How to Become a Personal Assistant

Young woman sitting at a desk and speaking on the phone in an office

Personal assistants, otherwise known as PAs, are the glue that sticks everything together for everyone from C-Level executives to Hollywood celebrities. They are essentially their right hand.

But it’s definitely no walk in the park.

If you really want to dedicate your working life to someone else, you will most often than not need to be available at the drop of a hat and have the skills needed to succeed in such a demanding role.

So, if you think you have what it takes to work as a PA and enjoy a fulfilling career, here’s all you need to know about this rewarding career path.

1. Research the Profession

To ensure that this rewarding career is right for you, you’ll need a clear understanding on what exactly it involves. Below is an overview of what the job entails, what skills you’ll need and what your working conditions will be like – including salary expectations.

Job Description

As a personal assistant, you’ll work closely with senior members of staff, completing any administrative tasks they require. But the role often goes far beyond that; as you gain experience, you’ll be assigned more duties that fall into event planning, too.

Although duties may vary depending on your chosen industry and organisation, here’s a list of common responsibilities that a PA will need to complete:

  • screening telephone calls, replying to emails and answering queries
  • managing and organising the employer’s calendar and arranging meetings
  • organising and maintaining office systems
  • taking minutes in meetings
  • making travel arrangements
  • being hospitable to visitors
  • dealing with accounts
  • attending industry events
  • filing and performing other office duties
  • putting together presentations and reports
  • running general errands.

Essential Skills and Qualities

Being a personal assistant takes a lot of stamina and a strong personality as you’ll be required to work under pressure and to tight deadlines, all the while managing other tasks.

The main skills and qualities you’ll need to possess are outlined below.

  • Organisation skills: Being organised is singlehandedly the most important skill you’ll need as an executive secretary or personal assistant; not only will you need to complete your own tasks but you’ll also need to arrange those of your manager.
  • Interpersonal and communication skills: As a personal assistant, you’ll be dealing with a number of different people and personalities, meaning that you’ll need to be able to handle them in a professional manner. Both written and verbal communication skills are key in being able to articulate the right words and mannerisms.
  • Time management: As an executive secretary, you won’t only be managing your own schedule, but also your employer’s. And you’ll be expected to jump from one task to the next, juggling a heavy workload which, in turn, will require great time management skills.
  • Trustworthiness: As a personal assistant, you’ll be expected to have a high level of secrecy. You’ll be told highly confidential information and will need to show discreetness within the workplace. If your boss can’t trust you, you won’t be able to grow and advance within the position and organisation.
  • Calm nature: You’ll need to have a lot of patience, especially if you’re dealing with a fiery character or a demanding celebrity. You’ll also need to have the skills to defuse situations and calm your boss when they are feeling panicked.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Although you may have your own way of getting things done, in this line of work, it’s good to be able to adapt to your boss’s style of working.

Working Hours and Conditions

PAs are mainly based in an office and typically work up to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, many are expected to answer their phone and emails during weekends so they never truly get to switch off from their workload.

You’ll also be expected to travel for work and may be required to attend industry events and other exciting networking opportunities in the evening.

Salary Prospects

The salary of a personal assistant varies on the industry, company and your level of experience. If you’re just starting out, you can expect to earn around £18,000 ($23,150). As you get more experience under your belt, you can earn up to £50,000 ($64,300) as a senior executive assistant.

Job Outlook

Trustworthy personal assistants are high in demand. And if you work hard, you can advance to a senior level, gaining for duties and responsibilities. You could also be promoted to management level if you show key leadership skills.

2. Get the Qualifications

There are no set requirements to becoming a personal assistant; you just need to have a proven track record in an administrative role. You’ll also need to have proven English and maths skills in the form of a GCSE with a grade between A* and C.

An HND or a business-related degree can be advantageous, especially if it’s for your first office job, as would a language qualification, which you could use to communicate with clients and partners that are located overseas.

3. Land Your First Job

To land your first job as a PA, you’ll need to have previous work experience in an administrative role. You can do this by volunteering, working as a receptionist part-time while you study or by completing an internship.

You’ll also need to have a carefully written CV that highlights your transferable skills and a cover letter that advises how keen and flexible you are when applying for suitable positions.

To find available vacancies, you can search major job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn, as well as social media.

4. Develop Your Career

Progressing as a personal assistant is slightly different than your traditional job role. You’ll most likely receive a higher salary, added responsibilities and more important projects.

You could end up working as an executive assistant (taking care of personal matters, too) or climb up within the rank and become a manager yourself.

If you are looking to progress within this field, you should pay close attention to industry trends and keep developing your skills by taking courses and striving to take on projects that are outside of your normal comfort zone.

You’ll also build a great contact list through the numerous networking events that you’ll attend. It’s vital that you keep these relationships going and stay in touch with the people that you meet – you never know when you’ll need a helping hand!

Being a personal assistant isn’t the easiest of jobs – but who wants easy, anyway? It’s a lucrative career that will keep you on your toes, ensuring that no two days are the same.

Does this job seem like the perfect match for you? If so, join in on the conversation below and let us know your thoughts…


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