Admin assistant vs executive assistant: what’s the difference?
If you are someone who was never sure of the distinction and overlaps between these two positions, don’t worry. You aren’t alone.
Here, we will go through 10 main facets of these job positions. Our goal is to help you understand each of them and be able to tell them apart. Let’s get started!
1. Comparison of Roles
Their responsibilities center around administrative tasks or back-office duties. These are usually organizational in nature and require those who are good managers of time, personnel, and, at times, resources. Every industry has administrative needs, whether it’s finance, medicine, or fashion. Admin assistants can also have specialized roles and responsibilities depending on the company, department, or industry they work in. For instance, an admin assistant could be proficient in areas like inbox management and CRM. Their clerical role helps keep the office running and running smoothly.
As the name suggests, their focus is making the lives of chief executives easier. Their role usually molds around the specific needs of their bosses. These assistants may also work on administrative tasks, but they have other main roles. Companies can hire them on to perform project management tasks, administrative duties and even fulfill the role of an executive PA (personal assistant).
2. Duties and Responsibilities
- Maintain complete and regularly updated records
- Create and maintain a data filing system
- Organize and filter emails and other communications
- Respond to communications
- Prepare internal and external communications for teams, departments, clients, etc.
- Schedule internal and external meeting and maintain calendars
- Perform some bookkeeping and customer service duties
- Help prepare documents and reports
- Perform research
- Keep track of office inventory and schedule restocks
EAs also perform the above administrative duties, just at a higher level. Other than admin, an executive virtual assistant can help your business by taking on management and leadership duties.
An EA can:
- Schedule meetings and follow up with high-profile clients
- Serve as the point of contact between other executives, clients, and partners
- Manage the executive’s emails and perform inbox management duties
- Make travel arrangements for executives and teams
- Create reports and presentations
- Take minutes for important meetings
- Attend and sometimes lead meetings on behalf of executives
- Manage other admin assistants
- Perform project management duties
Note: These lists are not exhaustive but hopefully they help you compare admin assistant vs executive assistant duties.
3. Skills Required
Here are some of the most common skills companies ask/look for when hiring for these positions.
- Organization skills
- Time management skills
- Software and tools skills (Ex. Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, Slack, etc.)
- Attention to detail
- Proficiency in written and verbal communication (and adapting to the type of content being written)
- Flexibility and Resourcefulness
- Problem-solving skills (able to come up with solutions to various problems)
- Adaptability (able to learn new skills to tackle different admin responsibilities and evolving technology requirements)
- Research skills
- Inbox management skills
- Some employers may also also include bookkeeping, CRM (customer relationship management), and social media management skills
- All the above administration skills +
- Leadership skills
- Observation and proactivity
- Project management skills
- Travel management and logistic skills
- Oral communication and presentation skills
- Scheduling, calendar management, and planning skills
- Interpersonal and networking skills
- Negotiation skills
- Strategic thinking and planning
4. Authority and Decision-Making
They do have a level of autonomy as far as managing their tasks, but they must report to their supervisor. As a support role, they don’t normally make decisions that impact business operations.
EAs do possess some executive power, able to delegate tasks and convey instructions on behalf of executives. They can also manage other admin assistants.
5. Educational Requirement
There really isn’t any hard degree requirement for either of these positions. Companies tend to focus more on skills and work experience. A lot of admin assistant interview questions center on software and hard skills. However, if you do have a degree, that is always a plus.
Some applicable degrees include:
- Business administration
- Business management
- Office administration
- Human resources
Because of the level of responsibility associated with the position, most companies look for degrees almost as a security measure. These tend to stand out on a resume and can give them more confidence in a candidate’s abilities.
Hiring managers also typically look for valuable certifications as well. This includes courses related to software proficiency.
However, we all know that a degree isn’t always everything. There are many well-known successful people without a degree. A fresh business administration graduate and a college dropout with 10 years of admin assistant experience are two different things. When choosing candidates, consider real experience on top of knowledge of business principles. When creating your executive assistant job descriptions, know which qualifications are flexible and which ones you won’t compromise on.
