What's the difference between a PA and an EA?

What’s the difference between a PA and an EA?

Published on 26th June 2017

Over my 14 years (yes 14!) recruiting PA, EA and Business Support staff across central London, there have been many times when I’ve been asked: “What’s the difference between a PA and an EA?” 

That’s a good question because whilst these roles have many similarities and overlapping duties, there are also several important differences between the two.

What is a PA?

A PA is a true organiser; he/she is someone who supports their boss/team and helps to make their working day easier.  A PA will take control of the day to day management of diaries, coordinate meetings and organise any travel and itineraries for the person/people they support as well as dealing with all aspects of admin support.

Your key role as a PA is to ease stress for your boss/team, enabling them to be highly effective in their own role. A PA will generally support a larger number of people than an EA, but this can vary from role to role. 

Key skills that successful PAs possess will be geared around their excellent organisational abilities. Being able to juggle multiple tasks and demands as a PA is essential as well as being calm, proactive and flexible. This role can be extremely varied with many different administrative tasks to manage for your boss/team. 

What is an EA?

An EA may look at the above and identify with many of these tasks.  However, the main difference is that an EA is more strategic in their thinking and more project focussed than a PA. They act as a business assistant/partner and support at a more senior level, such as CEO, Managing Director or Senior Board Manager, and deal with a higher level of business affairs and project work, whilst also dealing with any personal work.

The majority of EAs work for a smaller number of executives due to the level of support they provide. A successful EA needs to have the ability to keep things running in the absence of the boss and will often act as an ambassador, at times standing in for them in their absence. 

If you are a strong problem solver and a results-driven individual, then these skills will stand you in good stead in an EA role. EAs need to be flexible and the ability to be accessible outside of standard office hours tends to be a requirement for many EA roles.

How to make the move into an EA role

If you’re currently working as a PA and are keen to move into an EA role, the advice I would give would be to look at your current role and evaluate the areas of growth and development. What else can you do for your boss?  How else can you add value?  Speak to your boss and enquire about any extra responsibilities you can take on such as involvement with any ongoing projects. 

Elevate yourself within the team and ensure you’re being seen as proactive and forward-thinking and that in the absence of your boss, you are stepping up to be the go-to person.  Showing an interest in the business will show to your boss/team your commitment on a higher level. 

Make sure you’re a problem solver and results-driven and that you’re looking at all aspects of your role where you can make an impact. Finally, speak to your boss, show evidence of where you have developed your role, your commitment to them and the business and see if there are any internal promotion opportunities of becoming an EA or your job title changing to reflect your increase in responsibilities.

However, if you're keen to make a move to another firm, you might want to take a look at our latest vacancies here >.

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