Coordinators vs. Managers

Coordinators and managers are the same at many companies.
i Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Throughout your career, you’ll see jobs advertised with the word “coordinator” or “manager” in the title. Depending on the size of company, both of these might be the top job in a specific area, such as human resources or marketing, or lower-level positions reporting to a department head. Understanding how these titles are used will help you grow within your company and apply for the right jobs at others when you’re ready to make a move.


    The smaller the company, the less formal titles are. Some titles are given in lieu of pay to help an employee expand a resume or make it easier for him to manage subordinates. Many entrepreneurs don’t understand the meaning of directors, managers and coordinator titles at large companies, giving their employees titles that can hurt them in future job searches. In general, a director heads a department, a manager does most of the execution of a director’s planning, while a coordinator does much of the less-skilled detail work while assisting a manager. Thinking about the roots of “director,” “manager” and “coordinator” might make it easier to understand these positions. A director directs or provides direction, primarily as it refers to strategic vision, planning and goal setting. A manager manages specific tasks, while a coordinator coordinates the various parts required to complete a task.


    At large companies with directors and managers, a coordinator is similar to an assistant position, with little authority. A marketing director might decide the company should hold a 5K race to promote a new product. She will set the goals of the race, including what type of entrant the company should target, how much budget it should have and how much media exposure it should generate. She would turn over the planning and execution of the event to the manager. The manager would research all of the logistics and negotiate contracts, then hand off simple, but important, tasks to the coordinator. For example, the coordinator might be responsible for ordering T-shirts, signs, skirted tables, water dispensers, welcome bags and catering. At smaller companies, the coordinator might head a department, handling all aspects of the area. In this scenario the marketing coordinator would suggest a 5K race to the owner, then be responsible for handling all aspects of it herself.


    A manager title often comes with some staff supervision responsibility. That might be a manager’s primary responsibility. For example, a shop manager might be responsible for overseeing the work of the shop personnel, making sure they open and close the shop on time, perform the work correctly, get the training they need and receive their annual reviews. In other instances, a manager might primarily manage a specific function, such as accounting or human resources. At small businesses, a manager might run an entire department with no staff. In this situation, the title is often interchangeable with coordinator. If the person has people working under her, she might have a manager title.

Career Path

    As you work your way up the ladder, negotiate titles that help build your resume. If you’re on staff and have been given responsibility for handling tasks on your own, consider asking for a coordinator position. This might be worth more than a small raise if it can help you land a bigger job somewhere else, or get in line for a manager job at your place of work. If you are the de facto head of an area, ask for a manager title. It costs your company nothing and it helps them strengthen their chain of command. Once you have more than one layer of staff working under you, ask for a director position. In situations where you manage more than one function, this is especially appropriate. For example, if you handle the finances for your company and oversee the accounting and human resources staff, ask for a director position. The same goes for a marketing position that oversees advertising, promotions and public relations staff.

the nest