Is there a difference between an executive assistant and a personal assistant?

Woman and two men in a meeting


What is the difference between a PA and an EA? As this is one of the more common questions we hear from candidates during their PA job search, we’re here to clarify the main distinctions between the two roles.

PA and EA job titles are often used interchangeably, so it can be tricky to differentiate between the two. Many companies don’t see a difference, while for others, there is a clear distinction in the expectations between a PA and an EA.

When the PA and EA roles are different

For those businesses that do differentiate between executive assistant and personal assistant jobs, the main difference is the level of seniority. While both personal and executive assistants are responsible for using their organisational prowess to assist their principal(s), an EA is more likely to be supporting at board/C-Suite level.

Alongside acting as the first point of contact for both clients and members of the team, an EA will be expected to have a more in-depth understanding of the overarching business strategy. They should be knowledgeable about the key stakeholders and will likely be dealing with them on behalf of the principal.

When the PA and EA roles are the same

Many companies, especially in the UAE, don’t make a distinction between these two positions and will often just advertise for an ‘executive assistant’. Some genuinely believe there is no difference between a PA and EA, while others make a conscious decision to use the same job title across their support team to communicate a flat structure. This is the case regardless of how many people the PA or EA is supporting, or their positions. So, before applying for a role, pay attention to the job description – look at who you’ll be supporting, what the core duties are and what salary range is offered to give you an idea of the seniority of the position and if it will be a good fit for you.

Will you also be supporting a principal’s private life?

In the UAE, it’s common for companies advertising for a ‘personal assistant’ to want someone to support the private side of their principal’s life, like running personal errands and booking private holidays. This isn’t a hard and fast rule however, as both PAs and EAs can be asked to support with private duties. In fact, there is often a natural crossover of business and personal calendars for senior/board level leaders with busy schedules, so it’s helpful to have an overview of both as either a PA or EA.

The only way to know what will be involved in a PA or EA position is to review the detailed job specification. Instead of relying on the title of the job when applying for roles, search within your desired salary bracket and pay attention to whether the core duties in the job description match your skillset and goals.

If you’re looking for a job as a PA or EA, browse our live job listings here.

Author Libby Keen Tiger Recruitment Team
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