Administrative assistant vs. executive assistant: what’s the difference?

Administrative assistant vs. executive assistant: what’s the difference?

In some ways, an office is like a machine. Every moving part, big or small, is critical to the overall operation in performing its own specialized role. Support staff is the engine that powers the office, but different support staff members contribute very different assets to the overall output of the team. Here are some things to know about administrative assistants vs. executive assistants:

Who do you help?

There are a few different ways to look at the differences between these two jobs, but a key distinction can be highlighted by answering the question, “Who do you help?” While administrative assistants generally look after for the clerical and organizational needs of a whole office or department, an executive assistant tends to focus more specifically on the needs of a single executive. While the actual tasks of the job may look similar—answering phones, managing correspondence, booking meetings—the type of communication and overall approach can be very different. An executive assistant may be privy to very private information, typically reserved for high-up members of the company. Administrative assistants generally focus more on the day-to-day life of the office.

Difference between administrative assistant and executive assistant

What do you know?

Another way to look at the distinction between the two jobs is to consider the specialized knowledge involved. An organized, professional person with the ability to think on his or her feet may be qualified for an administrative assistant job right out of high school, while an executive assistant typically requires more specialized knowledge of the industry. Contrary to popular belief, many executive assistants hold post-secondary degrees and are experts in areas like business or organizational management. While a good administrative assistant will handle executing systems, a talented executive assistant might be tasked with designing the systems themselves.

Doing a better job

Which job is better?

Neither job is better! Both administrative assistants and executive assistants serve in a vital capacity in the company. This said, an executive assistant could earn up to $20,000 more a year, in comparison to an administrative assistant. The good news is that a dedicated administrative assistant can frequently climb the ladder to become an executive assistant, if that’s their goal. An administrative assistant who wishes to move up and increase their earning potential can improve the odds by acquiring specialized clerical knowledge related to a specific field like law or medicine, by networking and forming trustworthy relationships with people in the industry, or by going back to school. If you are an administrative assistant who someday hopes to work in an executive assistant capacity, talk to your boss or supervisor about your potential to move up in the company. Management may be more willing to help with your dreams if they have a clear picture of what those dreams look like.

The distinctions between similar roles might be difficult to perceive, but knowing the unique responsibilities of everyone in your office can help make the day-to-day grind run more smoothly. Be sure to take time regularly to appreciate what each member of your team contributes to the operation as a whole.