How to Become a Program Director

Posted by Jessica Blanchard on August 07, 2013  /   Posted in Human Services

Providing help to people who need it is a detailed and multi-faceted undertaking. The human services field needs competent direct service workers, as well as strong business minds to coordinate, design and run programs. Many programs also depend on outside funding and need organizers to head fund raising activities and campaign for government funding. A human services degree can prepare you for many exciting careers.

Get more information about online human services degrees and learn more about how to become a program director below!

Program Director Serving Food
Well educated and trained program director feed the need of the community through social and humanitarian efforts.

What They Do

Program directors design and implement human service programs. They assess the needs of the population their organization serves and create programs to meet those needs. Program directors supervise staff members and ensure the program meets state and federal criteria for service pro­viders. These workers also may be responsible for collecting data used to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs.

Program directors may be responsible for conducting community outreach to determine what services would most benefit their area. They often meet with other directors to plan events or with business leaders to discuss mutually beneficial projects. They handle the big-picture logistics of how a program will work and communicate directions to other managers oversee the day-to-day operations.

How to Become One

A program director needs to have a firm grasp of business sense as well as the needs of the organization for which they work. Candidates who have a strong background in both business and human services will excel in this position.

Program Director Salary

There are many paths to becoming a program director. Some begin with a bachelor’s degree in business and go to work for nonprofits. Others may have a background in human services or social work and learn how to run programs from working with different organizations. Whichever path a candidate chooses, those who have completed a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field will have an advantage in the job market.

Program directors work in different industries including nonprofit organizations, private for-profit social service companies, and government agencies and in various settings like offices, clinics, hospitals and shelters.

The chart below gives details on the industries employing the most social and community service managers (occupations which include case managers, program directors and social workers), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Social Services by Industry

Job Outlook

If a candidate decides to work for a nonprofit organization, they’ll be joining an industry with over 1.64 million organizations. According to the Nonprofit Times (NPT) Annual Salary Survey in 2006, a program director’s average salary was $80,228.

In addition, program directors have seen an increase in salary over the years. In 2009, the NPT survey found program directors were reporting a 2.15 percent increase in their salary. This increase was seen in each geographic region; however, the Southwest saw the highest jump with a 7.13 percent increase.

Required Skills

To learn how to become a program director, one needs to acquire skills in addition to the knowledge gained from a human services degree. Program directors assist those in need and manage projects. It’s a professional and caring role that requires nurturing and a “tough but fair” attitude in order to complete projects.

Some skills include:

  • Active listening – A program director has a lot on their plate, but it’s important they give their full attention to others
  • Strong communication – working in human services requires employees who are social and enjoy communicating with people they help and work with
  • Time management – program directors have to keep up with their time and others as well to ensure projects are completed in a timely manner
  • Critical thinking – helping others requires human services professionals to react to different situations. It’s important to apply logical, thought out reasoning to all situations
  • Management of personal resources – as a director, it’s important to acknowledge the work of others and motivate them to excel

Similar Careers

Earning an online bachelor’s degree in human services from Shorter University can prepare you for a rewarding career in many fields. If you feel the calling to give back to your community and help others, you may be interested in pursuing similar occupations listed below:

Learn how an online bachelor’s degree in human services can prepare you for these exciting careers!

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