Personal Assistant

Kaiāwhina Whaiaro

Alternative titles for this job

Personal assistants provide administrative, clerical, secretarial and general support to managers and other professionals. They may also be responsible for financial planning, recruitment and staffing.

Pay

Personal assistants usually earn

$48K-$75K per year

Executive assistants usually earn

$50K-$90K per year

Source: Hays, 2018.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a personal assistant are poor for those wanting to enter the role, but good for those with experience.

Pay

Pay for personal assistants varies depending on their location, experience, level of responsibility and the type of organisation they work for.

  • Legal secretaries usually earn between $45,000 and $68,000 a year.
  • Personal assistants and legal personal assistants usually earn between $48,000 and $75,000.
  • Executive assistants who work with senior executives in large organisations can earn between $50,000 and $90,000.

Source: Hays, 'The FY 18/19 Hays Salary Guide', 2018.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Personal assistants may do some or all of the following:

  • keep managers' diaries, including making their appointments and travel arrangements
  • take messages, answer queries and screen telephone calls and visitors
  • arrange meetings, conference calls, hui and conferences
  • take minutes and dictation
  • research, prepare and format emails, letters, reports and other documents
  • prepare monthly reports, budgets, financial data and presentations
  • manage projects or junior staff.

Skills and knowledge

Personal assistants need to have:

  • knowledge of their organisation and what other staff do
  • good writing skills, including report writing skills
  • knowledge of financial reporting and budgeting
  • the ability to keep up to date with changes in office technology
  • staff and project management skills
  • research skills.

Working conditions

Personal assistants:

  • usually work regular office hours, but may sometimes work longer hours, or evenings and weekends, or work part time
  • work in offices 
  • may work in stressful conditions if they support managers who are in high-pressure jobs
  • may occasionally travel locally, or overseas, to attend meetings or conferences.

What's the job really like?

Hannah Gibbons

Hannah Gibbons

Personal Assistant

What's your day like?

"I start before my manager does – I like to have a good head start because my job is to make his day go smoothly. I want to know what meetings he’s got on, make sure his car is booked for when he needs it, and check his emails to see what’s come in overnight.

"I like to keep my boss in the loop when it comes to people. This can be anything from someone winning an award, project success, team morale, individual morale, if someone has had a baby or someone is getting married – anything that can help him be informed and know more about the people in his teams."

What gives you a sense of achievement?

"When I hear thank you. It seems so simple, but it goes a long way. I also like hearing, 'I'll ask Hannah, she'll know'. It gives me a sense of pride because it shows that people trust me and that I am able to assist them."

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a personal assistant. However, a business administration qualification, such as a certificate or diploma, may be useful.

Personal assistants can complete a New Zealand Certificate in Business (Administration and Technology) (Levels 3 and 4) or a New Zealand Diploma in Business (Administration and Technology) (Level 5) while working. Industry training organisation Skills oversees workplace assessments.

Personal assistants may also become members of the Association of Administrative Professionals New Zealand (AAPNZ), which offers professional development opportunities.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a personal assistant. However, accounting, business studies, digital technologies, maths and English are useful.

Personal requirements

Personal assistants need to be:

  • good at planning, organisation and time management
  • able to relate to people from a range of cultures and at all levels of management
  • friendly and helpful
  • accurate, and have an eye for detail
  • diplomatic and discreet, with good judgement
  • skilled in decision making and problem solving
  • able to show initiative and work well under pressure.

You want to make sure you’re a people person and you’re happy to go the extra mile.

Photo: Hannah Gibbons

Hannah Gibbons

Personal Assistant

Useful experience

Useful experience for personal assistants includes:

  • word processing and data entry work
  • reception work
  • customer service work
  • administration work.

Find out more about training

Association of Administrative Professionals New Zealand
enquiries@aapnz.org.nz - www.aapnz.org.nz
Skills
0508 754 557 – support@skills.org.nz – skills.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Multi-skilled personal assistants in demand

Your chances of securing a job are best if you can combine personal assistant skills with other administration skills such as managing staff or managing an office, and payroll or accounts work.

This is because many organisations combine two administration jobs into one to save costs or deal with tight budgets.

Strong competition for personal assistant jobs

Competition for personal assistant jobs can be high, making it harder for people without experience to secure jobs. It's useful to gain experience working in general administration roles before applying for a personal assistant job.

Work experience in a law firm is useful to become a legal secretary, as is experience in a medical centre or hospital to become a medical secretary.

Types of employers varied

Most major industries employ personal assistants. The top four types of businesses that employ personal assistants are:

  • legal and accounting services 
  • school education 
  • government administration
  • marketing and business management services.

Sources

  • Honeychurch, M, business director, Hays, careers.govt.nz interview, September 2018.
  • McCessar, A, president, Association of Administrative Professionals New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, September 2018.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook – Personal/Executive Assistants', accessed October 2018, (occupationoutlook.mbie.govt.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Personal assistants may move into roles in event planning, human resources, marketing, project management or public relations.

Personal assistants may also move into middle management, but usually need to gain more qualifications to do so.

With further training, legal secretaries may progress to become legal executives.

Personal assistants may work in specialised roles such as:

Legal Secretary
Legal secretaries do administrative work in law firms or courthouses. They may do conveyance work or prepare legal documents such as wills or trusts.
Medical Secretary
Medical secretaries work in medical centres or hospitals. They need to know medical terms to prepare medical reports or use medical databases.
Executive assistant Nyia Strachan sits with two businessmen outside a meeting room.

Personal assistants provide administrative, secretarial and general support to managers

Last updated 31 October 2019