Spotting potential typos and grammatical errors to ensure that all work and correspondence is accurate and professional
- Flexibility: Juggling a wide range of different tasks and working extra hours to meet deadlines
- Typing: Having a fast and accurate typing speed of around 60 words per minute or more
- Confidentiality: Working with discretion and understanding confidentiality issues in the business
- Sector knowledge: Understanding the industry in which the business operates and having sound knowledge of the business’s products, services client and customer groups
Executive assistant qualifications
Qualifications are not always essential to work as an executive assistant. The majority of employers will value experience, exceptional organisation skills and suitable personal qualities over qualifications.
However, most employers do expect a good standard of education, but specific qualifications requirements tend to vary from role to role.
With that said, there are a number of academic qualifications and vocational executive assistant courses that are recognised across the profession and will help candidates to perform confidently in their role:
HNDs and degrees
Although it’s possible to work up to an executive assistant role without a degree or HND, a higher qualification in a relevant subject can act as an advantage during the application process.
Degrees or HNDs surrounding the following subject areas are particularly valuable in an executive assistant role:
- Business studies
- International business
- Management studies
- Secretarial studies
- ICT subjects
Institute of Administrative Management (ICM) qualifications
The Institute of Administrative Management is a recognised management institute offering a range of regulated administrative and managerial qualifications, suitable for PAs and EAs. They also offer a recognised membership scheme which can help executives assistants to demonstrate their skill set to employers.
Institute of Administrators and Executive Assistants (IEAA) qualifications
The Institute of Executive Assistants and Administrators is a not-for-profit organisation offering specialist training for executive assistants. Their qualifications focus on providing practical job skills and can help EAs to open up more prestigious career options.
Pitman Professional Executive PA Diploma
One of the most widely recognised qualifications out there is the Pitman Professional Executive PA Diploma. The diploma covers a wide range of subjects — from business communication to Excel — and is designed to leave students with the broad range of skills and knowledge required to become a personal or executive assistant and provide effective executive support.
Subject matter qualifications
It can sometimes be beneficial for executive assistants to be educated in a subject relevant to the business they will be working for — for example, an English Literature graduate would be an ideal candidate for an EA role within publishing.
What is expected of executive assistants?
The role of an EA is known to be demanding — typically, they are expected to commit to the following:
- Full-time hours – Most roles are full-time, at around 35 to 40 hours per week — though part-time jobs are often available
- Occasional overtime – Executive assistants are known to work long hours, due to the fact they support senior staff who normally work very long hours. Regular evening work and overtime to support executives and senior management during busy periods is common
- Location – Normally based primarily at the employer’s head office
- Occasional travel – Day time travel, overnight stays and overseas travel may be required to attend meetings or conferences, if needed to support the executive
Executive assistant benefits
In addition to their salary, executive assistants tend to receive a good benefits package, including things like:
- Pension scheme
- Private healthcare
- Subsidised lunches
- Sports and gym memberships
- Corporate discounts
Who employs executive assistants?
Senior staff in businesses of all shapes and sizes require professional support, meaning employment opportunities for EAs are available across a breadth of industries.
Executive assistant roles can be found across the UK in cities and towns alike, in large, medium and small companies, as well as start-ups. It’s possible to find employment within the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
Typical executive assistant employers include companies within:
- Financial services
- Business consultancies
- Legal services
- Oil and gas
- Local authority
- Charity & not-for-profit
Which junior jobs progress to executive assistant roles?
Aside from direct entry via graduate schemes, there are a number of jobs that can open up natural progression into an executive assistant role. These include:
A role as an administrative assistant or administrator is a great starting point for aspiring EAs wishing to climb the ladder. These roles include providing a range of clerical and administrative support to professionals and can help candidates to build the office, organisational and communication skills required to thrive in a PA or EA role.
Personal assistants (PAs) provide administrative support to senior management, often on a one-to-one basis. They also tend to deal with more of their line managers “personal affairs” such as arranging childcare or weekend activity – whereas an EA is strictly a business support role. While the role is similar to that of an executive assistant, EAs often have more authority to make decisions in an executive’s absence and will act as a main point of contact. Most experienced PAs eventually move into a higher-paying executive assistant role.
Receptionists provide administrative support and front-of-house services to entire businesses or teams. This type of work is very similar to executive assistant work, making it a good stepping stone into the profession.
Which senior jobs do executive assistants progress to?
Even though a job as an executive assistant can be a well-paying and challenging role in it’s own right, the role also offers plenty of opportunity for career progression. Some common EA career moves include:
Senior executive assistant
Those wishing to stay within the executive assistant realm can progress to become a senior executive assistant. Seniors EAs provide support to extremely senior people, such as CEOs of global companies, high level politicians and other public figures
Junior project manager
As executive assistants are experienced in juggling a multitude of tasks and projects to strict deadlines, their skills are highly transferable to junior project manager jobs. PMs organise projects and programmes in accordance with the wider goals of the company; taking complete accountability for their planning, structuring and execution.
Executive assistant job description – conclusion
The role of an executive assistant can be challenging and at times stressful, but is known to be highly rewarding.
Employment is available throughout the UK in a wide range of sectors, with larger companies offering the most attractive salaries.
The job is available to graduates and non-graduates alike and offers strong career progression opportunities.