What Is the Difference Between an Executive Secretary & an Administrative Assistant?


Executive secretaries and administrative assistants are high-level staff members that work for upper-level management or chief executive officers. Very little difference exists between executive secretaries and administrative assistants, but some differences in job duties can help distinguish between the two different titles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for executive secretaries and administrative assistants is expected to grow by 11 percent from 2008 to 2018.

Clerical Duties

  • Both administrative assistants and executive secretaries perform various clerical duties as part of their job duties. One of the primary differences between the administrative assistant and the executive secretary is that the executive secretary is primarily limited to clerical duties, whereas the administrative assistant typically makes independent decisions and has more job duties to perform. The executive secretary typically spends a considerable amount of time typing and performing other clerical duties, such as answering phones.

Shared Responsibility

  • Another primary difference between the administrative assistant and the executive secretary is in the shared responsibility that the administrative assistant often has with his employer. Many times, administrative assistants will collaborate on projects with their employers and be intimately involved in the details of the project, whether it be research or otherwise. The executive secretary tends to only conduct research or collaborate as directed by his employer, without independent decision-making abilities.

Other Duties

  • Administrative assistants sometimes supervise other staff members whereas the executive secretary will not. Executive secretaries may schedule and call together staff members for meetings, but they tend to not have any direct control over the actions of others. Research duties are common among both executive secretaries and administrative assistants. Although the administrative assistant may have more independence in the type of research and reports produced, executive secretaries can fulfill some of these duties also if their employer allows. The primary differences between the executive secretary and administrative assistant is mainly dependent upon how their employer defines their job duties.


  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, no significant differences exist between administrative assistants and executive secretaries in terms of compensation. The average annual compensation for both is $44,010, at the time of publication. The highest paid professionals in this industry make more than $64,330, while the average is between $33,700 and $52,240.

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