Executive Assistant vs Administrative Assistant – Salary and Job Description Duties

Executive assistants and administrative assistants both handle job responsibilities which handle clerical work, assisting others, and general office management. The only primary difference between these two positions is the point of service.

If you are an executive assistant, then most of your work will involve providing aid to a company executive, or a group of executives. As an administrative assistant, you’re providing general office management duties for a department or team.

Both positions require the use of computers in the workplace. You’ll be responsible for knowing how to use copiers, phone systems, and fax machines. You may be asked to take notes at department or company meetings, train new staff members, and direct visitors as to where they need to go.

What Are the Job Duties of an Executive Assistant?

Executive assistants are often called upon to organize the schedule of a specific member of the C-Suite or a group of executives. The job duties would include calendar management, daily schedule management, and appointment setting. Some executive assistants are asked to directly supervise the administrative assistants in the office.

Some may be asked to prepare documents, letters, slides, or demonstrations that would be used by the executive team for a presentation. There may also be duties assigned that are similar to an administrative assistant.

To become an executive assistant, most agencies require at least some sort of post-secondary education. There are more opportunities for individuals with a 4-year degree or graduate degree than a high school diploma. Some administrative assistants can substitute direct work experience for the educational requirements some agencies may stipulate.

What Are the Job Duties of an Administrative Assistant?

Administrative assistants are often responsible for entering data into corporate databases. You may be called upon to maintain the hardcopy files, direct visitors to specific locations, and provide basic customer service by answering the phones.

There are industry-specific responsibilities that some administrative assistants may be called upon to do as well. A medical administrative assistant would be asked to file medical records, schedule appointments or follow-ups, and ensure patients have filled out their paperwork properly for each visit.

A legal administrative assistant might be asked to organize documents for court filings, perform basic research, and other specific tasks as requested while being supervised by paralegals or attorneys.

Most individuals qualify for an entry-level administrative position with some basic office skills and a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. To increase your chances of being hired, a 2-year of 4-year degree may be necessary. Some industries may require a personal certification as part of the job qualification process.

Training Requirements for Executive Assistants and Administrative Assistants

Both job positions require general office skills. Some firms may require job applicants to prove they have experience in word processing, keyboarding, or information management. You may be asked to test your skills through a typing test, quizzes about specific programs, or small group discussions.

As with any new position, executive assistants and administrative assistants must go through a period of new employee orientation. This may include what is called a “probationary period” of employment. During a probationary period, the employer reserves the right to terminate a job offer if rules are violated or the employee doesn’t seem like a good fit in the company.
Any probationary period that applies must be clearly communicated to the employee as part of the job offer.

Small Office vs Big Office Positions for These Professionals

Although the job duties for executive assistants and administrative assistants are similar, they are also very different based on the type of employer that has offered the position.

Working in a small office is a different experience when compared to working in a large office.

Here are some of the differences to expect when comparing the same position in each unique office setting.

  • Small office executive assistants may support the entire leadership team. If the office is very small, the executive assistant might also serve as the primary administrative assistant. Some tasks might be taken on by the company executives instead of delegating them to these positions.
  • In a medium-sized office position, there is more separation between the executive and administrative assistants. Each team will have an administrative assistant, while there may be on executive assistant. In this situation, the executive assistant would likely serve the CEO (or equivalent), while each administrative assistant would report to a department supervisor.
  • In a large office setting, there are teams of executive assistants and administrative assistants who work together. Some firms may even create a separate department for these positions. More coordination is required in this office setting, with some workers even asked to travel with the executive team on business trips to help with organization, scheduling, and appointments.

Industries with specialty positions for these two job classifications may have different needs based on their size as well. A small doctor’s office might ask their administrative assistants to manage appointments, answer the phones, and take care of billing needs. Large offices might hire an administrative assistant for each specific need: one would answer the phone, one would perform billing, and so on.

Executive Assistant vs Administrative Assistant: Salaries to Expect

In the United States, the base salary for an Executive Assistant begins at $56,000. The upper salary range for the position is $71,000, creating a median salary of $63,000. Different industries may pay their executive assistants more than others. Larger agencies with a position that serves the President or CEO may pay more than smaller agencies where this position might support the entire C-Suite.

Administrative Assistants in the United States earn a median salary of $41,000 in the United States. Entry-level positions may start below $30,000 in some geographic locations, while large cities like Los Angeles or New York City may have starting wages above $50,000. There are boosts in pay for administrative assistants with a degree, 5 years of relevant work experience, or a combination of the two.

Both positions tend to offer a higher salary to employees who hold a professional certification.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States forecasts that both positions will have demand levels grow by 3% in the next decade.

Executive assistants and administrative assistants both play critical roles for their employer. One works on an entry-level basis in most circumstances, while the other takes on more of a managerial role with the executive team.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.