Is there a difference between a Personal Assistant and an Executive Assistant?

In the business of recruitment, it is important to be completely clear on who our client is looking for to fill a role, and on the responsibilities the new recruit will need to take on and the personal qualities they will need to have. For this reason, the distinction between the titles “Personal Assistant” and “Executive Assistant” is a pertinent. The two can be used interchangeably, or can be considered to have important differences which we wanted to investigate.

If we consider a PA and an EA to have completely different functions, then we can perhaps distinguish them on the basis of the duties they perform – or perhaps, the emphasis of their duties. The primary job of a Personal assistant is to alleviate the individual or individuals they are supporting of their general organisational admin so that their time can be dedicated to the business-furthering demands of their own role. Most commonly, this will include duties such as taking phone calls, organising and booking any travel, accommodation and venues, as well as being responsible for general diary management and making sure no important deadlines or meetings will be overlooked. A PA is fundamental to the smooth running of the business and will be one step ahead in terms of making arrangements and knowing times, dates, names and places to provide for those they support.

Whereas a PA may work for a private household, media personality or sportsperson for instance, an EA would more generally be associated with a business or company – one distinction between the two. An EA is also more likely to be heavily involved in the business itself, for instance having specialist knowledge of the business sector. EAs generally report to the CEO or managing director of the company and they may have a high level of responsibility over lots of projects going on within the company as well as just providing a support role. The mind-set of an EA is very pro-active, involving being one step ahead and having exceptional decision making and problem solving skills. Perhaps, we could distinguish on the basis that the PAs mind set is more reactive – responding to any issues that may arise and always making sure everything is taken care of. An EA may be called upon to take the place of a CEO or Senior Director in a meeting and report back on actions discussed which is perhaps less common in a PA role.

Having said this, the distinctions do of course depend on how the company wishes to describe the positions within their business. A PA in one company might be a PA by name, whilst taking on all the responsibilities that have here been attributed to an EA. There is perhaps a distinction between what would be considered a “traditional” PA role and what might have evolved more recently into all round support and involvement.


For more information on the PA jobs we have here at Attic Recruitment, please click here

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Attic are great people to work with, they were very sensitive to our needs and able to find exactly the right person for our team now, and for our future ambitions. I recommend them to any ‘creative business’ and for anyone who needs intelligent and talented staff.

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