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Executive Assistant


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The All-Access Executive Assistant: A Career for the Professional Up-and-Comer

Why should you become an executive assistant? Power. Prestige. Influence. Connection. Today's executive assistant resembles a pseudo-CEO--compiling complex schedules, assigning importance and putting out fires. You'll love the extreme working pace, not to mention the salary and promotional potential. Check out the life of the next-generation Executive Assistant and find out just what it takes to land one of these dream jobs.

Executive Assistant Career Profile
Executive Assistants (EA) typically function as the right hand of Presidents, Chief Executive Officers and Department Heads. A description of the role by Salary.com's Dream Jobs portrays a unique fusion of office manager, accountant and secretary. As an office manager, the EA knows what's going on in all departments all of the time. Sometimes working as an accountant, the EA's financial savvy comes into play. In more of a secretarial role, a valued EA knows the difference between critically important and what can be taken care of during a lull in the action. Bottom line--this is a position that isn't for the faint of heart, but rather a true go-getter with multiple talents.
Professionals that succeed in this business have several key qualities in common:

  • Specialization. Those with staying power earn expertise in such critical-needs areas as healthcare, legal, and public relations
  • Technology. Executive assistants with demonstrated skills in Microsoft Office, PeopleSoft and Adobe Creative set themselves apart
  • Certification. Think Certified Professional Secretary, Certified Administrative Professional, Accredited Legal Secretary, or Professional Legal Secretary

Executive Assistant Opportunities by the Numbers
With respect to future employment opportunities, professionals in this field should be warmly welcomed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of executive secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to grow faster than national average for all occupations, with an additional 239,000 jobs to be added between 2006 and 2016. Trends that sould stimulate demand include industry specialization and the introduction of new technologies to spur productivity.

On the salary front, executive assistants are seeing compensation levels commensurate with their growing responsibilities The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a May 2008 median annual wage of $40,030, with the top 90 percent earning $62,070 and the bottom 10 percent earning $27,030. Potential salaries vary greatly by geographic region, industry specialty and professional responsibility.

Formal Training Gives You the Edge
As with most competitive professions, executive secretaries with formal classroom training give themselves an edge with respect to hiring. While you should be able to secure an entry-level position with a high school diploma, earning a college degree will serve you well. You'll find that companies that include their executive assistants in administrative activities prefer candidates with advanced schooling. Start with business vocational programs, technical schools and community colleges that offer 1- and 2-year programs in office administration. Emphasize your communication and technical skills via professional development courses--sometimes your current employer will pick up the tab for these. Finally, work on those certifications listed above to give your resume the boost it needs to catch an eye in HR.