Personal Assistant

    If you are wondering how to become a PA, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of administration and job prospects for personal assistants in the UK.

    The Job Description
    The PA or personal assistant provides secretarial support to a manager, helping to ease the manager’s workload by taking care of administrative duties.

    Day to day tasks will include:

    * organising the diary and booking appointments
    * screening calls and pre-handling enquiries
    * dealing with postal and email correspondence
    * producing reports and presentations
    * arranging meetings and attending to deliver support
    * maintaining an efficient office
    * arranging travel arrangements
    * greeting visitors
    * acting as manager’s representative and making some decisions on his or her behalf
    * supervising other admin staff and acting as an office manager
    * dealing with financial and budgetary duties
    * managing many aspects of project work.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of a good personal assistant include:
    * well-organised
    * strong written and verbal communication skills
    * calm and professional in multi-tasking
    * able to work with people at any level, including senior management
    * computer literacy
    * flexibility and adaptability
    * ability to work on initiative
    * tact and discretion when dealing with confidential information.

    How to become a personal assistant
    You dont require specific qualifications as a PA, as entry requirements vary between employers, but many prefer GCSEs or equivalent at grade A to C, including English.

    Whichever qualifications you do have, you will often need experience of secretarial and/or admin work before gaining a personal assistant role. You need to be computer literate and proficient in a range of computer software. Temp work can be a good introduction to secretarial or PA roles.

    An employer may ask for a qualification in administrative or secretarial skills, so before seeking work, it may be useful to take a qualification such as OCR / RSA, City and Guilds or Education Development International LCCI diploma or certificate.

    Many further education bodies offer various part or full time courses and some secretarial colleges also offer intensive training. College entry requirements may vary.

    A business-related BTEC, HND or degree may be an advantage in applying for a job with considerable responsibility. Foreign languages can be useful in certain jobs.

    Training and Development
    You may be trained on the job for company processes and you may also work towards a secretarial qualification while employed.

    Qualifications include:

    * An Education Development International’s LCCI Business Administration Diploma or Private Secretary’s Diploma
    * An OCR Higher Diploma in Administrative and Secretarial Procedures
    * The Business and Administration NVQ/SVQ levels 3 and 4.

    During your career progression, it may be useful to join the Institute of Professional Administrators (IPA), in order to network and sources opportunities for professional development.

    The Pay
    PAs often start on around £18k to £25k per year
    Personal assistants in some bigger companies earn £30k to £40k per annum.

    Job Prospects
    PAs can work for senior managers in the media, industry and commerce, central or local government, or universities.

    Jobs are advertised in the national and local press, Jobcentre Plus, recruitment websites and employment agencies.

    You can gain more responsibilities by moving to bigger companies or working for more senior professioanls. Promotions to specialist or leadership positions can also offer potential for career progression.

    Useful resources:
    Institute of Professional Administrators (IPA)
    6 Graphite Square
    Vauxhall Walk
    London SE11 5EE
    Telephone: 0207 091 2606

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