Personal assistant: job description

Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Personal assistants typically support managers and executives by undertaking administrative tasks. Find out about personal assistant skills, duties and more.

Laptop on an office desk: a personal assistant supports an individual with administrative tasks

What does a personal assistant do? | Personal assistant salaries | Typical employers of personal assistants | Qualifications and training for PAs | Personal assistant skills

A personal assistant (PA) typically carries out administrative work on behalf of one individual, unlike an administrator who tends to look after a team. This individual is usually a manager or executive in a commercial, not-for-profit or public sector organisation. The role of a PA is to free an executive’s time from administrative duties so that they can spend maximum time on strategic tasks.

Personal assistants often act as the manager's first point of contact.

Personal assistant responsibilities

A personal assistant’s typical duties include:

  • acting as a first point of contact for callers, dealing with emails and phone calls by responding, passing on messages or highlighting them for their manager’s attention
  • managing diaries and organising meetings and appointments, often controlling access to the manager/executive
  • booking and arranging travel, transport and accommodation
  • organising events and conferences
  • reminding the manager/executive of important tasks and deadlines
  • typing, compiling and preparing reports, presentations and correspondence
  • managing databases and filing systems
  • implementing and maintaining procedures/administrative systems
  • liaising with staff, suppliers and clients
  • collating and filing expenses
  • miscellaneous tasks to support their manager, which will vary according to the sector and to the manager’s remit, eg completing some corporate governance reporting (to ensure that the business is being run properly and complying with legislation and regulations) or conducting research.

PAs can also work for wealthy families or individuals. If this is the case, the work of the PA may also extend to maintaining the home or personal life of their boss, such as ensuring MOTs are up to date or hiring cleaners. Whether you work for an organisation or an individual, you may need to work irregular hours from time to time to support your manager.

The job title for this kind of role, and its seniority, will vary according to the employer. In some organisations, the job titles ‘personal assistant’ and ‘executive assistant’ are interchangeable. In others, an executive assistant is more senior than a personal assistant and will take on more responsibility, such as some corporate governance or team organisation work. In some organisations, a PA role is an entry-level job; in others, it requires a great deal of experience and is paid accordingly. Depending on the employer, too, a personal assistant role may be combined with that of an administrator or it may be a more senior position to which administrators can progress.

An office manager also provides a wide range of administrative support (see What does an office manager do? ) but does not focus on assisting one individual like a PA does.

The term ‘secretary’ or ‘personal secretary’ was previously used for personal assistant but it is now perceived as old fashioned and is rarely used for this role. Our secretary job description explains what a secretary does.

You may also see the term ‘personal assistant’ used to describe individuals who support people with disabilities with day-to-day tasks in their homes.

Personal assistant salaries

Salary survey websites indicate that starting salaries for PAs tend to be around £23,000. As mentioned above, this will depend on the seniority of the role and of the person being supported. Experienced PAs can earn up to around £40,000.

Typical employers of PAs

  • Large commercial organisations.
  • Local and central government organisations.
  • Charities.
  • Schools and educational organisations.
  • Health organisations.
  • Wealthy families and individuals.

Business management graduate jobs are advertised via local and national jobs boards and by recruitment agencies. Jobs in small organisations may be advertised on social media or local newsletters.

Qualifications and training required

No formal academic qualifications are required to become a PA, although some employers may require candidates to have A level/highers and a small minority may prefer degrees. If a degree is required, degrees in a communications, technology or business subject may be advantageous.

Employers sometimes require previous experience of administration or personal assistant work: often two years. This experience can often be gained via temping, which can, in turn, lead to permanent work. You could complete a business administration course online or via a further education college to boost your application for a PA role.

Take a look at our CV and application advice to see how you can write up your work experience on your CV.

Personal assistant skills

  • Discretion and trustworthiness: you will often be party of confidential information
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Organisational skills and the ability to multitask
  • The ability to be proactive and take the initiative
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Tact and diplomacy
  • A knowledge of standard software packages and the ability to learn company-specific software if required.

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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