While the term “virtual assistant” may conjure up visions of a 1980s sci-fi movie hologram or otherworldly image, the job title simply distinguishes the difference between an on-site assistant and one who works remotely, such as from home, an office pool of assistants or an off-site location. Virtual assistants make use of the latest technology, from email to texting to media feeds, to keep their bosses in the know and earn their salaries by staying virtually plugged in.
Virtual assistants fell into the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ category of executive secretaries and administrative assistants for salary tracking. In 2009, workers in these fields numbered 1,361,170 and earned a median salary of $41,650. At the high end of the pay scale, virtual assistants earned $64,330 in the 90th percentile. On the opposite end of the scale, the bottom 10th percentile earners averaged $27,780.
The East Coast topped all five spots of the BLS list of highest-paying states for virtual assistants. New Jersey led the nation with salaries of $53,950 for the profession. New York placed second, paying $51,890. New York also placed second for the most virtual assistants employed per capita. Maryland earned third place, with salaries of $50,330. Massachusetts and the District of Columbia were tied with above-average salaries of $49,630. The District of Columbia also topped the country’s list as the largest per capita employer of virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants found work in a variety of fields, with the BLS separating out the top five paying industries for 2009. The postal service had the highest salaries in the profession at $63,880. The computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing industry came in second, with salaries of $57,870, and the securities and commodity exchanges industry wasn’t far behind, paying $56,730. Virtual assistants employed by the tobacco manufacturing industry earned an above-average $56,220, followed by those working for the federal executive branch of the government, paying $55,660.
Although the virtual assisting and administrative assisting fields have no singular governing regulations for required education, experience or skills to secure a job, prospective virtual assistants may find a few ways to boost their salaries. Pursuing even a short-term course in administrative office duties, computer skills, bookkeeping or writing from a community college or technical school may help the assistant find work. The International Virtual Assistants Association offers, through written testing, three options for voluntary credentialing: Certified Virtual Assistant, Real Estate Virtual Assistant and Ethics Checked Virtual Assistant.