How to Become an Associate Director (With Steps and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 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.

Becoming an associate director is a great career choice, providing an opportunity to build on previous skill sets and develop new ones. There are several factors to consider when a person wants to become an associate director, from education to relevant work experience. Learning about these qualifications may help you decide whether this career option is suitable for your goals and interests.

In this article, we review what an associate director is, highlight the key responsibilities for the role, examine the salary of associate directors, identify the steps you can take to work in this role, explore common skills sets for these professionals, and highlight the common career paths for associate directors.

What is an associate director?

An associate director is a management role that provides operational leadership and oversight to a group of employees belonging to the same business unit. This role directly supports the director in executing day-to-day activities to support organizational and strategic goals. This includes building and maintaining great relationships with clients and communicating strategic direction to employees who may implement business objectives.

The success of an associate director usually depends on the relationship with their director and their ability to manage time and employees efficiently. An effective associate director has a complete understanding of business activities, strengths of their employees, and issues and risks, which places them in a position to report on the performance of the business unit whenever they are called upon to do so.

Related: Directors vs. Associate Directors: What's the Difference?

Key responsibilities of an associate director

The role of an associate director is vast and often comes with a lot of responsibilities. Here's a list of key responsibilities for the role of an associate director for you to consider:

  • Implementing strategies and organizational goals: An associate director communicates frequently with their director and has a good understanding of their different goals. They interpret these goals into actions for employees to perform.

  • Delegating tasks: An associate director identifies teams or individual employees that are suited to fulfil certain tasks. Task delegation involves considering both capacity and current workloads of employees to help distribute tasks while avoid overwhelming employees.

  • Managing projects: Associate directors are typically responsible for monitoring and reporting on the progress of tasks or projects, and may also provide updates about the functioning of employees or teams of employees.

  • Managing people: When managing others, an associate director requires understanding of each employee's responsibilities, strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities to achieve organizational goals. This responsibility also includes regularly managing the performance of employees to support productivity and professional growth.

Salary of an associate director

The role of an associate director typically offers a competitive salary. The national average salary for an associate director is $98,081 per year. Exact salaries for professionals in this role can depend on the specific company, location, and the set of responsibilities associated with the job.

Related: Associate Director Salary

How to become an associate director

You may be interested in learning how to become an associate director. Becoming an associate director takes time, education, and experience. It's beneficial to know where to focus your effort, attention, and resources before applying for a specific position. In advance of making your next career move, you can consider following these steps to become an associate director:

1. Obtain a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree

Once you have completed your high school diploma, you can pursue a bachelor's degree. Most management positions now require some post-secondary education. You may want to consider a degree in business administration, economics, human resources, finance, marketing, supply chain management or another specialization that's related to the field of work you are interested in pursuing.

2. Consider a master's degree

In order to be eligible for an associate director position, you may want to consider a master's degree in an area such as education, business, or public administration. While a bachelor's degree is often required, a master's degree is becoming more common for leadership roles and, sometimes, is a prerequisite for entry into the management level of an organization. Most times, a master's degree provides a candidate seeking a job as an associate director with a competitive advantage over other candidates without this qualification.

Related: 14 of the Best Master's Degrees To Consider (With Tips)

3. Gain three to five years of related work experience

Before you apply for jobs as an associate director, it may be helpful to enhance your skills, knowledge, and resume by working in a related area. For example, you can work within a career office at a university or as part of a recruitment team or HR department can help you gain relevant experience. These roles can help enhance your understanding of the operational realities of a business that you may only gain through time spent on the job.

4. Acquire the desired skill set

Strong skills in areas such as leadership, time and project management, written and oral communication, and organization can increase your chances of obtaining a role as an associate director. You can often gain these skills through time and experience on the job and through tailored learning and training opportunities. Consider speaking to your manager about the skills you wish to develop and co-create a plan with them to help you achieve growth in these areas.

Related: 14 of the Best Master's Degrees to Consider (With Tips)

Common skill sets of an associate director

There are several skills that effective associate directors possess or may learn on the job. Here's a list of some of the most common skills associated with this role:

  • Effective communication: This includes the ability to interpret strategic direction from the director to employees, but also interpret employee needs and business risks to the director. An effective associate director also has strong written and oral communication skills that are used to make effective presentations.

  • Time management: An organized associate director is better able to manage the large number of duties and tasks they are directly or indirectly responsible for delivering. This means an associate director needs to allocate their time according to the multiple and competing priorities they oversee.

  • Project management: The ability to track, monitor, and report on activities is essential for this role. These professionals also may be required to identify and respond to a variety of risks.

  • Leadership: For an associate director to be effective, there's benefit in refining one's abilities to create a compelling vision and inspire employees to want to achieve it, both individually and as a team. This may be challenging at times, an associate director may consider optimism, humour, and modelling the behaviours and values they wish to see from their employees.

  • Negotiation: Competing deadlines, conflicting priorities, fixed budgets, and fixed capacity are all challenges that associate directors may face regularly. It's important that people in this role have a good understanding of stakeholder needs and motivations to reach mutually beneficial agreements.

  • Delegation: This includes assigning tasks to the appropriate team member based on their skills, aptitude, and preferences, and coordinating tasks between members to complete complex projects in the right order and on time. Associate directors may also offer guidance, support, and encouragement to their team members to help them complete tasks and achieve overall goals.

  • Human resources management: Associate directors are also often in charge of hiring new team members, letting others go, and moving team members around to different positions that may suit them better.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions & Examples

Career paths for associate directors

While associate directors may previously have been managers, special advisors, or assistant directors, many go on to become directors or executive directors, consultants, vice presidents, or senior vice presidents in various business lines. This change in careers typically occurs after spending a significant amount of time in the associate director role. In most cases, your experience as an associate director can prepare you for the added responsibilities and larger mandates that come with a more executive role in the future.

If you want to become an associate director, it's beneficial to consider speaking to someone either in your network or another professional in the field about their experience. You can seek their advice on achieving the role and learn what's required to find success in your career.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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