According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2008 report, “Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition,” secretaries and administrative assistants make up the largest occupation in the United States. Nearly every company hires administrative and executive assistants to manage the daily activities that run businesses, government agencies, universities and non-profit organizations. Senior executive assistants occupy advanced administrative positions and usually support top executives in large corporations.
In addition to performing basic administrative duties such as answering, screening and directing phone calls, senior executive assistants are assigned to provide secretarial services to executives such as presidents and chief executive officers. They are responsible for scheduling travel and meetings, recording and filing business documentation, and preparing meeting agendas and notes. However, they may also supervise other executive assistants, and train administrative staff on office equipment, electronic databases and other internal systems. Other duties assigned to senior executive assistants include developing and proofreading memos, creating graphs, charts and tables for reports, and managing incoming and outgoing mail.
Candidates should have at least a high school diploma and five to seven years of experience as an executive assistant. However, some employers prefer candidates with a college degree, as senior executive assistant roles typically support top management positions. Although on-the-job training is common, continuing education is integral for executive assistants who wish to refresh and strengthen their computer and office skills. Online courses are available for professionals looking to learn new scanning, software application and data repository technologies. Executive assistants can also obtain certification as a Certified Professional Secretary or Certified Administrative Professional through the International Association of Administration Professionals (See Resources).
Senior executive assistants should have strong typing, writing and oral communication abilities. Excellent customer service and interpersonal skills are required, since senior executive assistants deal with multiple personalities and levels in and outside an organization. Employers look for candidates with poise, professionalism and a positive attitude. Senior executive assistants must also be proficient in computer applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Internet research and project management.
According to the BLS, the average median salary for executive secretaries and administrative assistants was $40,030 as of May 2008. However, earnings vary depending on employer and industry. For example, the BLS states that executive secretaries employed by city government agencies earned an average annual wage of $41,880. PayScale reports that senior executive assistant positions in the United States made an average salary ranging from $46,174 to $64,868 in May 2010.
The BLS predicts that secretary and administrative assistant roles will increase 11 percent during the 2008 and 2018 decade due to economic growth and workers exiting the sector. Expanding Industries such as construction, education, social services, technology and science will have the most job opportunities for administrative assistants. In addition, workers with strong computer and communication skills, as well as extensive secretarial experience will have the best job prospects through 2018.