Program Manager Vs. Account Manager

Program and account managers both aim to generate revenue, but these professions have many differences. Read on to compare their training, career outlook, salary and daily focus.

Comparing Program Managers to Account Managers

Program managers establish the parameters of many related projects, while account managers engage with new and existing buyers. Readers will explore the necessary college degrees, annual earnings, job growths, and the typical responsibilities for each of these professions.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Program Managers Bachelor's Degree $81,765 (Program Project Manager) 8% (Managers, all other)
Account Managers Bachelor's Degree $51,554 9% (Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers)

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

Responsibilities of Program Managers vs. Account Managers

Program managers and account managers may work with a variety of products to either develop or sell them. Additionally, both may travel to meet clients to better understand the parameters of the project or to gain first-hand knowledge of an organization's needs. Program managers, however, focus on planning the design, marketing, and production of new products. Account managers work directly with selling a product to targeted customers.

Program Managers

Program managers plan and organize a series of related projects, especially those regarding the development and implementation of new products. Along with company executives, they set program objectives that align with the goals of the organization. This holistic view of the program allows these leaders to coordinate related projects that all reach towards this shared goal. To ensure deadlines are met, program managers parcel projects into smaller tasks, which also helps them mark progress. Completing these tasks means delegating work to team members and supervising any product development.

Job responsibilities of a program manager include:

  • Sustaining the inventory, office infrastructure, and machines needed to complete projects
  • Dealing with issues and setbacks in a way that keeps the program moving forward
  • Discussing any changes to the schedule or deliverable with stakeholders
  • Providing quality control checks on end-products

Account Managers

Account managers have sales quotas to hit, but they also have to establish working relationships with customers. Understanding areas of the market that are growing allows them to identify new customers, as well as contact those within the company who make purchase decisions. Account managers work with these individuals to determine the company's needs. They then discuss any modifications that could be made to the product, agreeing on a solution that will fit the customer's needs. For account managers, part of making a sale is to coordinate the logistics of delivery and placing the order.

Job responsibilities of an account manager include:

  • Gaining positive customer satisfaction ratings
  • Offering price quotes that will fit the customer's budget
  • Invoicing sales and collecting payment
  • Working with marketing during a product launch to establish promotional techniques

Related Careers

Because you're researching a career as a program manager, you may also be interested in becoming a product manager, as both lead development of revenue-earning projects. If a career as an account manager excites you, however, you may want to look into a future as an advertising manager, because both work to engage potential customers.


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