Job Search

Program Specialist vs. Program Manager: What Are the Differences?

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

A program specialist and a program manager are both responsible for developing, implementing and overseeing programs. While these roles share some similarities, there are several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the differences between a program specialist and a program manager, and we provide additional information about each position.

What is a Program Specialist?

Program Specialists develop, manage and oversee programs within organizations. They ensure that programs are run smoothly and efficiently and that they meet the goals and objectives of the organization. Program Specialists work closely with other staff members, such as program managers, to develop program goals, create timelines and budgets, and track progress. They also develop and implement policies and procedures related to program operations. In addition, Program Specialists may be responsible for training program staff, conducting program evaluations and writing reports.

What is a Program Manager?

Program Managers are responsible for the overall coordination and management of specific programs or projects within an organization. They develop and oversee program budgets, track program milestones and performance metrics, and work with cross-functional teams to ensure that programs are delivered on time and within budget. Program Managers also develop and implement program-level policies and procedures, and they may provide training and support to program staff. In some organizations, Program Managers also serve as project managers for specific program-related projects.

Program Specialist vs. Program Manager

Here are the main differences between a program specialist and a program manager.

Job Duties

Program directors oversee the entire program, while program managers handle specific tasks within a program. Program directors create the overall goals and objectives for a program and determine how it fits into the larger organizational strategy. They also develop the program’s mission statement and evaluate its success after implementation. Program managers, in contrast, manage the day-to-day operations of a program, such as scheduling, resource allocation and evaluating participant progress. They may also collaborate with stakeholders to ensure that the program meets all of its objectives.

Job Requirements

Program specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as education, social work or psychology. Some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree or higher. Additionally, program specialists may need to have experience working with the target population of the program they want to manage. For example, if a program specialist wants to work with at-risk youth, they may need to have experience working as a teacher, counselor or social worker.

Program managers usually need a bachelor’s degree as well, but some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree or higher. Additionally, program managers often need to have several years of experience working in the field before they can be considered for a management position. They may also need to have experience managing people and projects.

Work Environment

Program specialists and program managers often work in different environments. Program specialists usually work in an office setting, where they can collaborate with other professionals to develop programs for their organization’s clients. They may also travel to visit the locations where their programs are implemented.

Program managers typically work in a professional environment as well, but they may spend more time traveling than program specialists do. This is because program managers oversee multiple projects at once, so they need to be able to travel to each location where their programs are being implemented.


Program specialists and program managers both need to have excellent communication skills. They use these skills to interact with clients, colleagues and other stakeholders. They also need to be able to clearly articulate their vision for a project and explain the steps that need to be taken to achieve it.

Organizational skills are important for both roles, as they need to be able to keep track of multiple tasks and deadlines. Program specialists may need to coordinate the work of different teams working on a project, while program managers need to be able to see the big picture and ensure that all the different elements of a project are coming together as planned.

Both roles require problem-solving skills. Program specialists may need to troubleshoot issues that arise during the course of a project, while program managers need to be able to identify potential problems and develop solutions to prevent them from happening.


Program specialists earn an average salary of $58,554 per year, while program managers earn an average salary of $95,919 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience the employee has prior to taking the position.


Game Warden vs. State Trooper: What Are the Differences?

Back to Job Search

Truck Driver vs. Electrician: What Are the Differences?