Personal Assistant or Secretary

Personal assistants (PA’s), also known as personal secretaries, personal assistants or, on the highest level, as executive secretaries, keep their employers’ offices running smoothly and efficiently and perform routine tasks so that their employers can attend to more demanding duties.

They support the work of managers and company directors for whom they are employed to undertake a variety of administrative, clerical and managerial tasks. Personal assistants:

  • take dictation and type or prepare letters and documents, presentations and reports
  • use a variety of software packages
  • handle incoming and outgoing telephone calls
  • take messages
  • maintain diaries and databases
  • implement and maintain procedures / administrative systems
  • liaise with staff, suppliers and clients
  • keep record of office stocks and place orders when supplies run low
  • receive, open and distribute mail
  • file copies of letters sent out and correspondence received
  • may be required to make bank deposits and book / arrange lunches and /or dinners for management
  • make travel and hotel reservations

Appointments are made for those who wish to consult the employer directly. PA’s update and consult their employer’s dairy and remind them of appointments. They also furnish the employer with all the necessary information that might be needed for telephone calls, visitors and business trips.

Some personal assistants in smaller firms keep personnel files and arrange interviews between employees and management. Book-keeping and the reception of clients are other tasks that may have to be undertaken.

Some personal assistants also undertake personal tasks, such as sending birthday cards and flowers to their employers’ spouses and children on birthdays and anniversaries, the dropping off and collecting of dry cleaning, and typing private and confidential letters for their bosses on personal matters.

Although this occupation is traditionally female, men are also employed as personal or executive assistants.

Skills which personal assistants need are flexibility, adaptability, good interpersonal skills, ability to multitask, organisational skills, communication skills, IT skills and secretarial skills.

Personal Requirements

  • able to work well with all types of people
  • friendly, confident and tactful, competent and professional
  • able to communicate well in speech and in writing
  • good judgement and common sense
  • dependable
  • remain composed in stressful situations
  • ability to concentrate
  • well-groomed appearance

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate

What to Study

Basic training for certificates and diplomas is offered at various universities of technology, Colleges for TVET - e.g. Boland, Northlink, South Cape, and private secretarial colleges, e.g. Academy of Learning, Rosebank College, ICESA, Varsity College.

Experience and knowledge are gained through in-service training.


  • banks, insurance companies, real estate firms
  • departmental stores
  • government departments
  • all types of businesses and industries
  • educational and research institutions
  • self-employment, as a freelancer or start own business offering secretarial services.

Further Information

South African Secretaries and PA’s Association SASPA
60 Civin Drive
Tel: (011) 454-5505

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a company that employs secretaries
  • speak to personal assistants about this career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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