Associate Director vs. Assistant Director: Definition and Differences

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 25, 2021

Associate directors and assistant directors have similar job titles but different responsibilities. Both are essential employees in a company or business, and they often work closely together. If you're considering working in one of these roles, it's important to understand how they differ to determine which one is the best fit for you. In this article, we discuss the differences between an associate director and an assistant director.

Related: Directors in a Corporation: Who They Are and What They Do

What is an associate director?

An associate director holds a senior position at a company and reports to the director or executive director. Associate directors typically work in larger companies that require more supervision and levels of management. They are in charge of creative decisions and create business plans and policies. Their scope can be rather large, which is why they require an assistant director to manage some aspects of their schedule and take on some management responsibilities. The primary role of an associate director is to keep the company running effectively by streamlining operations and budgets and implementing new ideas.

The job responsibilities of an associate director include:

  • Reporting to the director or executive director

  • Preparing reports and presentations

  • Acting as a project manager within departments

  • Maintaining organizational effectiveness

  • Creating budgeting plans for projects or departments

  • Providing support to department leaders

  • Making creative decisions for the company

  • Determining new policies and procedures

Related: Q&A: What Is an Associate?

What is an assistant director?

An assistant director reports to the associate director. They may provide some feedback and input to the associate director, but they mainly assist with daily operations rather than large decisions and the company's overall vision. The size and scale of the organization they work for can impact an assistant director's level of responsibility. The primary role of an assistant director is to supervise employees and the execution of plans and projects.

An assistant director's job responsibilities include:

  • Reporting to the associate director

  • Managing schedules and daily plans

  • Completing administrative tasks

  • Supervising daily operations

  • Monitoring progress on specific tasks

  • Implementing policies and procedures

  • Hiring and training employees

Related: 8 Must-Have Administrative Assistant Skills

Differences between an associate director and an assistant director

Although associate directors and assistant directors have similar titles and often work together, there are some differences between the two roles:

Education and experience

You might follow a different educational path depending on whether you want to become an assistant director or an associate director. Because of their higher level of responsibility, associate directors typically need to have a master's degree in a business area, such as a Master of Business Administration, along with some experience in a business setting. Some leadership or management experience is also required to become an associate director. You may even work as an assistant director before earning a position as an associate.

Assistant directors only need to have a bachelor's degree, although some may have a master's degree as well. Common majors for assistant directors include business administration and project management. Many assistant directors gain initial experience as administrative assistants before taking on director roles. Other office or management roles can also be helpful for someone hoping to become an assistant director.

Responsibilities

Although associate and assistant directors share many of the same goals, they each have different responsibilities that contribute to those goals. In general, the associate director has more responsibilities than the assistant director because they are in a higher-level position. The associate director makes creative and strategic decisions for the company that significantly impact its success and structure. They collaborate with the director or executive director on these decisions.

The assistant director helps the associate director in their day-to-day life by taking care of smaller decisions and conveying information between the associate director and other employees or managers. They also help to enforce policies and implement any decisions that the associate director makes. The assistant director makes sure that projects are completed within the time and budget set by the associate director and to the correct specifications.

There are some job duties that assistant directors and associate directors share. Depending on the company, either the assistant director or associate director may be responsible for hiring and training new employees. This can also depend on the specific role that is being filled. For example, the assistant director might fill lower-level positions, and the associate director might fill higher-level roles.

Related: What Are Business Goals? Definition, How To Set Business Goals and Examples

Skills

Each position requires some similar skills, but certain skills are more important for associate directors to have because they have more responsibilities than the assistant director:

  • Leadership: Both types of directors need to have strong leadership skills because they are in charge of managing a team. However, leadership is especially important for associate directors because they may assume the director or executive director's responsibilities at times.

  • Decision-making: Associate directors also need to be able to make decisions. They are in charge of making a lot of significant decisions that affect the company and specific projects.

  • Communication: Both associate and assistant directors need to be good communicators. Both roles involve working with a team and communicating ideas and tasks with others.

  • Time-management: Associate and assistant directors also both need good time-management skills. The associate director has to keep operations running according to schedule, and the assistant director is in charge of completing tasks each day and helping the associate director implement their decisions within certain time frames.

  • Organization: Both roles require good organization because they deal with many different departments and projects. The associate director oversees a broader scope of operations, so it is especially important that they stay organized.

Salary

Another difference between associate directors and assistant directors is their salaries. The national average salary for assistant directors is $54,731 per year, while the national average salary for associate directors is $126,750 per year. This difference may be due to the fact that associate directors work in a more senior-level role, and assistant directors report to them.

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