The Job Duties of Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

secretary on the phone taking notes
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Both executive secretaries and administrative assistants provide advanced administrative support for one or two executives or managers. But what separates these office positions from other more clerical and routine office jobs is the level of responsibility and confidentiality associated with them.

In addition to basic office functions, the administrative assistant and executive secretary are also responsible for writing or preparing reports, organizing and scheduling meetings, reviewing incoming messages to determine their significance, preparing agendas for board meetings, making travel arrangements, compiling meeting minutes, conducting research, preparing correspondence, and supervising and training junior level office staff.

These roles may require different levels of experience and have any of these similar job titles:

  • Entry-level Administrative Assistant
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Senior Administrative Assistant
  • Executive Secretary
  • Senior Executive Secretary
  • Office Manager
  • Senior Office Manager

Note: Legal and medical assistant positions are quite different and require special training demanded in the profession in which they work.

Differences Between Administrative Assistants and Executive Secretaries

The roles of executive secretaries and administrative assistants have considerable overlap, and the differences in the roles can vary by organization. In some cases, the executive secretary focuses on more administrative duties for a manager or executives, such as meeting scheduling, travel planning, handling written communications and even bookkeeping. An administrative assistant may focus on more business operations tasks and take on more of a leadership role in some capacities, creating agendas for meetings or conferences, managing budgets, and handling vendor billing.

Administrative assistants may be required to have a more specialized education in some cases where managing business operations is critical.

Core Job Skills

Both executive secretaries and administrative assistants have a core set of job skills that are essential in either role. These include exceptional organizational skills, excellent written and oral communication abilities, as well as a strong attention to detail and professionalism. They must possess technical proficiency with office automation tools, including software essentials like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as bookkeeping tools such as QuickBooks

Administrative Assistant or Executive Secretary in a Small Office

In a small office, the responsibilities of an administrative assistant or executive secretary are usually carried out by a variety of office staff. Some work may actually be done by the executives of the company themselves, and the administrative assistant or executive secretary roles may encompass a greater variety of responsibilities as needed in the smaller organization.

Administrative Assistant or Executive Secretary in a Medium Office

As the size of a company increases, the need for a person that is highly organized and can perform a wide variety of tasks increases. This is especially true for executives that run companies requiring high levels of confidentiality and integrity for the business that is being conducted.

Administrative Assistant or Executive Secretary in a Large Office

It is common for a large office to have several administrative assistants and/or executive secretaries. At this company size, it is usually necessary to have an office manager that coordinates the staff that services the executives of the company. In some cases, an administrative assistant will accompany the executive on long business trips in order to assist with meeting arrangements, scheduling, and other important organizational tasks.