If you’ve been running a business for a while, you’ve doubtless been advised at some point to consider getting an assistant.
Two of the most common are administrative and executive assistants—both take care of day-to-day tasks, greatly increasing efficiency while keeping costs low. But which one should you get? And are they even different?
This comparison of executive assistant vs administrative assistant will answer those questions. Though before we get underway, we should note that they are different. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have this article after all.
So while you can’t go wrong with either, they aren’t interchangeable. Each one has particular strengths, suited for specific niches. And if you want to get the most out of what you pay for, you’ll need to understand what those are.
- An admin assistant supports a group—a team, department, or small business—by carrying out routine work that improves overall efficiency.
- An executive assistant works with specific high-level officers, providing strategic support through both routine work and situation-based problem-solving.
- Understanding your needs, priorities, and business setup will help you determine which type of assistant will get you better results.
Understanding the Roles: Administrative Assistant vs Executive Assistant
First off, let’s clarify what each of these roles really entails. There’s a bit of confusion surrounding them, after all, and without laying the groundwork, it’ll be hard to do a proper comparison.
So here, we’ll be covering each role’s core definition and functions, including where they (typically) fit into a business’ organizational structure.
What is an Administrative Assistant?
An administrative assistant handles office support, clerical work, and other tasks that help a team or department function more efficiently. These tasks usually focus on the organization of documents, schedules, and databases.
If that sounds like secretarial work, that’s because it does: what admin assistants and secretaries do is practically the same. It’s not just the terminology that’s changed over time, though.
Over the past decade, the rise of gig work, remote working, and virtual co-working platforms have changed the way administrative duties are performed. Where secretaries may have once overseen the state of a physical office, now virtual assistants handle cloud drives, virtual kanbans, business inboxes, and more.
Some of their most common tasks are:
- Arranging team meetings
- Managing incoming mail and documents
- Route calls or messages to appropriate team members
- Prepare memos, invoices, or reports
- Collate documents and maintain databases
- Basic bookkeeping or data entry
- Assisting with forms or other paperwork
Overall, an admin assistant focuses on making routine work more efficient. By handling this sort of rote work, other employees have more time to spend on their specializations and more energy to do focused work.
Typically they perform such services for a department, though they can also work for a small business. Admin assistants can work individually or in teams, depending on the size of the group they’re serving.
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What is an Executive Assistant?
An executive assistant serves as support to a high-level officer in a company. They handle a variety of tasks for them to help them make better use of their time.
An EA does this primarily by organizing their schedule, screening their messages, and handling various administrative duties that keep their office in order. EAs also help track and manage projects an executive oversees and may liaise on their behalf with various stakeholders.
As with administrative assistants, the role of EA has also changed with the advent of remote work and the gig economy. Many EAs now work remotely, and while many still work for an individual executive, it’s become increasingly common for them to work part-time for multiple clients at once.
Here’s what an executive assistant does on a typical day:
- Organizing an executive’s schedule and scheduling (or declining) meetings
- Sorting and prioritizing messages; drafting messages
- Planning trips or events
- Keeping track of projects the executive is managing
- Handling documents, files, and databases crucial to the executive’s office
- Helping manage relationships with stakeholders
- Ad hoc tasks that facilitate any of these
Ultimately, an EA helps an executive be as productive with their time as possible—and their role tends to be flexible to accommodate this.
In addition to routine administrative tasks, an EA has to balance their executive’s long-term goals with the immediate demands of their office. It requires the ability to think quickly while keeping an eye on the big picture, as well as a fair amount of diplomacy and people skills.
Comparing Benefits: Admin Assistant vs Executive Assistant
It should be clear by now that while admin and executive assistants do much of the same type of work, they have considerably different priorities. Accordingly, this means that the benefits you get from each one are different.
Benefits of Hiring an Administrative Assistant
Cost-Effectiveness (for Routine Tasks and Responsibilities)
A large part of the appeal of admin assistants is their low cost. The average pay for admin assistants in the US is just under twenty $20 per hour. It’s a great way to increase your team’s overall capacity for work without significantly affecting your budget.
Virtual assistants cost even less, with services often costing $10 an hour or less; they also let you save on overhead costs.
Improved Efficiency in Business Operations
A lot of work that goes on in offices is fairly simple but can be tedious. On one hand, it builds up into bottlenecks if left unchecked; but on the other hand, it can quickly bog you down if you attend to it every day.
Admin assistants focus on this sort of routine work, which means that having one can shave a bit of time off your team’s work day by day. This adds up quite a lot over time, leading to consistent improvements in efficiency.
Basic Administrative Support
There are, of course, various benefits to having someone dedicated to admin work. Organized documents make for easy reference. Messages and calls answered promptly can improve relations with stakeholders.
Well-managed schedules waste less time. Properly filed forms reduce the risk of costly penalties. And these are all things an admin assistant can help with.
Benefits of Hiring an Executive Assistant
Strategic Support for Senior Management
Executive assistants provide support in many forms, determined less by what they do (day-to-day tactics) than by what they’re working toward (strategic goals). EAs can help executives solve a wide range of problems by adapting to whatever obstacles they face.
Handling Complex Tasks and Priorities
Experienced EAs, who understand their executive’s habits, as well as the business’ priorities and capabilities, are quite capable of solving a wide range of problems. They can also provide support in more advanced roles, such as project management, planning and logistics.
Increased Productivity and Focus for Decision-Makers
Since EAs can handle tasks ranging from clerical work to situational problem-solving, they can take quite a lot of work off an executive’s plate. An EA saves several hours of work each week while costing a small fraction of an executive’s salary.
Furthermore, with an EA’s support in organization and time management, the hours their client does spend working are spent more effectively, with fewer distractions or interruptions.
Main Differences Between Administrative Assistant and Executive Assistant
To bring this to a close, it’s worth stating the main differences between administrative and executive assistants.
An admin assistant works for a group (a team, department, or small business) and handles office support and clerical work. They carry out routine work to consistently improve efficiency.
An executive assistant supports specific high-level officers (possibly just one), primarily by managing their schedule and messages, and by assisting with projects they manage. In addition to these routine tasks, they provide strategic support by solving problems and offering advice.
Admin assistants need organizational and time management skills and should be proficient with basic office tools (physical or virtual, as suits their role). Admin assistants may also have specific knowledge or certifications depending on their industry, as with legal or medical admin assistants.
Executive assistants need organizational and time management skills, as well as excellent communication and interpersonal skills. They should generally have at least a few years of business experience, ideally in the field of the executive they support.
When it comes to executive assistant vs administrative assistant costs, EAs generally charge a higher rate (or have a higher salary) than admin assistants.
Executive Assistant vs Administrative Assistant: Which One Do You Need?
Getting the wrong kind of assistant won’t necessarily leave you worse off, but it could fall short of your needs. Take this in mind when hiring an assistant:
What are your needs and priorities?
If your team is short on time, an admin assistant may be what you need. Conversely, if the problem is leadership stretched too thin, an executive assistant would be better.
What’s your budget?
Executive assistants cost more to hire, which should factor into your choice. But consider other resources, too, such as the time you’ll need for onboarding or the tools you’ll need to equip them with (especially for in-person or hybrid assistants).
How will they integrate into the team?
A clear reporting structure is essential to make this arrangement work, especially with virtual assistants. Even if an admin assistant works for a whole team, for example, it should be clear who sets their direction and assesses their work.
Get A Virtual Assistant With Magic
Whether you need a virtual admin assistant or executive assistant, Magic can find one for you. Tell us what sort of work you need done, or what problems you’re facing, and we’ll find someone who can get the job done — we can also help you determine which sort of assistant suits you best.
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