Executive Assistant vs. Administrative Assistant: Which One Do You Need?

High-performing leaders who are accomplishing amazing things with their business often reach limits of their own productivity. For these leaders, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. Sound familiar? Then you’re probably in a great position to bring on some additional support! But where do you start? You may be wondering whether an Executive Assistant or an Administrative Assistant would best fit your needs — and is there really any difference between the two? The answer is yes, and understanding those differences is key to deciding which one is the right fit for you.

What does an Executive Assistant do?

An Executive Assistant elevates the focus and productivity of a high-performing leader. With EA support, you can focus on your most important work, and hand off the detail-driven duties that often fill up your day. Executive Assistant responsibilities might include calendar and inbox management, information synthesis, travel and event management, and CRM support — and that’s just a glimpse!

While an EA can take a number of daily tasks off of your hands, their real value lies in their ability to proactively implement strategic changes to your daily focus, so that you fill your day with only the work you can do. EAs start this process by identifying inefficiencies, optimizing operations, auditing current systems, and suggesting opportunities for improvement across your entire team. They know the benefits you can reap from their support, and can strategically delegate the little things off your to-do list.

An Executive Assistant also functions as a key thought partner and strategic gatekeeper, making an immediate and significant increase in your productivity. Stated simply, EAs free up time for you to focus on the big-picture and elevate your work.

Executive Assistant responsibilities:

These tasks are typical of an Executive Assistant.

  • Managing meetings and projects
  • Prioritizing your task list + work time
  • Updating and maintaining CRMs
  • Coordinating several calendars
  • Systems and process management
  • Full travel and event planning
  • Managing your entire inbox

What does an Administrative Assistant do?

An Administrative Assistant is most effective when you need support with more common and recurring tasks. Typically, this encompasses administrative duties such as scheduling, billing and expenses, and other transactional assignments. They take direction from you and check off specific items from your to-do list. This may be a great option if you want someone to simply hand off daily administrative tasks.

In this sense, an Administrative Assistant usually requires specific direction, while an Executive Assistant can work more autonomously while implementing strategic improvements across a number of areas.

Administrative Assistant responsibilities:

These tasks are typical of an administrative assistant:

  • Recording memos and minutes
  • Organizing files
  • Maintaining a calendar
  • Bookkeeping
  • Billing and expenses
  • Sending or receiving emails
  • Office ordering, etc.

How does an Executive Assistant differ from an Administrative Assistant?

The main difference between the two is the level of support. For example, an Administrative Assistant is an expert in task management, while an Executive Assistant is an expert in project management.

When a higher level of strategic support is needed, an EA is usually the best fit. While an EA can complete many of the same tasks as an Administrative Assistant, their value is added in the additional proactivity and tactical expertise that they bring to the role. They work as a key partner, willing to have high-level conversations and research solutions to problems.

Similarly, they can determine if you are taking the right approach, suggest alternative methods or tools for executing key job responsibilities, provide accountability, and increase your daily productivity. In doing so, an Executive Assistant will be able to offer a clear strategy to allow you to grow your business or within your role. Additionally, an EA may be a better option if you’re looking for a role to partner with your Chief of Staff or Director of Operations.

How do I determine the best fit for me?

The best way to determine if you need an Executive Assistant or Administrative Assistant is to ask yourself these two questions:

“Do I need someone that I can hand off basic, everyday items to, or could my business really use an expert who can identify key opportunity areas while they work to reduce my daily workload?

“Would I benefit from adding a key strategic member to the team, or would I prefer to provide direction on a handful of projects that I want to be completed?”

Determining the real needs of your business is the best place to start when deciding whether an Administrative Assistant or an Executive Assistant is the right fit. And, it’s worth reassessing your needs every six to 12 months, as you may find the level of support that is best for your business shifts over time.

With the largest EA talent pool in the industry, Base is ready to match you with dedicated support, whenever you need it. Plus, you don’t have to spend time thinking about titles and how to find the best fit — we’ll find it for you! Let us get to work and find an assistant that best suits your business needs; learn more about EA support from Base.

What sets Base Executive Assistants apart?

At Base, we proudly help high-performing business leaders amplify their impact with exceptional EA support. Our talent pool of strategic, tech-enabled assistants is the largest in the industry, and we’re dedicated to matching you with the best fit. Plus, Base EAs are fully-trained, so you can hand off your work with peace of mind starting on day one. If you’ve determined that an Executive Assistant is what you need to take your business to the next level, let’s talk. We’ve helped 200+ leaders find excellent assistants to fit their needs, and we can help you, too.

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Written by Kate Ethridge

Kate Ethridge leads the sales team at Base, where she helps the world's leaders be more proactive and successful through Base's Talent Intelligence Marketplace.