Tyler Griffen

How to Become a Personal Assistant

Posted on Oct 18, 2023.

Close up of a personal assistant smiling holding a computer tablet

The world of personal assistants (PAs) offers a dynamic and fulfilling career path for those who are detail-oriented, organised, and have a knack for supporting others. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the steps to become a personal assistant, tailored for aspiring PAs.

We'll explore the qualifications and skills needed for a personal assistant role, as well as industries where PAs succeed, so you're ready for this exciting journey.

What is a Personal Assistant?

A personal assistant keeps executives and managers organised, making sure everything runs smoothly. Their role goes beyond basic administrative tasks. They are the guardians of time and information for the professionals they assist.

Here's a closer look at the varied responsibilities of a personal assistant:

  • Managing phone calls and emails
  • Diary management, scheduling appointments
  • Organising travel arrangements
  • Processing expenses and invoices
  • Serving as the main point of contact for the executive
  • Handling day-to-day administrative tasks
  • Implementing and managing office systems
  • Assisting in personal errands or tasks for the executive

The financial compensation for a Personal Assistant in the UK reflects their essential role. The average salary typically varies from £25,000 to £50,000 per year. However, it can significantly differ based on factors such as experience, industry, location, and the executive's position.

London is the main economic centre of the UK and has a high cost of living. As a consequence, professionals working as PAs in London tend to receive higher compensation than the national median. Data from Glassdoor reveals the following average salaries across different regions:

  • London: £39,394
  • Birmingham: £30,471
  • Manchester: £29,114
  • Edinburgh: £28,344
  • Bristol: £27,724
  • Leeds: £29,251
  • Glasgow: £25,304

Additionally, high-level personal assistants, especially those working for famous or wealthy individuals, or lucrative sectors such as financial services, can earn much higher salaries than the average. They may also receive additional perks and benefits, such as private healthcare, bonuses or overseas trips.

For a full breakdown of average PA salaries, see here.

Skills & Experience Required to be a Personal Assistant

To become a great personal assistant, it's important to possess a mixture of soft and hard skills. Here is a list of skills needed to become a good personal assistant:

Soft Skills:

  • Interpersonal Skills: The capacity to create and nurture relationships, fostering open communication and teamwork.
  • Time Management: The ability to prioritise tasks and responsibilities to optimise productivity.
  • Communication Skills: The ability to convey information clearly and accurately over the phone, in writing and verbally.

Hard Skills:

  • Administration Experience: Being well organised and communicating efficiently within a team, including writing emails and answering phone calls.
  • Technical Skills: Competency in utilising various office software, tools, and technologies, for example, Microsoft Office.
  • English and Maths: Proficient knowledge of spoken and written English and numerical skills.

Entry-Level PA Roles

For entry-level PA roles, the main focus revolves around refining the foundational soft and hard skills. In particular, time management, interpersonal skills, and administrative experience. While formal qualifications like university degrees are not compulsory, administrative experience can provide a distinct advantage.

Senior and Executive PA Roles

Advanced skills are much more important for higher-level PA roles or aspiring executive assistants. A business administration diploma is valuable, offering insights into broader business landscapes. Recruiters may be looking for experience in leadership, project management, and strategic planning. Senior positions often exceed standard PA duties.

Can I Become a Personal Assistant Without Experience?

Yes, you can become a PA without experience. Entry-level roles often provide training for newcomers, and showcasing common personal assistant skills like organisation and problem-solving improves your prospects.

Taking a temporary PA position could be a good way to break into this career, allowing you the opportunity and flexibility to try a new role before you commit to a permanent position.

Browse our current PA vacancies here.

How long does it take to become a PA?

The length of time required to become a PA varies. Entry-level roles can be attained within a few weeks to several months, depending on the job market and individual circumstances. Progressing to mid-level and senior positions may take a year or more of experience and further education, a language qualification or undertaking specialist PA courses.

Popular Industries for Personal Assistant Roles

Personal Assistants are crucial for the efficient running of a business, regardless of the industry. However, certain sectors have showcased notably higher demand for these professionals. The role of a PA can shift subtly based on the specific industry's unique requirements.

Here, we explore the main duties of PAs and the skills needed for specific industries.

Finance and Banking

  • Main Duties: In this high-stakes industry, PAs support extremely busy executives and often find themselves scheduling critical meetings, managing back-to-back meetings and calls, liaising with clients and understanding and compiling financial reports.
  • Skills Needed: A comprehension of financial jargon and an ability to manage sensitive financial data discreetly.

