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How to Become a Personal Assistant

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A personal assistant offers administrative support to individuals as well as groups in both business and residential settings. They perform a variety of tasks-such as managing calendars, planning travel and answering telephones-that ensure that their employers' lives runs smoothly. To gain employment in this profession, first obtain job-specific skills and training.

The Right Demeanor

You must have a collection of innate and learnable qualities to become a personal assistant. You must be organized, as the primary responsibility of the position is to efficiently manage the professional and sometimes private life of your employer. You must have strong verbal and written communication skill to interact with a variety of individuals on your employer’s behalf. As a personal assistant, you must be honorable, because throughout the course of the work day, you will come in contact with confidential and sensitive information. The obligation to hold data in confidence may not only be required by the employer, but in some industries, such as healthcare, also by the law.

Education Needed

A college degree is not required to become a personal assistant. A high school diploma or its equivalent is often sufficient but you may need to get some computer training and boost your grammar and communication skills at a secondary or technical college. In addition, many temporary staffing agencies offer basic office skills training for those looking to enter the profession. To work in specific industries, such as medicine and law, you may need to take additional coursework to learn the jargon in the industry. It is possible that a bachelor’s degree will be required to become a personal assistant to senior executives.

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Getting Certified

Although getting a job in the field does not require certification, you may get a leg up on the competition by pursuing a credential. The International Association of Administrative Professionals provides the Certified Administrative Professional certification. This qualification lets potential employers know that the candidate is skilled in eight relevant content areas: communication, organization and planning, information distribution, records management, physical and information services, document production, financial functions and human resources. In addition to two to four years of professional administrative experience, you must successfully pass an exam to become CAP certified.

Potential Compensation

According to a May 2013 report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, secretaries and administrative assistants earned a median hourly wage of $17.90, or $37,230 per year. Those holding the title of "executive secretary" or "executive administrative assistant" earned a median hourly salary of $26.86, or $55,860 per annum.

About the Author

KJ Henderson has more than a decade of HR and talent acquisition experience. He has held roles at a Fortune 100 investment bank, a media conglomerate and at one of NYC's largest executive staffing firms. He currently heads recruitment sourcing at a major movie studio. He read literature at Oxford.

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