Learn About Being a Program Director (2022)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

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What does a program director do?

A program director researches, plans, develops and implements one or more of the organization’s outreach program services and is responsible for the delivery and overall success of each program. A program director’s responsibilities include:

  • Initiating and setting goals for organizational programs

  • Planning programs from start to finish, including procedures, milestones and deadlines

  • Budgeting for program operations and monitoring each program to make sure it stays within budget

  • Ensuring staff members are up to date and maintaining their professional credentials

  • Staying informed on all updated laws and regulations, making sure all company operations are within the scope of those laws

  • Generating comprehensive weekly progress reports on all active programs

  • Completing all required paperwork to ensure the organization’s certifications are intact and in good standing

A program director’s goal is to ensure every program is completed successfully to add the highest possible value to the organization and program participants. This role requires a deep knowledge of program management principles, strategic thinking and strong leadership qualities.

Average salary

Program directors typically work full-time. Salaries for program directors can vary depending on work experience, skills, education and certifications as well as an organization’s industry, size and location.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $62,587 per year

  • Some salaries range from $14,000 to $151,000 per year.

Program director requirements

Obtaining a program director position may involve certain requirements depending on the level of jobs for which you’re applying, including:

Education

Program directors are generally required to have a bachelor’s degree, and some employers may require a master’s degree or other advanced credentials in their specific industry. Some specific degree programs for this occupation may include business administration, human resources or communication.

Training

Most program directors receive training within their educational programs and related internships. Some entry-level positions, such as administrative assistant or program organizer, serve as on-the-job training for future program directors. Advanced courses in program planning are also available and cover topics such as setting goals, program implementation, strategic planning, teamwork and organizing program activities.

Certifications

Professional certifications allow program directors to gain more practical knowledge of their duties, sharpen their management and culinary skills and run an efficient kitchen. Here are the most common certifications for this occupation:

Activity Director Certified (ADC)

Administered by the National Certification Council for Activities Professionals, this certification focuses on management tasks, such as staff and client retention and reducing administrative costs. Once earned, the

Certified Project Director (CPD)

Offered by the Global Association for Quality Management, this certification is the highest-level project management certification and designed for experienced project directors who are involved in directing multiple projects and programs. The certification program focuses on managing, budgeting and determining scope for multiple projects and teams, as well as assessing and mitigating risks to successfully deliver projects. The CDP program is for those who have extensive project management experience.

Skills

Program directors require a range of advanced skills to succeed in the role. Some skills include:

Leadership

An effective program director should be able to hire, train and mentor project managers. They should also possess skills in conflict resolution and have the ability to motivate employees in achieving organizational objectives.

Communication

A program director uses communication skills to share information with their team and provide team members with a level of comfort to put them at ease about speaking up about their concerns or offering constructive suggestions. Program directors can create and nurture effective interdepartmental communication as well as communication with organization stakeholders.

Decision-making

Program directors use decision-making techniques to ensure a clear chain of command as well as a cohesive plan of action that appeals to the majority of the team and fulfills the objectives of the project and the organization.

Interpersonal

Program directors use interpersonal skills to resolve conflicts and ensure the program continues smoothly. These skills include the ability to make fair decisions and communicate them to all parties involved. Using these skills also builds trust within the team through open communication and collaborative decision-making.

Program director work environment

Program directors typically work in an office setting with the following elements:

  • Working closely and sharing workspaces with team members

  • Using communication channels like phone, e-mail, video conferencing and face-to-face meetings

  • Assuming responsibility for the work produced by other people

  • Collaborating as part of a team of directors, specialists and assistants

  • Working indoors (almost always)

  • Occasional domestic travel

  • Autonomy in decision-making

  • Meeting daily deadlines in a moderately competitive atmosphere

The skills and experience of program directors often can be transferred to a range of industries, including:

  • Home health care

  • Social work

  • Education

  • Administration

How to become a program director

The most common steps to becoming a program director are as follows:

1. Complete and continue education

Program directors are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, with an advanced degree in education, business management or instructional development often required, if not preferred, by most employers. Continuing education includes human resources management, finance management, project management, program development, communications and administration.

2. Gain relevant work experience

Some entry-level positions in this field provide on-the-job instruction through cross-training, however, it is often necessary to begin at a lower entry-level, such as in an internship or another support role. This experience combined with the proper education will allow an individual to advance their career.

3. Earn industry-specific certifications

Sometimes, but not always, earning technical certifications in management, leadership and other industry-specific topics can help you quickly land the role of a program director.

4. Prepare your resume

Include your highest level of education, industry certifications and employment history on a resume. Your work experience should include the company name, dates you worked there and a description of your responsibilities. A resume that shows career progression and personal growth could place you ahead of other applicants.

5. Apply to support roles

Check online job boards for listings in your area and apply to positions you are qualified for based on the required skills and experience. Confidence in the skills you offer can help to increase the chances of getting the job you desire. Be sure to present a cover letter that highlights your ability to perform that specific role.

Program director job description example

Employee Training Specialists, Inc. is seeking a results-driven program director with extensive team management experience to lead our new office location and implement our company’s proven program model. The program director will provide leadership to grow the program, strengthen its sustainability and support program participants to enjoy success in their life goals.

Responsibilities include:

  • Hiring, mentoring and supporting a high-quality team to achieve program outcomes

  • Collaborating in the development and execution of the organizational growth strategy and identifying potential funding sources

  • Cultivating relationships with local government bureaus, district attorney offices and other program referral sources

  • Developing strong partnerships with local organizations that offer support for our program participants

  • Increasing client retention

  • Supporting our overall objectives

Requirements for this role include:

  • 5+ years of leadership and program management experience in a fast-paced and growth-oriented environment

  • Proficiency in workforce development systems

  • Ability and drive to build and develop a diverse team

  • Ability to perform each project task seamlessly, often switching between high-level strategy and helping with supporting tasks as needed to promote your team’s success

  • Solid understanding of performance-based goals and the ability to drive your team to meet them

  • Attention to detail and a high level of efficiency

  • Growth-oriented

  • Data collection and analytics

  • Strategic thinking

  • High level of comfort with sales, marketing and analytics technology

This role is responsible for the delivery and overall success of each program. As such, the person in this role must have a thorough knowledge of program management principles.

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