Difference Between Associate Director & Director

In organizations and businesses, associate directors with the talent and desire often go on to become directors. The positions have similar titles but differing responsibilities. This article analyzes these differences and discusses a couple of specific director careers.

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Comparing Associate Directors to Directors

Associate directors and directors may work for the same business or organization, but they have different responsibilities. Directors will be in charge of a division, region, or group of campaigns, while associate directors will report to directors and have specific assignments that may include supervising others. Below is a comparison of a specific type of associate director and director, along with some important information about both.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)
Associate Director Bachelor's degree $98,110* 2017 (for associate directors, creative services) 5%** (for advertising and promotions managers)
Director Bachelor's degree $131,180** 2016 (for marketing managers) 9%** (for marketing managers)

Sources: *Payscale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Associate Directors vs. Directors

The director is the man or woman in charge, and an associate director will work under the director. Sometimes called managers, directors may be in charge of a company division or region and report to an executive director. In advertising, they might be referred to as marketing managers. Associate directors have the responsibilities of a director on a smaller scale. Associate directors in creative services or advertising may be in charge of a department and work with other creative teams.

Associate Director

Associate directors of creative services in an advertising firm could be in charge of a team doing layout work for a magazine. The associate director collaborates with team members in deciding color backgrounds, fonts, and text format. They may need to decide on mixed mediums, using illustrations with photographs, or possibly even animation mixed with film or video. Associate directors normally work from an office; however, they would be expected to share time in the studio where the team works and collaborates. Most associate directors get promoted to these positions from within the company.

Job responsibilities of an associate director include:

  • Report to division's director
  • Prepare specs or designs in accordance with company's standards
  • Provide support to creative team
  • Collaborate with directors of other departments
  • Monitor teamwork and lend advice to keep team on track


The director of a marketing company, or manager, is that leader who oversees various advertising campaigns. This professional meets with clients to discuss overall marketing ideas and themes. The director will then take the client's views to the associate directors who then have their teams put those ideas on paper. It is up to the marketing manager (director) to handle budgets, recruit clients and outbid the competition. Directors are always looking for that next job and client to pass on to the creative team.

Job responsibilities of a director include:

  • Work with other directors and managers to determine budget and finance issues
  • Discuss with clients their advertising needs
  • Collaborate with associate directors of creative departments
  • Create and assemble new team or new training opportunities
  • Direct strategies for new clients

Related Careers

Job seekers who like to be in charge as directors may also enjoy becoming sales managers, who oversee a company's sales team and direct everything from goals to training. Associate directors, who run things by collaboration with all parties, might consider work as marketing research analysts to determine a company's needs and how to provide them.

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