Personal assistants (PAs), also known as senior or executive secretaries or executive assistants, provide administrative support to senior members of staff, usually a manager or director. Their main aim is to help reduce their manager’s workload, implementing systems and procedures that make business operations more efficient.

Often trusted to take the initiative and deal with enquires on their manager’s behalf, their duties may include:

· screening telephone calls
· maintaining diaries, arranging appointments and sorting travel plans
· organising meetings and conferences
· creating letters/reports/presentations and other documentation
· handling correspondence
· devising office systems and possibly managing a large team of junior administrators
· selecting and organising corporate entertaining.

A PA usually works between 37 and 40 hours a week, often from 9.00am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required to meet deadlines or attend evening events. Part-time, job sharing and temporary opportunities are available.

Salaries range from £19,000 for entry-level administrators supporting directors and senior managers, and can potentially reach £42,000 a year for highly accomplished PAs.

A PA should have:

· outstanding organisational skills
· strong interpersonal and communication skills
· ability to work efficiently under pressure, multitask and prioritise workloads
· tact and discretion
· an excellent command of the English language and grammar
· an interest in business and commerce.

Employment opportunities exist in private and public sectors, from large organisations to small enterprises. As almost all companies have a need for a PA, roles are not tied to any specific locations and can be found in most towns and all cities. There may be higher competition for PA posts in some sectors, for instance the arts and entertainment industries or legal profession.

There are no set entry qualifications, but many PAs have higher-level qualifications and/or experience working in an administrative office or clerical role. As well as GCSEs (A*-C) in English and maths, employers may view qualifications in business studies, ICT and a foreign language favourably. The Diploma in business, administration and finance may be relevant to this area of work. Apprenticeships, lasting between one and two years may be available.

Training is usually on the job. Many employers offer in-house structured training programmes, with an emphasis on continuing professional development (CPD) and career progression. The Institute for Professional Administrators provides a voluntary CPD scheme for members. NVQs and Advanced and Higher Diplomas are available in business and administration.

PAs may progress to manage a team of administrators, work for a more senior director, move business areas or, with training and qualifications, become a chartered company secretary.

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