What Is the Difference Between Director and Manager? A Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 21, 2022

Published August 17, 2021

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.

Directors and managers are leaders who make important decisions for an organization. While their roles are similar, these professionals have different salaries, responsibilities, and ranks within a company. Knowing how to differentiate between these positions can help you understand the roles better and decide which one is right for you. In this article, we discuss the difference between a director and a manager, explain the required skills for both leaders, and provide the steps to earn these jobs.

Why is it useful to know the difference between director and manager?

It's useful to know the difference between director and manager because these titles represent different jobs. While they're both executive positions, they have different purposes and duties. If you're seeking and applying for employment, it is important to consider these factors before deciding on a career path.

Related: Guide to the Different Types of Managers (With Examples)

What is the difference between a director and a manager?

Here are the differences between directors and managers in a company:

Primary duties

Managers oversee employees and support employee performance. They motivate their team members, create schedules, and coordinate a department's activities. In comparison, directors oversee the activities of managers and handle an entire organization's operations. Many organizations have multiple directors who form the board of directors.

Rank within a company's hierarchy

Directors are senior managers. They are part of the highest leadership positions of a company. In comparison, managers make up middle-level and first-line management. Middle-level management is the leadership level that operates a company's divisions. Professionals at this level include general managers, department managers, regional managers, and plant managers. First-line management is the leadership level that supports a company's smallest divisions. Professionals at this level include floor managers and line managers.

Planning responsibilities

Managers plan a company's daily activities. They also receive long-term goals from top-level leaders, such as directors, and coordinate with their teammates to achieve them. Directors, in contrast, develop long-term plans and policies themselves and ensure managers follow them. For example, directors determine a company's corporate culture for managers to preserve in departments.

Related: What Does a Director Do? (With Similar Jobs and Salaries)

Direct supervisors

Managers typically report to a director. For example, a finance manager would report to a company's director of finance. In comparison, directors report directly to a company's chief executive officer (CEO) or vice president. They may also meet with other members of the board of directors whenever necessary.

Related: Executive Director vs. Managing Director (Key Differences)

Direct colleagues

Directors collaborate with top executives, such as a company's chief financial officer (CFO) and vice president. They may meet with investors and other stakeholders who are part of the board of directors. In comparison, managers collaborate with supervisors, team leads, and other managers. For example, a company's marketing manager may work with the sales manager and finance manager to implement marketing strategies.

Related: What Are the Responsibilities of a Manager?

Education and experience

Managers often need three to five years of work experience and may transition from a supervisory position through promotions. Depending on the company, a manager may need educational qualifications in the department they oversee. For example, an organization may prefer procurement manager candidates with a degree in supply chain management, economics, business, and logistics.

In comparison, directors need more educational qualifications and professional experience. These professionals typically earn a master's degree to gain expert knowledge of their field. For example, a company's director of operations may earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Involvement in the hiring process

Directors participate in hiring middle-level and first-line managers in a company. In contrast, managers collaborate with the human resources department to hire supervisors and employees. Both directors and managers evaluate the performance of the professionals they oversee.

Average salary

According to Indeed Salaries, the national average salary for a director is $91,024 per year. Managers make $48,323 per year, on average. These estimates depend on the industry, location, and other factors. The professional's experience and education can also influence how much they can make as a director or a manager.

What skills do you need to become a director or a manager?

While hard skills for a director and manager depend on the industry, here are essential soft skills for these positions:

Leadership

Leadership skills are qualities that help you direct others towards a shared goal. Both directors and managers need these skills to ensure work goes as planned. Develop your leadership skills by embracing leadership roles outside of work.

Communication

Communication skills are qualities that enable you to exchange information with others. Working as a director and a manager requires you to convey messages effectively. It also involves listening actively to the contributions of others and knowing how to receive and give feedback.

Related: 9 Ways To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Delegation

Directors and managers typically have an extensive list of tasks to complete daily. To ensure the company reaches its targets, these leaders need to assign tasks for others to complete. Delegating tasks helps to grow the team's skills and shows trust.

Problem solving

Directors and managers need problem-solving skills to address potential issues that may affect a company or department. Problem-solving involves examining a situation objectively and solving the issue by applying the best responses. Improve your problem-solving skills by practising creative problem solving in your everyday life.

Time management

With multiple tasks to complete daily, directors and managers need excellent time management skills. Showing good time management involves prioritizing tasks and aiming to complete them on time. Develop your time management skills by creating a to-do list and setting time limits for tasks you want to complete.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your emotions, identify the feelings of others, and show empathy. Working as a director and manager requires these skills to foster healthy relationships with the team. These qualities can also help in interacting with others and promoting a positive work culture. Improve your emotional intelligence by becoming more aware of how others behave and monitoring your emotions and responses.

Related: Top Management Skills Every Manager Needs

How to become a director

Follow these steps to become a director of a company:

1. Learn about director requirements in your industry

A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum requirement to become a director. Common majors to consider are business administration, accounting, finance, and project management, depending on your career field. Earning an advanced degree can also improve your likelihood of getting a job as a director.

2. Develop your skills and gain relevant experience

Next, look to improve your leadership and technical skills. Gaining relevant work experience is also important for getting director positions. Consider taking opportunities to show your ability to lead teams. For example, you can volunteer on the board of a non-profit organization.

3. Find mentors and network with investors

A good mentor can offer directions on how to secure a directorial job. Consider networking with current company directors and building mutually beneficial relationships with investors. These professionals typically decide who becomes a company's director and can provide referrals.

4. Invest in continuing education

As you look for job opportunities, ensure you stay current with developments in your industry. Consider taking leadership courses and attending networking events to improve your employability. Professional organizations such as the Institute of Corporate Directors can also provide more educational opportunities.

How to become a manager

Follow these steps to become a manager:

1. Research manager requirements for your field

Spend time learning about what a managerial role entails and what the requirements are for your career field. Research industry-related job functions, essential skills, and salary ranges. For example, aside from overseeing the employees in a department, production managers monitor and improve equipment efficiency. According to Indeed Salaries, production managers also earn 43% more than the national average salary for managers. You can also learn about managers in your field by reading professional articles, browsing career guides, and talking to managers of companies where you want to work.

2. Evaluate and improve your skill set

Next, participate in self-assessment to discover your strengths and areas that need improvement. Doing this helps you plan how to develop your skills. While you can work independently to improve your soft and hard skills, a mentor can also offer you guidance. Use online resources to learn hard skills and practise developing your soft skills in your personal life. For example, suppose you want to work as a corporate communications manager. You can improve your knowledge of digital communication by attending workshops, enrolling in training programs, or taking online courses.

Related: How To Improve Your Management Skills

3. Gain more work experience

Consider applying for positions that involve managing others. For example, you can volunteer to manage a project in your community. Doing this provides valuable experience you can apply in a managerial role.

4. Engage in continuing education

Continue to develop your skills and seek opportunities to stay current with advancements in your field. Consider obtaining an advanced degree or becoming a member of a professional organization, such as the Canadian Institute of Management. Also, build your network by reaching out to more experienced managers on social media and professional networking platforms.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.

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