Differences between an Administrator vs. a Manager

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 28, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A manager and an administrator are high-ranking officers within an organization who ensure a company's success and sustainability. While they have overlapping responsibilities and similarities, they're generally separate positions with activities that contribute differently to the company's growth. Learning about these similarities and differences can help you better understand both roles to decide which to pursue as a career. In this article, we explain the reasons to learn the differences between an administrator vs. a manager, define both terms, highlight their differences and similarities, state how they differ from a director, and list the types of managers.

Why learn the differences between an administrator vs. a manager?

You may learn the differences between an administrator vs. a manager to understand organizational hierarchy. You might become more effective in your job when you know the differences between these roles. These two positions are necessary for a company to operate productively and be sustainable. Both have duties and responsibilities that may overlap in smaller companies but be distinct and separate in larger organizations. Their combined activities move the company towards its goals and help it achieve its objectives.

Related: Coordinator vs. Administrator: Comparison and Skills

What is an administrator?

In large companies with multiple employees and numerous overseers, an administrator is usually a member of a company's legal and administrative branch. In smaller businesses, such as sole proprietorships, the administrator is mostly the individual with supervisory responsibilities in the company. Administrators manage the overall affairs of organizations, such as educational institutions, government offices, and nonprofit organizations. They formulate policies, determine the organization's goals, and monitor progress toward goals by requesting reports from other individuals. That means while the administrator develops policies, they mostly don't intervene in the concrete implementation.

Related: What Is an Administrator? (With Duties and Salary)

What is a manager?

A manager implements the policies that administrators, business owners, or members of an executive board formulate. Their responsibilities require them to work directly with employees, provide them with resources, and guide and mentor them. They also ensure the smooth running of all operational activities.

Managers are employees with differing levels of authority, depending on the company structure. Companies with multiple departments and business units typically place a manager in charge of each unit to oversee the activities of the employees within the department. Managers then liaise with administrators to verify progress and evaluate performance.

Related: A Guide to 11 Manager Strengths (Plus Importance and FAQs)

What are the differences between an administrator and a manager?

The differences between a manager and an administrator are:

Focus of the work

The primary responsibility of an administrator is to formulate policies for the organization and ensure that each employee understands and follows these policies. This individual also handles the logistics of the business and reviews national laws and regulations to ensure the company's policies align with them. They also set short- and long-term goals for the business and collaborate with managers and other supervisors to implement policies.

A manager primarily implements the policies that the administrator formulates, then monitors and guides employees toward achieving the business's goals. While an administrator outlines the overall goals, a manager outlines departmental and business unit goals in line with the company's mission statement.

Related: What Is an Office Administrator? (With Average Salary)

Team management

An administrator usually performs minimal team management duties. They set out the overall goals and policies of the company without intervening in their practical implementation. That means they don't participate in the recruitment process or join the recruit training and mentoring.

A manager works directly with the employees by providing them with the necessary resources, listening to their challenges, and assisting them with finding solutions. This means they need excellent team management skills. They also hire and train recruits and can terminate employees' employment with approval from an administrator. This individual also organizes and assigns tasks, monitors their completion, and rewards employees for excellent behaviour.

Related: 10 Manager Responsibilities in a Functional Organization

Status and authority

In numerous businesses, an administrator typically has more authority than a manager. This individual often faces little competition and reviews the manager's work to determine whether a company is growing. An administrator who's also a shareholder possesses a higher authority and has additional benefits. For example, they may receive dividend distribution and vote at shareholder's meetings to approve the board of directors. A manager is a hired employee with limited authority. While at a lower level than administrators, managers are generally higher than other employees but still face competition.

Necessary skills

Due to the differences in their work, an administrator and a manager require different skill sets. An administrator needs decision-making and administrative skills to establish policies that help the company develop. They also need deep knowledge of national and provincial laws to align policies with regulations and avoid fines and litigations. A manager uses excellent communication and collaboration skills to interact with employees and give them instructions. They also require managerial and technical skills. For example, the manager of an accounting department needs a sound understanding of accounting principles to function effectively in their role.

Related: Top Management Skills Every Manager Needs

What are the similarities between an administrator and a manager?

Despite their differences, both posts still share certain similarities, including the following:

  • Position: Administrators and managers have higher positions than other employees and often collaborate to evaluate them.

  • Company promotion: Despite their different work responsibilities, both professionals work to promote the company, increase its profit, and ensure its success.

  • Requirements and background: To become an administrator or manager, most companies require you to have a relevant academic background, work experience, entrepreneurial attitude, and managerial skills.

Related: What Does a Staff Manager Do? (With Guide and Definition)

What is a director, and how do they differ from a manager and an administrator?

Certain organizations may have directors who oversee and evaluate the work of managers. These individuals usually have strong leadership and management skills and deeply understand how various teams within an organization function. Hardworking and successful directors often become chief officers or departmental vice presidents. The responsibilities of a director may overlap with that of a manager and administrator, and they include the following:

  • developing long-term strategies and goals for the company

  • evaluating the business's finances and ensuring they're accurate

  • representing the company externally and establishing solid relationships with industry leaders

  • hiring and firing personnel based on managers' recommendations

Related: How to Become an Administrator in a School in 9 Steps

Types of managers

Different managers often exist in organizations to cater to the business's needs and address its peculiarities. Here are the types of managers you may find in an organization:

General managers

General managers oversee the overall performance of an organization or one of its main departments. In large companies, these individuals monitor the revenue and cost aspects of the company, oversee the budget, and use various marketing strategies to promote the organization. Examples of general managers are branch managers, regional managers, and national managers.

Functional managers

Functional managers supervise the activities of specific units within an organization. Functional managers include the leaders of individual departments. They manage, own, and provide resources for projects and plan the direction of team members. Other responsibilities these professionals may perform within their units include:

  • addressing challenges to ensure a project's progress

  • advising teams on projects and providing suggestions

  • determining cost-effective methods for completing projects

  • performing project risk analysis

  • understanding the effects of a project's status on the availability of resources

Related: What Are the Responsibilities of a Manager?

Front-line managers

Front-line managers oversee the daily operations of front-line employees, including staff who interact directly with customers, provide essential business services, or work in production. They perform various duties, including coaching staff, making decisions, analyzing situations, listening to customers, and managing company time. Front-line managers are also known as first or second managers, first-line managers, line managers, office managers, and supervisors.

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