Virtual Assistants... PAs, EAs, AAs and Secretaries

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Traditional SecretaryWhat is the difference is between a Personal Assistant, an Executive Assistant, an Admin Assistant and a Secretary? I thought I knew – after all, I’ve been using these terms for years – but it’s not altogether clear. I’ve tried asking my PA to explain. She says “it’s easy” and then I get progressively more confused as she runs through the details.

Perhaps you have the same problem ... or, perhaps it’s just me?

Anyway, I decided to get to the bottom of it. I’ve Googled it, asked PAs and secretaries and distilled their explanations down to a few lines. It may seem obvious reading it, but having a comparison helps.

Virtual Assistant (VA)

The answer, I now believe, starts with understanding the term Virtual Assistant. It’s a relatively new term, invented to describe someone who can assist you with a multitude of administrative tasks remotely – via the internet – using information and communication technology.

These “administrative tasks” in fact cover all of the possible tasks that any PA, EA or AA might undertake, except the ones that require a physical presence such as greeting visitors and providing refreshments. It’s a convenient umbrella term, no more than that.

We also hear specific terms such as Virtual PA and Remote Secretary. These are just another way to describe the PA and Secretary roles that are being executed via the internet. In trying to be more descriptive, these terms can lead people to believe something else is happening, but it’s not, it’s just describing a PA or a Secretary at the end of the day.

So, if you want to know what a VA actually does – or potentially can do – you have to understand their “real role” capabilities ... are they a PA, EA, AA or Secretary?

Personal Assistant (PA)

PAs have been around since the industrial revolution, as a backbone of British industry, keeping business owners, executive and managers operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The primary role of a PA is to manage their bosses’ time. They will manage their diary, schedule their day, screen incoming calls and filter their email, generally helping them to juggle the demands of a busy job. They will also do their typing and take care of organising meetings and events, booking travel and accommodation, and managing their itinerary for overseas trips.

In smaller businesses, a PA to the Owner will often perform “front office” duties for the business, dealing with customers and suppliers. They may also act on behalf of their boss and make decisions within certain boundaries, taking on some limited managerial responsibilities.



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