In the world of assistants, the lines can become blurred. Generally speaking, in the domestic staffing world, it's been like that for years as many titles are used interchangeably. For example, Personal Assistant, Estate Manager and Butler are sometimes interchanged, but many would argue that each is distinctly different; but it's ultimately up to each household to decide.
While recruiters and other domestic staffing professionals debate the correct use of titles, today we will address three: PA, Aide, and Body Man (or Body Woman). It's true that they all "assist" the principal that they work for, but the context makes a difference.
What is a PA: Personal Assistant?
As we said, context is important. In a corporate office, an assistant often has the title Executive Assistant because s/he often works alongside an executive (these roles were called "secretary" in the past). Outside of the corporate world, the assistant is often called a PA, or personal assistant, because the title says it all -- they assistant the VIP with personal matters not related to work. Of course some PA roles are hybrid because the assistant works in both worlds.
What is an aide?
Some might argue that this is a bit of a semantic argument. Let's, for a moment, take a look at the dictionary's formal definition:
As you can see above, an aide can work in a classroom, hospital or for a public figure in politics. When our staffing agency makes placements in the Washington DC area, we are often calling the assistants "aides." The dictionary goes on to mention the phrase "aide-de-camp," which seems to be a higher-ranking aide because they serve a General or Admiral.
What is a Body Man (or Body Woman)?
In this case, we would like to yield to Wikipedia's definition of a Body Man because they also have a long list of Body Men that have served U.S. Presidents.
In this case, a Body Man is unquestionably a form of Personal Assistant; but they are a hybrid position of a PA and EA. Additionally, they are performing their duties in a specific context: Serving a U.S. President. And we can't help but mention that very specialized training would be involved in this role.
The candidates must be steeped in politics, so they would likely have a BA or even an MA in Political Science and would undoubtedly be an assistant to another politician first to get experience because someone right out of college isn't likely to become the assistant to The President of the United States right off the bat, even if they have a master's degree.
Written for assistants and estate managers working for celebrities, CEOs, UHNW families, billionaires and royalty