Job profile – Become a Personal Assistant

Entry level: 4

Qualifications and courses

There are no specific qualifications required but employers do want you to have a good standard of general education, including GCSE/National 5 passes in English and Maths. A business-related BTEC or HND could help you find a position with greater responsibilities.

You may find it useful to have an NVQ Level 2 and/or 3 in Business and Administration or a City & Guilds Certificate/Diploma in Business and Administration. Advanced Apprenticeships are also available.

Some employers may expect a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Any subject is acceptable, but business, administration, secretarial studies and management degrees may increase your chances.

Previous experience, usually about 2 years, in other administrative or clerical roles is vital. For this reason graduates are unlikely to enter directly into a PA position. Since junior level administrative roles are very competitive, registering with temp agencies could be the best way to gain initial experience.

To show your commitment to the career, it may be beneficial to take the Executive Secretary’s Diploma offered by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) International Qualifications or Pitman Training’s Executive PA Diploma. These are also useful for developing desirable skills such as shorthand and audio typing. A foreign language can also be helpful.

What the work involves

Personal assistants ease the workload of senior managers and directors, allowing businesses to run more efficiently. They are responsible for administrative and secretarial duties.

You will work on a one-to-one basis with your manager, often making decisions on their behalf and representing them at events.

It will be your job to organise efficient administrative systems, both paper and IT based. You will maintain diaries, take minutes, answer phone calls, greet visitors, write letters and arrange meetings and travel.

Type of person suited to this work

Excellent organisational skills are essential. The role involves juggling several things at once so you need to be adaptable, efficient and able to work to deadlines. You will have to follow instructions but also use your initiative and manage your own workload.

You will need a good knowledge of the company you work for and you may have to deal with budgets. Strong written and verbal communication skills are a must.

You should be discreet and reliable as you may be dealing with confidential information. Excellent IT skills are essential in this role.

Working conditions

You will work in an office and your hours will mainly be 9am–5pm but occasionally you may have to work overtime to meet deadlines.

As the role involves frequent contact with colleagues and clients, you will be expected to dress quite formally.

Future prospects

Developments in artificial intelligence are reshaping administrative roles. Whilst some functions have become largely redundant, communication and interpersonal skills are becoming increasingly valued. Many administrative employees are acquiring new skills in areas such as finance and marketing.

With experience, PAs can progress rapidly to senior roles with increased responsibility and the possibility of managing junior employees.

PAs gain insight into all aspects of a business and these skills can be transferred to roles in other sectors, such as human resources or public relations.

There are opportunities to work throughout the UK and, if you have language skills, abroad.

Experienced PAs can become self-employed as ‘virtual assistants’, working from home for a range of clients.

Advantages/disadvantages

The job can be varied and interesting with a lot of responsibility.

If you have a good working relationship with your manager then the role can be very rewarding.

As you work in a support role, it can be frustrating if your contribution is not recognised within the company.

Money guide

Salaries vary according to the size and type of company you work for and your level of responsibility.

Wages tend to be higher in London and south-east England.

A starting salary tends to be around £18,000 to £25,000 per year.

A senior personal assistant in a large company could achieve a salary of up to £50,000.

Further information

Institute of Administrative Management
London Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Instructus Skills

Job profile from Careers 2019 (9781911067894).

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