How to become a Personal Assistant. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
As a personal assistant or ‘PA’, it would be your job to help ease your manager’s workload by providing secretarial support and dealing with a range of administrative tasks.
Your duties might include:
- screening telephone calls and handling enquiries
- organising your manager’s diary and making appointments
- dealing with letters and emails
- using a computer to produce letters, reports and presentations
- arranging meetings
- organising and maintaining office systems
- taking minutes of meetings
- making travel arrangements
- looking after visitors.
Many managers rely heavily on their PA and give them a high level of responsibility, so in some jobs you may have extra tasks such as:
- standing in for the manager in their absence
- acting as office manager and supervising other administrative staff
- dealing with accounts and budgets
- taking on project work, such as research or writing reports.
You may also be known as an executive secretary or executive assistant.
Your typical working week would be standard office hours Monday to Friday, possibly with extra hours to meet deadlines. Part-time work may be available.
You would be office-based, but you may sometimes travel to attend meetings and other events.
How much does a Personal Assistant earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries are around £21,000 to £28,000 a year.
- Earnings in some large organisations can reach £33,000 to £44,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To work as a PA, you should have proven experience of administrative work. You should be computer literate and able to use a variety of office computer software. Extra skills like shorthand or audio typing will be an advantage.
Office temping can be a good first step into secretarial work. You may also be able to get into this type of work through an Apprenticeship scheme. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Employers will look for a good standard of general education, and you may have an advantage with some GCSEs including English, or a recognised qualification in administration such as:
- BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in Business (Administration)
- the 14-19 Diploma in Business, Administration and Finance
- work-based qualifications such as the NVQ Certificate and Diploma in Business and Administration at levels 1-4 (replaces NVQs in Business and Administration from 2010)
- City & Guilds Certificate in Business and Administration
- OCR Certificates and Diplomas in Administration (Business Professional), levels 2 and 3
- Education Development International (LCCI) Awards in Business Administration, levels 1, 2 and 3
- secretarial qualifications such as awards in word processing or audio-transcription (available from a range of awarding bodies such as City & Guilds, OCR and EDI LCCI).
Most further education colleges offer a wide range of full- and part-time courses in administration. Some private secretarial colleges also offer full-time intensive courses. Please check with colleges for exact entry requirements.
Foreign language qualifications can also be useful for many jobs.
Although not essential, having a business-related BTEC HND or degree could help you find a job with a higher level of responsibility.
Training and Development
You will be trained on the job in company procedures and systems. You may also be able to work towards an advanced qualification in business administration whilst you are employed.
Relevant qualifications include:
- OCR Level 3 and 4 Certificate and Diploma in Administration (Business Professional)
- NVQ Diploma in Business and Administration at levels 3 and 4.
As your career progresses, you may find it useful to join the Institute of Professional Administrators (formerly the Institute of Qualified Professional Secretaries), for networking and professional development opportunities.
Skills and Knowledge
- excellent organisational skills
- good written and spoken communication skills
- accuracy and attention to detail
- a calm and professional manner
- ‘multi-tasking’ ability
- excellent computer and administrative skills
- a flexible and adaptable approach to work
- the ability to work on your own initiative
- tact and discretion, for dealing with confidential information.
You could work as a PA in all kinds of company, particularly in larger companies, education, local authorities, central government and the media.
Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, Jobcentre Plus, and by recruitment agencies.
With experience, you could take on more responsibility by moving to a larger company or working for a more senior manager. Promotion into management may also be possible.