NAIS Research: Survey of Executive and Administrative Assistants

By Margaret Anne Rowe, NAIS Research Analyst

Executive Summary

The work of assistants and support staff is critical to the well-being of schools. When the pandemic threw schools into turmoil, these school employees offered behind-the-scenes support to keep leadership and their schools running efficiently and on task. Seeking to understand these staff members’ perceptions of their work at the start of another pandemic school year, NAIS surveyed more than 600 assistants and support staff about the scope of their work and their future plans.

Most respondents defined themselves as assistants to the head of school or executive assistants or both, and over half have been in their roles for under seven years. Nearly all of them (97%) are women, and most (83%) are white. Over three-quarters have responsibilities in calendaring, managing event arrangements, submitting expenses, and scheduling. However, most of them have many more tasks as well; respondents as a whole have a median of 13 job duties, with differences by role and length of service.

About one in five respondents reported that they were not struggling at work. However, more than half (54%) felt that they had too much to do or were being pulled in too many directions. This was particularly true of office managers (65%) and other support staff (67%).

Looking ahead, 39% of respondents expect to transition from their jobs within the next one to five years, and 17% intend to do so within one to two years. However, 63% of respondents also expect to continue working in their current job for the next five years; 15% intend to retire or stop working; and 13% plan to switch jobs. Longer-serving respondents are the most likely to intend to retire, with over half of respondents who have been in their jobs for over 20 years expecting to retire within the next five years. Forty-four percent of the first-year respondents plan to switch jobs or have “other” plans.


NAIS surveyed executive and administrative assistants and others holding related roles at member schools to learn more about the scope of their work, their satisfactions and struggles in the job, and their future career plans. A total of 625 people responded to the survey, representing a 49.6% completion rate. The survey was open from August 26 to September 6, 2021.

This report was written by Margaret Anne Rowe, research analyst at NAIS. Totals may not equal 100% due to rounding. The Studies, Insights, and Research Team at NAIS would like to thank Erica Zematis, Executive Assistant to the President at NAIS, for her invaluable input on the survey.

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