6. Work Experience
Speaking of experience…
When talking about admin assistant vs executive assistant experience requirements, the former definitely has it easier. They could very well get an admin position or get hired as an admin or general VA at the entry level. Industry specific experience is valuable, especially if they are looking for higher-level positions.
EAs typically have to start from a lower-ranking position and work their way up. It isn’t uncommon to see an admin assistant graduate to this position after many years of hard work. A history of working closely with high-ranking individuals of other companies will definitely breed more trust in their capabilities.
Note: While rare, some businesses can prefer EA candidates with less experience. One reason is that blank slates can be easier to mold to a company-specific work culture, practice, methods, SOPs, etc.
7. Salary and Compensation
There are several factors that affect rate: skill level, experience, scope of work, country, and specialization.
Here are the estimated hourly rates for three tiers of admin work.
Entry-level – $8-$10/hr
Mid-level – $15-$25/hr
Expert level – $30+/hr
Naturally, EAs tend to have higher rates even in lower tiers due to ability, workload, experience, and position.
If you’re looking for more entry level EAs, you’re looking at around $15/hr.
Generally, though, you can expect more experienced EAs to charge between $25-$50/hr depending on the load.
8. Confidentiality and Discretion
The nature of the roles means they will have access to sensitive data.
For one, they usually handle client and customer information and contacts. If they are in charge of inbox management, that also gives them access to emails and the information within. If performing bookkeeping duties, they handle information regarding company spending habits and cash flow. They may also have access to information contained in certain reports and documents. This is usually confined to their departments, though.
EAs are privy to a lot more sensitive information at a much higher level. Not only do EAs interact with high-profile clients, they also interact with business partners and executives of other companies. They arrange travel and meetings, meaning they are privy to the whereabouts of these individuals. They typically also have access to company credit cards and make purchases on behalf of executives. Important documents usually go through them before reaching the higher-ups.
9. Interaction with Management
They typically report to their team leader or managing director. Administration is generally holistic. Because of this, assistants may sometimes report to other department heads and staff.
An EA reports directly to executives and sometimes works together with other department heads and team managers. Executive assistants can also often be in charge of other admin staff.
10. Career Path and Advancement
Admin assistance is a good foundation for a number of different career advancement options. One we’ve already discussed is working their way up to higher levels of administrative support roles like the executive assistant. Another option is to become managers and supervisors themselves. If they pursue specialization, they could go on to be higher-ranking members of accounting, IT, or HR departments. They could also venture into the medical, legal, or finance industries and use their admin skills there.
Executive assistants also have a few options available. For one, they could continue being EAs to even more high-ranking CEOs or executives of larger and more prestigious companies. Another role that an EA can build towards is that of chief of staff. These people have advisory and executive roles. They help make better decisions for the company and help to ensure the best execution of company vision. EAs themselves can also attempt to move into higher-ranking positions themselves as directors, chief business officers, and even business owners.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the main difference between an administrative assistant and an executive assistant?
Administrative assistant is a lower-ranking support position. They can specialize in several fields like accounting or even become managers and EAs themselves. They report to the department heads, managers, or team leaders they are under.
Executive assistants are high-ranking support positions that include managerial roles. Depending on their role, they could also need specialized knowledge in certain areas. However, the main thing is that they report to executives directly.
2. Are the roles of admin and executive assistants interchangeable?
There are some overlaps, especially when it comes to administration tasks like scheduling, filing, and managing communications. However, EAs execute tasks at a higher level than admin assistants (hence the name), and thus, hold more power.
3. Can an administrative assistant be promoted to an executive assistant?
Absolutely! It’s one potential career path an admin assistant can embark on. This does bank on their abilities and may take a few years and promotions to other positions along the way.
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When talking about admin assistants vs executive assistants, you can see how easy it is to confuse the two. However, by breaking down the positions into ten main areas, it’s much easier now to see how they are distinct.