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Personal Assistant vs. Secretary: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A personal assistant and a secretary are both administrative professionals who provide support to individuals or businesses. Though there are some similarities between these positions, there are also several key differences. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between a personal assistant and a secretary, and we provide tips for those interested in pursuing a career in either field.

What is a Personal Assistant?

A Personal Assistant is a professional who provides administrative, secretarial and personal support to an individual or family. They manage the household, schedule appointments, make travel arrangements and handle all of the day-to-day tasks to keep their employer’s life running smoothly. Personal Assistants are often responsible for managing the household budget, paying bills, ordering supplies and groceries, and coordinating home maintenance and repairs. They may also provide personal care services, such as bathing, dressing and grooming. Personal Assistants typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, although some employers may prefer candidates with an associate’s degree or higher.

What is a Secretary?

Secretaries provide administrative support for an individual or team. They keep schedules organized, manage correspondence and complete clerical tasks. Secretaries might also be responsible for handling customer inquiries, scheduling appointments and managing travel arrangements. In some cases, they may also provide direct support to an executive by taking dictation, preparing reports or managing projects. Secretaries typically work in an office setting, but they may also work remotely or from home.

Personal Assistant vs. Secretary

Here are the main differences between a personal assistant and a secretary.

Job Duties

Secretaries typically have more administrative duties than personal assistants. They may manage calendars, schedule meetings and take phone calls for their bosses. Personal assistants often have more responsibilities related to taking care of their bosses’ personal lives. This can include things like managing their schedules, running errands and taking care of their children. Secretaries may also perform tasks related to their bosses’ personal affairs, such as booking vacations or planning birthday parties.

Another major difference between the two roles is that secretaries usually work more with technology than personal assistants. Since they spend much of their days at work typing, emailing and taking dictation, they often develop skills in areas like computer programming and transcription. Personal assistants rarely use technology in their jobs, but they may help their bosses learn how to use certain programs.

Job Requirements

Most personal assistants and secretaries have a high school diploma, although some jobs may require postsecondary education, such as an associate degree in business administration or office technology. Many personal assistants and secretaries also receive on-the-job training to learn specific software programs or other skills they need for the job. Some employers may prefer candidates who have experience working in a related field, such as customer service or administrative support.

Work Environment

Personal assistants often work in a variety of environments, depending on the needs of their clients. They may travel with them to different locations and attend meetings or events with them. This means that they can have irregular schedules and work long hours when necessary.

Secretaries usually work in an office environment for eight hours per day, five days per week. They typically work in a professional setting where they’re dressed professionally and adhere to company policies.


Both personal assistants and secretaries need to have strong organizational skills to perform their jobs effectively. This includes the ability to keep track of multiple tasks, prioritize assignments and manage their time efficiently. They also both need to be proficient in using office equipment, such as computers, fax machines and photocopiers.

Personal assistants typically need to have excellent interpersonal skills to interact with their employer’s clients, customers and business associates. They may also be responsible for handling sensitive information, so they need to be discreet and maintain confidentiality. Secretaries usually do not have the same level of interaction with the public, but they still need to be able to communicate effectively with co-workers, managers and other employees within their company.

Another difference between these two positions is that personal assistants often need to be able to travel with their employer, which means they need to have valid passports and be willing to travel on short notice. Secretaries typically do not need to travel for their job, although they may occasionally need to attend off-site meetings or events.


Personal assistants can earn an average salary of $45,304 per year, while secretaries can earn an average salary of $38,212 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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