What is a Personal Assistant?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

In the business world, a Personal Assistant (PA) is a trusted junior employee who assumes the role of an executive's chief-of-staff. The exact responsibilities of this position can vary, depending on the needs of an employer, but often include scheduling and making pickups or deliveries as needed. Individuals in this job often have a background in business, and skills such as multitasking and time management are vital. While this work can be difficult and quite demanding, it may also provide a PA with numerous opportunities for growth and professional advancement.

A personal assistant often screens phone calls and takes messages for a busy executive.
A personal assistant often screens phone calls and takes messages for a busy executive.

Job Duties of a PA

Many of the everyday tasks necessary for an effective workday fall on the personal assistant, from scheduling meetings to arranging transportation. Employers often expect a PA to screen incoming calls and messages, assign tasks to other junior employees, and prioritize the employer's schedule. Running personal errands or setting appointments may also be part of a PA's duties. In some cases, an Administrative Assistant (AA) might handle professional responsibilities, while the PA focuses on household tasks.

Personal assistants are generally responsible for keeping their client's life organized.
Personal assistants are generally responsible for keeping their client's life organized.

Becoming an Assistant

Once an executive decides that hiring a personal assistant might be a necessity, he or she often looks within the company first. Employees with secretarial experience or a proven track record for loyalty may be the first ones considered. A degree in business or management can make someone more attractive for this type of position, though such education is not always necessary. Many professionals looking for a personal assistant want practical skills, such as the ability to multitask and schedule events effectively, and a good personal rapport between themselves and potential assistants.

A personal assistant may work out of an office or follow his boss from meeting to meeting.
A personal assistant may work out of an office or follow his boss from meeting to meeting.

Benefits of Being a PA

Personal assistants are often in a position to interact with high-level executives, which can lead to an inside track on promotions or other job opportunities. Executives may also invite a PA to attend business dinners or private parties. Vacations for executives often become a working vacation for a personal assistant, with paid travel and an expense account. Working for a well-known company leader or celebrity can also be a social perk, resulting in invitations to movie openings, concerts or other high-profile events.

Some personal assistants are organizers who help people better manage their personal time and energies.
Some personal assistants are organizers who help people better manage their personal time and energies.

Drawbacks to Working as an Assistant

As tempting as the position of personal assistant may sound, there are some downsides to consider. A PA often works more than 40 hours per week, including weekends and evenings as needed. The average salary for an entry-level personal assistant typically reflects his or her junior status, even if his or her employer is well-compensated. An assistant's comfort and ease at work depend on the demands of his or her employer, which can make working for a difficult individual much harder than many similar jobs.

Personal assistants often run errands for their employers.
Personal assistants often run errands for their employers.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


@anon31736: Ignore him unless he takes it too far and becomes physical. When that happens, politely remind him you are a business professional with a job to do.


Do personal assistants to TV producers/celebrities ever create blogs on social media sites anonymously to get audience opinion and promote TV shows? Is this part of their normal, everyday duties? Does it go this far?


I agree with anon6326 that the role of the Personal Assistant has changed but more because the needs and occupations of bosses has changed. As their needs grow, the duties change.

I recently found this book "The Essential Handbook for Personal Assistants" which actually goes into that and has really helped me craft my role better.

Hope this helps.


A virtual assistant can help you grow your business by handling your administrative support tasks. You can outsource various tasks like accounting, advertising, clerical, administrative, answering phone calls, internet research, data entry and technical support tasks to a virtual assistant. And the best part is that you can relax and enjoy your vacation or holidays while all your works are done by your virtual assistant. Doesn't it sound great?


Many of the companies are hiring virtual assistants who work from home. The reason is that they can be accessed any time and they work for you round the clock. Thanks for the post. Keep blogging.


I am a personal assistant and I live with my boss' family. She's been a wonderful boss and mother and I feel so much at home. I'm learning on the job and it's had its challenges though I'm improving by the day.

The only battle I fight is that I don't get enough time with my friends and family. It's strained my relationships. I'm even at the verge of breaking up with someone I deeply love.

What do I do?


The tasks of a personal assistant also depends on who's bossing because the boss sets rules on what he wants and how they should be done (taste). Although at some points, the P.A. needs to apply initiative.

Loop Concierge

That's a very nice post! I appreciate the way you have shared your views in favor of being personal assistant. "Personal assistants are often in a position to interact with high-level executives, which could lead to an inside track on promotions or other job opportunities."

Great job done!


I am working as a personal assistant at an insurance company but my main field is Reinsurance. My boss told me that you have to work both with him and in reinsurance department but i can't find time to work in reinsurance department. How can i manage?


Very helpful. thank you guys.


Hello, great article! I've used tons of services such as asksunday and get friday but it was extremely sad. Now i'm with a better company for my personal assistants and they've been great!


I work as a personal assistant. It's more on a personal level. I'm at my employers home a lot doing things around his home office. It can range from the little things like washing the car to answering phone calls. I do a lot of marketing for the business.

Doing mass mailings to new and current clients. I have an associates in Business Administration and am working on a bachelors with a concentration in Finance. Employer said he could make me his business manager if I wanted. So you can get pretty high up if you try.


Do personal assistants really have to wait for their bosses or must they have the same timing as other employees?


What happens when the personal assistant becomes too personal? Asking you to take them to doctors' appointments, pick up meds, shopping and much more, in addition to running the company while they are out all the time?


how much do personal assisstants make?


im currently doing an NVQ3 in business administration, will this help me a step closer?

i'm 18 years old and still feel like i need more experience. i think courses would be best for me and more job experience. has anyone got any recommended one day-two day courses that they have been on?


I am a personal assistant to a wealthy businessman, but of late I feel he is coming on to me. How do I put him off, but in a courteous manner?


Very nice tips. Thanks.


As an Executive Personal Assistant to celebrities and royalty for over 10 years, I feel compelled to explain the difference between a Personal Assistant and Administrative Assistant. They are quite different.

An Administrative Assistant works in an office. They usually have a 4 year degree and must be proficient in all MS Office applications.

A Personal Assistant works out of the executive’s home and handles all aspects of the estate and sometimes other subordinate personal assistants. A 4 year degree isn’t usually required and the position usually pays a lot more because of the “secrets” that are usually kept.


Thanks for the tips on those personal assistant companies. I've heard of them both, but wasn't sure what it is they do? I checked out the Red Butler service and they're surprisingly affordable.

I signed up for their Plus membership and am happy so far. I got a few of my friends to join Red Butler as well, along with a few co-workers. I then later found a code that saves 25% off the 1st month of membership for anyone out there that wants to try them out.


Which is the best college that offers personal assistant course?


I think that the role of a personal assistant has changed. Not only should they provide helpful time saving tasks, but also be responsible for having a greater knowledge and access to things.

I like the idea of combining personal assistant services with concierge services. If you can't afford someone full time with these specialties, there are numerous companies that offer memberships to such services.

My wife and I have tried out 2 such companies, Bluefish Concierge and Red Butler. Bluefish provided more outrageous "must experience" types of experiences. They were able to get my wife and I into the Grammys, a dream of ours for many years.

Red Butler on the other hand provides day to day time saving personal assistant and concierge services. They book our flights, make dinner reservations, and used them to purchase my entire staff of 20's Christmas gifts.

I remain members with both and highly recommend them to all of my friends, clients and family.

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