what is a personal assistant?

There's an indispensable, dynamic personal assistant behind every successful manager or company executive. In this role, you provide valuable administrative support to an individual. Unlike a traditional administrator who works for a team, a personal assistant works closely with one person, usually a top executive or manager. The PA creates an administrative support system that allows managers to use their time best. With you handling organisational and administrative tasks, your manager has more free time to perform strategic duties.

As a personal assistant, you need a deep understanding of the organisation and know who the key personnel are since you represent senior executives. Personal assistants work across various industries, from financial services to health and manufacturing companies. Therefore, your daily tasks can vary depending on your company and the managers you work with. For instance, you could be assisting with market research today, and you plan business trips tomorrow. Most personal assistants work in the corporate world, but some work in public administration.

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average salary of a personal assistant

A personal assistant in New Zealand earns an average salary of $55,000 annually. If you are new to the role, your average annual salary is $50,000. As your skills improve and you work for high-profile managers, the salary increases to over $90,000.

Personal assistants receive various benefits since they take up many responsibilities. Some employers have higher overtime hourly rates, while others provide bonuses and an expense account. Personal assistants may also enjoy benefits like car and house allowances.

ways to boost your personal assistant salary

Your earnings as a personal assistant depend on the company and business sector you work for. For instance, a personal assistant working in the corporate world is likely to earn more and receive additional benefits than those working in public administration. Private companies can afford to pay more due to the unlimited resources, while government jobs often have fixed salaries.

The location also affects your remuneration. When you work in large cities, you are likely to earn more due to the high demand for personal assistants.

two smiling females working on their laptops
two smiling females working on their laptops

types of personal assistants

Some of the types of personal assistants include:

  • administrative assistants: as an administrative assistant, you support other employees and manage business communications at the workplace. For instance, you direct phone calls, manage meeting schedules and respond to various inquiries. You also perform clerical tasks for multiple departments.
  • executive assistants: you support business executives to achieve business goals as an administrative assistant. You can work in a large company where you assist in optimising business functions. Sometimes, the role involves hiring and firing other workers.
  • chief executive assistant: as the chief of staff, you handle minor responsibilities that an executive would do by managing the day-to-day activities. You also provide vital information to the company executives to help them strategise and make decisions.

working as a personal assistant

If you're interested in a dynamic career and working with senior management in the top echelon of a company, you should consider becoming a personal or executive assistant. Your decision-making skills will be challenged as you juggle keeping your employer on schedule and working with company staff, clients and suppliers on multiple projects and events.


education and skills

Formal educational requirements are not necessary for personal assistants. However, completing coursework on business administration can help you stand out from your peers and gain practical skills for building a professional network.

Most personal assistants complete a Level 3 or 4 New Zealand Certificate in Business (administration and technology) or a Diploma in Business, which helps them develop the business acumen necessary for running office functions. You also need work experience to increase your chances of landing a job. You can try entry-level reception jobs or become an office secretary to learn relevant skills in the role. The more experience you acquire, the easier it is to move into higher positions. 

skills and competencies

In addition to administrative experience, specific skills, talents and natural abilities work in favour of successful PAs. They include:

  • Organisation: most PAs are required to multitask. Being able to prioritise is an important skill. Multiple projects in various stages of completion require organisational ability.
  • Flexibility: things rarely go as planned. This is true in business as well as in life. As a PA, you need to be able to think quickly and make decisions to keep projects on track.
  • Tact and discretion: not all managers are easy to work with. It can be tempting to vent frustrations to co-workers or on social media. However, it is always best to refrain from discussing the negative aspects of your job except with the most trusted individuals.
  • Oral and written communication: Your instructions to junior staff, clients, and suppliers must be clear and concise. This is important whether the instructions are spoken or written.
  • Discretion: as a PA, you are often privy to confidential information. It is vital for senior management to feel comfortable that intimate minutes or client meetings will be kept private.
  • Time management: to be a successful personal assistant, your manager must trust that any assignments will be completed on time, efficiently and thoroughly. One of the main reasons managers employ PAs is to avoid getting bogged down with administrative duties.

FAQs about working as a personal assistant

Here are the most asked questions about working as a personal assistant:

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