Director vs. Vice President: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 28, 2022 | Published April 17, 2020

Updated June 28, 2022

Published April 17, 2020

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach

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Corporate hierarchy and executive job titles often differ based on the company assigning the titles. Two specific titles that are common in most companies are vice president and director, and these roles are closely related. Though their responsibilities are similar, it is still important to understand the differences between the positions so that you can plan your future corporate goals and better understand your job duties.

In this article, we define what directors and vice presidents are, list their responsibilities and salaries and explain the differences between the two senior-level roles.

Read more: A Guide to Executive Business Titles

What is a director?

A director is usually a department or division head in a business. The director supervises and leads a group of managers and employees in a particular area of an organization. For example, large companies may have a director of human resources, marketing, production and information technology. Smaller businesses typically have only one director, although a company's executive hierarchy depends solely on their needs, which may change as their business expands.

The director title usually refers to the first stage or lowest level in an executive team, though this may not always be the case. Some large businesses might have more than one level of directors, such as having both an associate and senior director. In this scenario, the senior director might have more responsibilities and be in charge of a larger part of the organization than a typical director. In general, these designations are based on rank, with the highest director position being the executive director or director of operations.

Related: How To Become a Director: Education and Training Requirements

What are a director's responsibilities?

The responsibilities of a director may vary depending on the department they manage. Here are some common responsibilities that a director may have:

  • Overseeing managers and other employees in their department

  • Developing and implementing policies for executives to review

  • Reporting to senior-level executives such as the VP

  • Planning, directing and coordinating department efforts

  • Understanding and creating department budgets for upper-management

  • Evaluating and developing strategies and plans for departmental success

  • Ensuring a healthy work environment for their employees and managers

What is a VP?

The vice president of a company is an executive that is second or third in the chain of command, depending on if a company has both a president and a CEO. In most companies, the president and the CEO titles are held by the same person.

Vice presidents are in charge of the overall business, institution, university, organization, agency or branch of government. A VP furthers the board of directors' goals and missions by implementing new standards and strategies in the company that are in line with the board. They also face the public more often than other executives, and they do their best to uphold their company's image.

Some larger companies may assign vice president designations to each leader who is the head of a division. For example, a company may have a vice president of finance as well as a vice president of sales and customer service. These large organizations may also have ranking titles for vice presidents, such as associate VP, assistant VP, VP, senior VP and executive VP, depending on the company's size and needs.

Related: 7 Executive Titles to Know: Job Descriptions and Responsibilities

What are a vice president's responsibilities?

A vice president's responsibilities may vary according to an organization's needs. Here are some of the common duties a VP can have:

  • Assisting the president or CEO of the company and the board of directors with implementing the company's overall values, mission and strategic goals

  • Directing, leading and evaluating employees' work and ensuring a healthy corporate culture

  • Managing a company's day-to-day operations and generation of revenue to ensure it grows continuously

  • Staying aware of competitors, the market, expansion opportunities and new industry standards and development

  • Helping manage the company's finances to achieve financial goals

  • Signing legally binding documents and making commitments on behalf of the company

  • Contributing to business development strategy, sales innovations and the overall profitability of the company

  • Formulating plans to fix any problems when the company is not achieving its desired goals

  • Attending important meetings with the board of directors and sharing their knowledge with other employees

Average salary for directors and VPs

The average salary for directors and VPs may vary depending on the size of the organization they work for, the industry they work in, their geographical location and their level of expertise. Here are the salaries you can expect from each position:

  • A director's common average salary in the United States is $70,808 per year.

  • A VP's common average salary in the United States is $120,403 per year.

Director vs. VP

Directors and VPs may have similar job duties related to managing and guiding their staff, but most of their roles vary based on the level of responsibility they each have. Here are some of the differences between directors and vice presidents:

Who they report to

Vice presidents report to the president or CEO of a company, while directors usually report to the vice president.

Goals and objectives

Directors give guidance to mid-level managers regarding how to meet sales goals and other objectives. In comparison, vice presidents help set the goals and objectives, and then they relay the information to directors.

Budgets

Directors prepare budgets for their departments, and then vice presidents approve or deny the budgets based on a variety of financial factors that affect the company.

Business strategies

Vice presidents create business strategies for their organizations. Directors are then responsible for following these strategies and giving feedback about how they are working with managers and other employees.

Who they manage

In small to mid-size businesses, VPs may manage the overall business or organization. In comparison, directors may only manage one department, such as sales or customer service.

Board of directors

Vice presidents meet with the board of directors regularly, whereas directors typically don't meet with the board unless their presence is requested.

Collaboration

Vice presidents collaborate with outside vendors and contractors on a variety of projects, while directors usually collaborate more with individuals within the organization.

Making decisions

Vice presidents may fulfill the role of a decision-maker for a company if the president or CEO is absent. Directors also need to make important decisions, but they must typically be approved by vice presidents or other executives before they can move forward.

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