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The Difference Between a Secretary & an Executive Secretary

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The major differences between secretaries and executive secretaries have to do with responsibilities, wages, and whom they report to in the office. A secretary may serve several staff members while the executive secretary usually works for the chief executive officer or, in the case of large companies, one person in senior management. An executive secretary has more responsibility and receives higher wages.

History of Secretaries

The word “secretary” came into use in the 1400’s, first as a person who wrote letters and kept records for the king and then as someone who kept secrets or maintained the confidentiality of his employer. In some business settings, the title of secretary has been replaced in recent years by administrative assistant. And in this digital age, the duties of administrative assistants have changed from typing to word processing, emailing, and electronic storage of information.

Common Duties

Administrative assistants and executives assistants share the following duties: Answering phones, creating documents, maintaining files, coordinating meetings, and providing clerical support for staff projects. In addition an executive assistant will conduct research, prepare reports, make travel arrangements, and possibly supervise lower-level clerical staff.

Administrative Assistants

Administrative assistants often function as receptionists, answering and transferring phone calls and greeting clients and visitors. Their work station is likely to be accessible to the public, and so they sign for and distribute UPS/FedEx packages. They often research and purchase office supplies and furniture and coordinate staff keys, parking spaces, and company credit cards.

Executive Assistants

In addition to research and report writing on behalf or the CEO, the executive assistant must smooth the way for the CEO. This can include booking flights and lodging for business trips, coordinating events, and acting as “gatekeeper”--managing access to the CEO. Executive assistants must understand the goals and priorities of the company. They often must have a college degree in the field in which the company specializes.

Career Information

The salary range in the United States for an administrative assistant averages $29,000 to $37,000, compared with $43,000 to $55,000 for an executive assistant. The growth of these positions is expected to be slow because of increasing automation and organizational restructuring. Workers proficient with computer software will have better job opportunities.


Je' Czaja has been writing and illustrating curricula, workbooks, newspaper articles and weekly columns for over 20 years. Her articles have been published in the "St. Augustine Record," the "Valdosta Daily Times," the "Sarasota Herald Tribune" and other regional newspapers. She attended Ringling School of Art, Charter Oak State College, and has a master's degree from the University of Metaphysics.

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