Management Consulting

  • Main Duties: This sector advises businesses to improve performance, PAs assist executives in managing their busy workloads, liaising with clients and managing stakeholders.
  • Skills Needed: Strong organisational and communication skills, with the ability to stay calm under pressure.

Media and Entertainment

  • Main Duties: This sector frequently involves coordinating media appearances, liaising with agents or representatives, and sometimes even personal errands or social media management.
  • Skills Needed: Discretion is paramount, as is the ability to handle unpredictable schedules and manage public relations challenges.

Real Estate

  • Main Duties: Typical tasks include responding to client enquiries, managing travel, coordinating meetings, coordinating and marketing events.
  • Skills Needed: Familiarity with property management software and a grasp of the property market can help set you apart.

Technology and Start-ups

  • Main Duties: Given the dynamic nature of startups, a PA here might wear multiple hats – from administrative tasks to potentially helping in project management or investor relations.
  • Skills Needed: Adaptability and willingness to evolve with the rapidly changing landscape of the startup world are crucial.

Public Relations and Communications

  • Main Duties: Coordinating press releases, managing client communications, and event organisation are typical responsibilities.
  • Skills Needed: A good understanding of media channels and excellent communication skills are often crucial.

Private Households

  • Main Duties: When learning how to become a personal assistant to high net-worth individuals, tasks can span from managing personal schedules to organising lavish events or even international travel.
  • Skills Needed: Discretion, a keen eye for luxury, and an understanding of high-society norms and etiquette can be vital.

While the core competencies for a PA remain relatively consistent across sectors, these subtle variations emphasise the need for adaptability and industry-specific knowledge to truly excel in the role and stand out during the selection process.

How to Start a Career as a Personal Assistant

You can forge a promising path in this role by blending education, hands-on experience, and strategic networking. Here are the essential steps to take to become a PA:

1. Invest in Education & Training

The foundation of any profession often lies in proper education and training. While qualifications are not always required for becoming a PA, having a background in business administration or a related field gives you a competitive edge.

Supplementing your education with courses in effective communication, modern office systems, or time management can significantly enhance your skill set, making you a desirable candidate in the competitive job market.

2. Gather Relevant Experience

Before leaping into the role of a PA, gaining experience in related administrative positions can be invaluable. Starting positions such as an administrative assistant or executive secretary familiarise you with the corporate environment and provide insights into the expectations and challenges a PA might face. This experience solidifies your understanding and readies you for the tasks that PAs often handle.

More recently, specialist PA courses have become increasingly popular. They offer specialist personal assistant training to prepare candidates for the core aspects of a PA role.

3. Start Networking

Understand that networking is crucial in the personal assistant field. It's not just about what you know but also who you know.

  • Regularly attend industry events, workshops, or seminars. These gatherings introduce you to potential employers and mentors.
  • Stay active on professional platforms like LinkedIn. This expands your visibility and keeps you updated with the latest industry trends.

4. Niche Down and Specialise

Once you've built a strong foundation and gained hands-on experience, the role of a personal assistant presents several opportunities to specialise. Here is how you can do just that:

  • Personalise your journey to align with your passions and skills. For example, if you speak multiple languages, you may want to specialise as a bilingual PA.
  • Focusing your career towards assisting high-profile celebrities or high-net-worth individuals.
  • Solidifying your experience in a specific industry, like finance or entertainment.
  • Honing in on specific tasks, like event coordination or travel management.

Specialising doesn't just boost your expertise. It also paves the way for higher earning potential and success in your chosen field.

FAQs About Becoming a PA

We often get asked specific questions about becoming a PA, and we wanted to answer these here.

How do I become a remote personal assistant

To become a remote personal assistant, acquire administrative skills, invest in reliable technology, join virtual assistant platforms, and network online. Continuously update your skills to match the evolving digital workspace demands.

Can I become a celebrity personal assistant?

Yes, you can become a celebrity personal assistant by building strong networking connections in the entertainment industry, being able to demonstrate high levels of discretion, and demonstrating an ability to manage high-pressure, fast-paced environments effectively.

How do I become a personal assistant to the wealthy?

To become a personal assistant to the wealthy, hone specialised skills, cultivate discretion, and network in elite circles. Having experience in luxury sectors or services can also be advantageous.

Let us help you find your first Personal Assistant role

Are you ready to embark on this rewarding career path? At Tyler Griffen, we pride ourselves as London’s leading PA recruitment experts. Our team understands the nuances of personal assistant roles and can guide you towards your ideal fit. If you're looking for personal assistant jobs, we're here to support you. View our latest PA vacancies here.