How To Become an Associate Director (With Duties and Salary)

Updated January 26, 2023

An associate director is a business professional who oversees the daily operations in a specific department at a company. Becoming an associate director can be a great way to advance your career, as it's a management position that typically offers competitive pay. If you currently work in a business-related job and want to take on more responsibility at work, consider pursuing an associate director position. In this article, we learn about what working as one of these professionals can be like, including their common job duties and average salary, and explore steps for how to become an associate director.

What is an associate director?

An associate director is a senior-level executive at a company who oversees the daily operations of a specific department, such as marketing, sales or human resources. Associate directors usually report directly to the company director or executive director, where they can create strategies to implement across a business to enhance its operations. These professionals often have a wide variety of responsibilities that include tasks like scheduling, developing policies and making important business decisions. Associate directors most often work at large companies or corporations that have several departments and need high-level managers to supervise employees.

Related: Associate Director vs. Assistant Director: Definition and Differences

What does an associate director do?

Here are a few of the most common job duties for an associate director to have:

  • Supervising the daily operations of a particular department

  • Ensuring that a company's operations remain organized

  • Taking on a project manager role within their department

  • Delegating responsibilities to members of their department

  • Creating reports and presentations to share information with employees and shareholders

  • Offering guidance to other department heads when they experience challenges

  • Organizing budgets and budget plans to keep a business profitable

  • Setting goals for their department and helping team members achieve them

  • Coordinating events for fundraising and product promotion

  • Keeping detailed records of communications within a company for future reference

  • Developing new policies and protocols to improve operations across the company

  • Finding creative solutions to challenges that arise in the market

  • Keeping track of a department's progress toward their goals and helping them improve their performance

  • Balancing client accounts to ensure they reflect all transactions

  • Helping to make important business decisions

Related: Director vs. Associate Director: Key Differences

How to become an associate director

Here are some steps you can use to start your own career as an associate director:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

The first step you can take toward becoming an associate director is to earn a bachelor's degree. This is because most professionals who work in high-level business jobs typically have at least a bachelor's degree before they enter the field. Completing a bachelor's degree program in business can teach you about important concepts like budgeting, marketing and management techniques. The most popular major choice for aspiring associate directors is usually business administration or business management, but you can also choose a closely related subject, like human resources or general business.

2. Pursue an MBA

After graduating with a bachelor's degree, consider pursuing an MBA, or a Master of Business Administration degree. Since an associate director holds a high-level management position, many employers prefer for candidates to have a master's degree before they apply to openings for this role. Completing an MBA program can introduce you to advanced business concepts and provide more in-depth guidance about how to effectively manage people in a business setting. To pursue an MBA, candidates typically have to finish a bachelor's degree, pass the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and submit applications to various universities.

Related: MBA Degrees: What They Are and Why You Should Earn Yours

3. Gain experience in a business environment

While earning your master's degree, start building experience in an entry-level business job. This can be an important aspect of preparing for work as an associate director, as most candidates build between three and five years of experience before applying for the role.

There are many types of business jobs to choose from, so it can be helpful to work in a few different positions to learn as much as you can about business administration and the duties of different roles. For example, you may work as a receptionist for a while and then transition to a sales or business analyst position.

Related: 15 Best Business Jobs To Consider (With Salaries and Job Outlook)

4. Build leadership experience

Once you work for a few years in the business industry, try to secure a leadership position. This can be a role like a team lead or general manager. Having experience specifically in leadership can allow you to develop the key skills you might use as an associate director, such as management and large-scale organizational skills.

After you secure a management position, it can be beneficial to work in that role for two or three years to ensure you have enough time to gain the experience you need. Doing this can also help you establish professional connections that you can add to your network and ask about job opportunities in the future.

5. Apply for jobs as an associate director

As you gain more management experience, you can start looking for jobs as an associate director. One way to pursue this role is to ask your supervisor about opportunities for advancing to an associate director position. Another method is to speak to professionals in your network that you meet while building experience, as they might be able to connect you to job opportunities in their workplaces. You can also use a search engine or job search website to look for open positions specifically by location, job title and salary.

Salary for an associate director

The national average salary for an associate director is currently $88,708 per year, which can be competitive for a base salary. Many associate directors can also earn an average of $10,000 per year extra from profit sharing. Indeed shows that most associate directors receive employee benefits outside of their salaries as well, such as:

  • Health insurance

  • Stock options

  • Flexible spending account

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • 401(k) matching


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