Skip to main content

What does an Executive Assistant do?

School of Business August 8, 2019

Executive assistants, while similar to administrative assistants, are different in their own regard. Instead of handing the offices’ work or tasks, executive assistants are specifically assigned senior office staff member. They act as their right hand person to when it comes to project management, other administrative tasks, and an array of other tasks. If you are a quick thinker, can switch from task to task in fast paced work environments, and someone who considers themselves to have thick skin, becoming an executive assistant would be a great career choice.

At Robertson, our Business Administration – Executive Assistant Diploma Program both offered at our Calgary campus and online, prepares students for advanced administrative roles in an office environment, including comprehensive duties and planning, and assisting with events on both an organization and individual level. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know before starting your career journey to be an executive assistant.


Career overview

What does an Executive Assistant do?

If you have ever been curious about what executive assistants do, this article is for you. It’s a mysterious role, as many tend to confuse it with an administrative assistant. We are here to clarify that while there are some similarities, they are in fact very different.

The role of an executive assistant, or the job description, will change and be specific to whatever company the executive assistant is working. For example, if you’re working with the CFO of Glossier, your tasks will be different than if you’re working with the upper level manager of a local insurance company. No matter where you are working as an executive assistant, there will never be one typical day. That is the great thing about entering a career as an executive assistant, you can expect to have different tasks every single day.

Executive assistants work directly with specific members of upper management and are generally responsible for the following: accounting and bookkeeping, calendar management, client relations, design and maintain filing systems, arrange travel plans, and much more. We go into the responsibilities of executive assistants in further depth below.

On top of all the typical administrative assistant tasks, they often act as representatives, working with clients and organizations on behalf of executives, and may coordinate public relations activities.


What is the Required Education and Training?

When it comes to beginning your career as an executive assistant, aspiring candidates must complete at least a high school diploma. This is typically expected for most administrative positions. It’s also likely that hiring managers will look for candidates who have a college certificate or diploma. When it comes to executive assistants, hiring managers will look for someone with a certificate or diploma specific to business administration or related fields. While it’s not required, having a diploma, degree, or certificate is a great way to make yourself more appealing in the job application process.

The reason hiring managers will look for executive assistants who have specific administrative training is because they want to hire candidates who have the proper training and experience. Online certificate and diploma programs typically incorporate hands-on training that ensures students are prepared and have the necessary skills and education to fulfill the position.

At Robertson, students who take the Business Administration – Executive Assistant Diploma Program will learn:


· Administrative office procedures
· Keyboarding
· MS Office programs
· Business Communications and writing
· Customer Service
· Human resources basics
· Organizational behavior
· Executive management
· Employee legislation
· Recruitment and selection

At Robertson, students take part in a compulsory 4-week full time work practicum where they work alongside industry professionals in an executive assistant role. This is a great opportunity for students to meet and network with industry professionals and figure out what type of office or work area you want to work in after graduation. Regardless of where you study, whether online or in the classroom, the program you take should be equipped with the resources and education you will need to find a job after graduation. At Robertson, we offer career services to students and graduates, which includes resume and cover letter development, help with the job search, and interview preparation.

Most executive assistant positions require between three and five years of experience working in an office environment, usually as an administrative assistant. Learn more about working as an administrative assistant here.


What are the necessary key skills?

While there are many hard skills executive assistants can learn in the classroom or through work experience, there are many soft skills that executive assistants must exemplify. It’s very important for executive assistants to pay attention to how they come across. Since they are often times the person communicating with the executive’s clients, it’s important they have great customer service and remain polite at all times.

Here are the following soft skills an aspiring executive assistant should have:


1. Communication

Executive assistants often act as the go-to person to their executive. They decide which messages and which visitors or calls need to go directly to their employer, or which they can handle themselves. They have the say on whether they should redirect messages or to directly deal with it. This decision involves the ability to articulate messages and pass along information to their boss. This includes communicating clearly both verbally and in writing.


2. Time Management

One thing to note if you’re interested in becoming an executive assistant is to not expect a typical 9-5. Since you are managing both your time and another person’s time, it’s important to have a really good grasp on managing time and maintaining a schedule.


3. Trustworthiness

As an executive assistant, you will typically work with very sensitive information and often times, private information. The executive you work for must feel like they can trust you with the information and trust that you will not speak to anyone about it. This also includes having a high level of integrity and discretion.


4. Multi-tasking

On most days, executive assistants will handle more than one task at a time. Not only do they have their own tasks to deal with, but they’re also responsible for keeping tabs on their boss’s schedule and making sure they are on track. You must consider yourself a great multi-tasker before jumping into a career as an executive assistant.



Executive Assistant Responsibilities

Like mentioned above, no two days are the same when working as an executive assistant. One day you could be picking up dry cleaning and organizing a work trip and the next day you could be filling out a spreadsheet. Since executive assistants are typically working on many different projects and tasks, the work you are doing is entirely dependent on your boss and their needs. When reading the list below, keep in mind that executive assistants must b able to step outside of their job description, meaning they often have to take on outside responsibilities. Below, we will outline the array of responsibilities an executive assistant could have on any given work day.


· Calendar management
· Acting as a point of contact
· Client relations
· Organize meetings
· Arrange travel plans
· Typing
· Event planning
· Prepare reports
· Accounting
· Bookkeeping
· Processing expense reports
· Take meeting minutes
· Keep records
· Drafting communications (PowerPoints, speeches, etc)
· Conducting research


Some of the daily tasks include:

· Acting as a liaison and first point of contact with clients and organizations
· Reviewing and filtering all incoming mail, emails, calls, and faxes
· Managing the executives daily schedule, setting up personal and professional appointments, and organizing meetings
· Preparing presentations and documents
· Making recommendations and relaying information
· Filing and organizing documents


Become an executive assistant

Before entering any career, it’s important to know what to expect when it comes to salary. As an executive assistant, the salaries vary depending on many factors including where you work, what province you are in, how much experience you have, your hours, and many other factors. According to Neuvoo, the average executive assistant is $49,834 per year. Entry level positions begin at $35,000 and more experienced workers can make up to $70,000 per year.


Start the job search

Once you have completed the necessary education and have the proper work experience, you can begin your executive assistant job search. There are many incredible resources online to use when beginning your job search. To begin, it’s important to create a detailed, accurate, and up-to-date resume and cover letter. To learn how to write a great resume and cover letter, view our guide here.

It’s normal to start your career off in an administrative assistant position and to work your way up to an executive assistant role. Do not feel discouraged if this happens – it’s normal.

No matter where you choose to study, the institution you study at should provide you with job search assistance after graduation. At Robertson, we offer career services to students and graduates, which includes resume and cover letter development, help with the job search, and interview preparation.


Becoming an executive assistant is a great career choice for those who enjoy fast-paced administrative work. If you are undecided or are interested in learning more, Robertson’s Business Administration—Executive Assistant Diploma Program is a great option for students who want to complete their education online or at our Calgary campus As a part of Robertson’s School of Business, it is a program that equips students with the necessary office administrative skills and knowledge to prepare them to work effectively as an executive assistant. Connect with a Student’s Admissions Advisor for more information.

Ready to Get Started?

Once you take the first step, one of our Student Admissions Advisors will get in touch to better understand your goals for the future.