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Secretary vs. Personal Assistant

English translation: PA more senior than sec (in theory)

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:Secretary vs. Personal Assistant
English translation:PA more senior than sec (in theory)
Entered by: Sam D
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13:29 Mar 25, 2003
English to English translations [PRO]
Bus/Financial
English term or phrase: Secretary vs. Personal Assistant
What is the actual difference between these two positions? I used to think that these are just 2 different ways of naming the same occupation, but perhaps I'm wrong?
Oyra
Russian Federation
Local time: 21:57
both titles cover a multitude of sins
Explanation:
According to the company, or the whim of the human resources person deciding on job titles, these can mean anything and everything.

In theory (but not always in practice), a personal assistant is more senior to a secretary, equvalent to an executive secretary and expected to have more initiative and take more responsibility. On the other hand, some personal assistants will be expected to buy birthday cards/gifts for spouses, and even take care of dry cleaning arrangements, etc.!

In theory (again), the personal assistant works more closely with their manager and is much more of a "righthand man/woman".

See this link for a debate on the matter:
http://www.speakernetnews.com/post/parttime.html

Also, a personal assistant works for one person, whereas a secretary could work for several people.

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Note added at 2003-03-25 13:47:32 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Sometimes a secretary will be called a personal assistant in order to confer a higher status on the role, in an attempt to increase morale.

In non-progressive firms, someone with quite a lot of responsibility may be given the cover-all job title of \"secretary\" because a secretary can be paid less, or can be asked to do a multitude of clerical and junior duties that someone with another job title cannot. And yes, not by coincidence, most secretaries are women.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-03-25 20:39:40 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The executive of a large firm would be likely to have a personal assistant and might have a secretary too. In this case, the personal assistant would be likely to supervise the secretary, handing down the more clerical activities such as typing and filing.
Selected response from:

Sam D
Local time: 19:57
Grading comment
Thank you all for being so incredibly helpful!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +18both titles cover a multitude of sinsSam D
4 +6same but personal assistant is newer, less sexist titleRHELLER
5one is the other but the other is not the former
ViktoriaG


  

Answers


1 min   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +6
same but personal assistant is newer, less sexist title


Explanation:
secretary was usually a woman
personal assistant is more general

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-03-25 13:33:28 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

SECRETARY, GS-0318-5/6/7/8-PERSONAL ASSISTANT, GS-0303-6/7/8: NAME. ... I am available for Secretary/Personal Assistant at the following locations. ...

www.bpa.gov/ebr/personnelservices/ ExtVacancies/000167-01-A4.doc

Looking for job as Personal Assistant/Secretary. [ RESPONSES ] [ POST A RESPONSE ] [ Gender Issues In Distance Education - ICDE ] [ FAQ ] ...

www.fcae.nova.edu/WWWBOARD/fcae/ icde/messages/11151.html

RHELLER
United States
Local time: 12:57
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 1252

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jacqueline van der Spek
0 min
  -> thanks Jacqueline!

agree  uFO: usually personal assistants are paid better than secrataries
18 mins
  -> thanks Olga

agree  Antonio Camangi
5 hrs
  -> merci!

agree  xxxIno66
6 hrs
  -> merci!

agree  Rusinterp
10 hrs
  -> thanks Alexandra

agree  Tanja Abramovic
1 day19 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

12 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +18
both titles cover a multitude of sins


Explanation:
According to the company, or the whim of the human resources person deciding on job titles, these can mean anything and everything.

In theory (but not always in practice), a personal assistant is more senior to a secretary, equvalent to an executive secretary and expected to have more initiative and take more responsibility. On the other hand, some personal assistants will be expected to buy birthday cards/gifts for spouses, and even take care of dry cleaning arrangements, etc.!

In theory (again), the personal assistant works more closely with their manager and is much more of a "righthand man/woman".

See this link for a debate on the matter:
http://www.speakernetnews.com/post/parttime.html

Also, a personal assistant works for one person, whereas a secretary could work for several people.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-03-25 13:47:32 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Sometimes a secretary will be called a personal assistant in order to confer a higher status on the role, in an attempt to increase morale.

In non-progressive firms, someone with quite a lot of responsibility may be given the cover-all job title of \"secretary\" because a secretary can be paid less, or can be asked to do a multitude of clerical and junior duties that someone with another job title cannot. And yes, not by coincidence, most secretaries are women.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-03-25 20:39:40 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The executive of a large firm would be likely to have a personal assistant and might have a secretary too. In this case, the personal assistant would be likely to supervise the secretary, handing down the more clerical activities such as typing and filing.

Sam D
Local time: 19:57
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 8
Grading comment
Thank you all for being so incredibly helpful!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  hirselina
2 mins
  -> Thanks hirselina

agree  xxxElena Sgarbo: Yes, what you say at the bottom (1 boss vs several) is perhaps the characteristic more consistent accross organizations for the 2 positions
4 mins
  -> Thanks Elena

agree  Nancy Arrowsmith: a lot of companies also give the better title to flatter the vanity of their workers, holding off on the raises. It's a brave new world out there...
11 mins
  -> Yet another twist to the tale.

agree  otouro: Absolutely right, Sam.
12 mins
  -> Thanks all

agree  Louise Mawbey
14 mins

agree  xxxntouzet
15 mins

agree  xxxcmwilliams
21 mins

agree  Marion Burns: Often terms like "personal assistant" or "administrative assistant" are used to give more prestige than "secretary" but, as Nancy says, with no increase in pay! (My, aren't we cynical!)
26 mins
  -> But it's true

agree  Amy Williams: PA can have a secretary.
38 mins
  -> Exactly

agree  uFO
41 mins

agree  jerrie
41 mins

agree  walzl
1 hr

agree  Domenica Grangiotti: All 'big bosses' have PA who are normally regarded as very important. I once heard a joke: "Do you want to speak to the boss or to the one who knows what SHE is talking about? PAs often have executive-like duties but not executive-like pay!
1 hr
  -> Yep

agree  Maria Knorr
3 hrs

agree  xxxIno66
6 hrs

agree  Rusinterp
10 hrs
  -> Thanks everyone!

agree  Tanja Abramovic
1 day19 hrs

agree  Empty Whiskey Glass
2 days1 hr
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

7 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
one is the other but the other is not the former


Explanation:
A secretary usually is an office worker who works generally for the whole company or department, or at least for several people, whereas a personal assistant also is an office worker but works for only one specific person, usually someone at the highest level of hierarchy in the company. So I would say that all personal assistants are secretaries, but not all secretaries are personal assistants. It's the old "all insects are bugs but not all bugs are insects" sort of thing.

ViktoriaG
Canada
Local time: 14:57
Native speaker of: Native in FrenchFrench, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 8
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




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