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Deputy Director vs. Executive Director: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

In any organization, the board of directors is the highest authority. The board appoints the executive director, who is the organization’s chief executive. The deputy director is the second-highest ranking position in the organization and reports directly to the executive director. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the job descriptions of deputy directors and executive directors, so you can learn more about these important positions.

What is a Deputy Director?

A Deputy Director is a high-level executive who supports the Director in leading and managing an organization. They are responsible for helping to develop and implement the strategic vision and direction of the organization. The Deputy Director provides input on policy and decision-making, and they often represent the Director when they are unavailable. The Deputy Director also oversees the work of other senior managers and staff, and they may be responsible for managing specific programs or initiatives. In some organizations, the Deputy Director is the second-in-command and may take on the role of Director if the Director is unable to perform their duties.

What is an Executive Director?

An Executive Director is a senior-level executive who is responsible for the overall operations and management of an organization. They develop and implement strategic plans, set goals and objectives, and oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization. Executive Directors typically report to a Board of Directors or Board of Trustees. They may also have a team of managers and staff who report to them. In some organizations, the Executive Director may be the highest-ranking staff member.

Deputy Director vs. Executive Director

Here are the main differences between a deputy director and an executive director.

Job Duties

Both deputy and executive directors manage large organizations, so they may perform similar job duties. These duties can include creating and implementing strategic plans, overseeing budgets, managing staff members and leading meetings with stakeholders. However, the deputy director typically handles tasks related to administration, while the executive director oversees more high-level responsibilities. For example, the deputy director may create the budget that the executive director approves. The executive director may also oversee the creation of a company mission statement, which the deputy director may help draft.

Job Requirements

The job requirements for a deputy director and an executive director can vary depending on the organization they work for. However, most deputy directors and executive directors have at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related field. Additionally, many organizations prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or a related field. Some organizations also require candidates to have several years of experience working in a management or leadership role.

Work Environment

Executive directors typically work in an office setting, but they may also travel to visit facilities and meet with clients. They often have a team of employees who report directly to them or collaborate on projects. Executive directors may spend most of their time at the office, but they may also attend meetings outside of work hours.

Deputy directors usually work in an office environment as well, but they may also travel to visit facilities and meet with clients. They may also need to be available for emergency situations that arise during off-hours. Deputy directors may also spend some time working from home if they’re managing teams located in different locations.


Both deputy directors and executive directors need to have excellent communication skills. They use these skills when they are writing reports, giving presentations and interacting with other professionals. Because they often are responsible for managing teams of employees, they also need to have strong leadership skills. This includes the ability to motivate employees, provide feedback and resolve conflicts.

Both deputy directors and executive directors need to be able to think critically and make sound decisions. However, because an executive director typically is responsible for making high-level decisions that can impact an entire organization, they may need to have more developed decision-making skills. For example, they may need to be able to weigh the pros and cons of different options, consider the long-term implications of their decisions and make decisions under pressure.


The average salary for a deputy director is $102,008 per year, while the average salary for an executive director is $94,335 per year. The salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the company, the industry in which the company operates and the level of experience the employee has.


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