Project Director Vs. Program Manager

Project directors and program managers lead important projects for companies looking to expand, and they also share educational requirements and job growth opportunities. We'll explore both careers to find their similarities and differences.

Comparing Project Directors to Program Managers

Project directors and program managers both design and plan projects that will help a company meets its objectives through Internet presence and outreach, product development, or even a marketing campaign. Readers will learn about these similar careers in regards to their degree requirements, salaries, and career outlooks.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Project Directors Bachelor's Degree $89,147 8% (Managers, All Other)
Program Managers Bachelor's Degree $81,692 (Program Project Manager) 8% (Managers, All Other)

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

Responsibilities of Project Directors vs. Program Managers

Project directors and program managers may work for a company or temporarily for a client over the lifetime of the project or program they are leading. Project directors typically oversee one massive project related to technology or marketing. Program managers, however, supervise many projects that work together towards a common goal. Both of these professionals should understand the company's goals and bring them together with the requirements of the projects.

Project Directors

Project directors plan and lead large projects for their company or a client. Before the project begins, these leaders develop project proposals that match the company's policy and will help it reach its business goals. Their main task is to manage project teams, including contractors, coordinators, project managers, creative leads, and technical leads. When outside individuals are brought in to contribute, project directors may even oversee their contract negotiations. Throughout the project, they review reports put together by project managers from other staff. Finally, they may maintain public knowledge of projects by developing press releases.

Job responsibilities of a project director include:

  • Determining and gathering any necessary resources, including employees and financial support
  • Assigning roles to employees
  • Developing project data to track progress and maintain finances
  • Approving spending

Program Managers

Program managers work on implementing technology or developing new marketing campaigns, among other programs developed by organizations. They ensure a program's success by designing the program objective and any products to align with company goals. When issues arise, they even have to negotiate changes to the original product, deadline, or budget. When working in information technology, they lead a team of technical staff and create a technical environment for the business that aligns with its processes and goals. In marketing, they create a recognizable brand the company can use to expand its market reach to new customers.

Job responsibilities of a program manager include:

  • Completing contracts, program outlines, and other associated documents
  • Updating stakeholders on the progress of the program and issues that arise
  • Managing program budget and allocating resources to different projects within it
  • Breaking the program into more manageable stages

Related Careers

Project directors and project coordinators both lead teams through designing and developing products, so you could explore the latter for even more career options. Similarly, both program managers and human resource managers hire employees who are right for the position, and these are also viable professions for the future.

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