Program Director: Salary, Requirements and Career Overview

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a program director. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties and salary information for some of the popular employment industries.

Program directors must have a bachelor's degree and may be required to have additional training or a master's in their specific industry. Program directors address issues within a company, review procedures and ensure company-wide communication. Areas of specialization for program directors include business and healthcare.

Essential Information

Nearly every company utilizes program directors to verify current procedures, restructure mission statements, improve problem areas, and facilitate company-wide communication. Working in an upper-management position, program directors control almost every aspect of the decision-making process.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Advanced degree or experience in specific industry
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% for all administrative services managers
Annual Median Salary (2015)* $86,110 for all administrative services managers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Overview for Program Directors

Program directors exist in almost every industry, coordinating and supervising over all details from planning and budgeting to implementing and evaluating specific company-wide programs. Acting under the category of administrative service manager, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), program directors regulate company protocols differently based on industry needs--but almost all program directors seek to increase overall company harmony and efficiency. Two popular industries that require program directors include business and healthcare.

Program Directors in Business

With medium-to-large businesses, multiple programs are in place to keep companies on budget, improve hiring practices and boost product recognition. Some companies have a program director over each individual department, whereas other companies utilize one program director to supervise everything through the process of committee delegation.

A program director in charge of new hire orientation and training, for instance, might evaluate current application processes, create interview questionnaires, and teach department leaders to train new employees. Comparatively, a program director of a marketing department would have to multitask and deal with issues like improving advertisement campaigns, implementing customer relations policies, assessing shipping procedures, and educating employees about products or services.

Job Requirements

Job postings for program directors show that most employers require at least a bachelor's degree. While majoring in fields like communications, business management, accounting, or human resources could prove useful for most program directors, some companies require specialized degrees. Technology companies, for instance, might prefer applicants to have degrees in engineering or computer sciences. Construction firms, on the other hand, might require program directors to have degrees in construction management or architecture.

Program director positions for larger companies require an average of 5-15 years of experience. Many program directors accrue experience through working with smaller companies before moving on to assistant program director positions at larger firms, according to the BLS. Some employers count graduate degrees toward years of experience, especially those applicants with MBAs or other industry-specific graduate degrees.


In 2015, the BLS reported that those positions under the category of administrative service managers, such as program directors, earned a median annual salary of $86,110. Looking specifically at the industry of companies and enterprises, the average annual salary as of 2015 for managerial positions was $109,260.

Certain business industries pay better than others, and the BLS notes that administrative service managers in securities and commodities contracts companies received an average annual salary of $132,380 as of 2015, while those in oil and gas extraction earned $132,720 in the same time period. From 2014 to 2024, the BLS predicted the employment of administrative services managers to grow 8%.

Program Directors in Health Industries

Whether working for a health insurance company, hospital, research facility, or medical billing firm, program directors in health-related industries focus on protecting confidential information, improving patient relations, and reducing costs through the implementation of well-crafted programs. Each aspect of the health industry offers unique challenges for program directors. Hospitals, for instance, provide more patient-care programs as compared to medical billing firms. Likewise, research facilities may focus more on programs involving training students than on billing protocols.

Program directors in health industries generally have significant experience in health-related jobs, according to the BLS. For instance, a program director in oncology would have most likely worked with cancer patients previously and be up-to-date with all the new treatments. Within the health industry, program directors can focus on working with clinical units, information specialists, human resources or negotiating with third-party vendors. In smaller facilities, a single-program director may be responsible for all of these jobs.

Job Requirements

Specifically choosing to be a program director in the health industry usually requires more than a standard bachelor's degree in business management. Individuals need additional training in areas like hospital management, safety protocols with hazardous bio-materials, and an understanding of legal issues with state and federal confidentiality requirements. Those working as program directors in a specific area--such as pediatrics, urgent care, or university research--may need advanced degrees related to those fields, per the BLS.

For smaller clinical departments or medical insurance firms, most employers ask that program directors have at least three to five years' experience, but some employ first-time program directors who have the right credentials and some hospital-based experience. Larger hospitals and research firms require extensive experience, usually 5-10 years. Many job listings prefer candidates for these positions to have worked as a program director in facilities of similar or larger size.


Placing program directors under the category of managers within medical and health services, the BLS shows that individuals in these positions earned a median annual salary of $94,500 as of 2015. In that same year, the health-related industry offering the highest salary for managerial positions was pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing, which paid employees an average annual wage of $161,530. Although these positions pay exceptionally high rates, the BLS notes that program directors in the medical industry should expect high stress jobs involving long hours. The BLS predicted that employment of medical and health services managers from 2014 to 2024 would grow 17%, which is much faster than average.

Program directors are involved in the critical decision-making processes of companies and may address company communication, identify issues and implement solutions, and review and restructure company procedures. In addition to extensive experience in their field, they need a bachelor's degree, and many hold graduate degrees related to their industry. In 2015, the median salary for this and related occupations was about $86,000, but some industries pay much more.

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