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Director of Engineering Vs. VP of Engineering

Oct 04, 2019

This article compares the roles and responsibilities of two senior level management positions in an engineering or technology firm, director of engineering and vice president of engineering.

Comparing Director of Engineering to Vice President (VP) of Engineering

Both directors of engineering and vice presidents of engineering manage teams of engineers and ensure that projects are completed on-time and within their budget. The main difference between these positions is that a vice president of engineering is one step above a director of engineering on the corporate ladder.

Job Title Education Requirements Average Salary (2019)* Job Growth**
Director of Engineering Bachelor's degree
At least 10 years of experience in engineering
$140,855 5-9% (for architecture and engineering managers, 2016-2026)
Vice President of Engineering Bachelor's degree
10+ years of experience in engineering
$167,241 6% (for top executives, 2018-2028)

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Director of Engineering vs. Vice President of Engineering

Directors of engineering oversee engineering teams and report to the vice president. A vice president of engineering oversees a company's entire engineering department. While a director spends the majority of their time working with employees, a vice president communicates the progress of the engineering department to upper-level management, stakeholders, and clients.

Director of Engineering

The director of engineering oversees the entire engineering team in a company. Because they focus on management, they might not get the chance to work on specific engineering projects. This is an inward-facing position, directors manage staff and have little contact with outside investors, customers and clients. Directors of engineering must have the technical experience and leadership skills to lead their engineering teams through challenges. They tend to work regular hours in an office setting, but may have to work overtime, particularly when their team is coming up on a deadline. A director is the first tier of executive management role in a company, thus they can go on to senior-level management positions like vice president or president.

Job responsibilities of a director of engineering include:

  • Overseeing the execution of a project from initial brainstorming session to finished product
  • Managing teams, assigning roles and establishing work schedules
  • Training new team members and providing technical expertise to teams in crisis
  • Creating and monitoring budgets for engineering projects
  • Reporting their team's progress to the vice president

Vice President of Engineering

A vice president of engineering is a senior-level executive position. They oversee the engineering branch of a company and report to the president or CEO. Their position is more outward facing than a director of engineering, because they manage relationships with clients, stakeholders and upper-level management. Vice presidents tend to work regular hours in an office setting, but they must be willing to travel to meet clients and attend conferences. Vice presidents are well positioned to advance to senior level management roles like president, COO and CEO.

Job responsibilities of a VP of engineering include:

  • Leading and monitoring the progress of engineering teams
  • Designing a company or department wide process to optimize the use of resources and increase profit
  • Making and approving financial decisions
  • Hiring employees
  • Communicating the strategic vision to directors and managers and ensuring that each individual team's work aligns with the company's broader goals.

Related Careers

If you enjoy the hands-on management skills necessary to be a director of engineering, you may want to consider becoming an industrial engineer, as both roles involve directing teams and designing processes to optimize the use of resources. If instead you are interested in becoming a vice president of engineering, consider a career as a director of operations, since both careers grant you the power to make important decisions and meet a company's overall goals.

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