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In a sector, e.g. academia, an office in an organization has a director and a similar office in another organization has a senior director. In general, an office has a boss, which can be called by different titles such as director, head, chair, etc.

I am curious what senior director means when there is no junior director in that place. What is the reason for using the term senior when both senior director and director refer to the same position?

  • 6
    Simple - a reason to justify more salary to one but not the other. – Petter Nordlander Apr 27 '13 at 14:39
  • See here for meta discussion. – enderland Apr 29 '13 at 18:36
  • 6
    This question is on topic and answerable. Voting to reopen – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 29 '13 at 18:38
  • vtc this question is just weird - it really just asks "what does senior mean", which is generally what a dictionary is for – bharal Mar 31 '18 at 21:12
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Most positions have "paths" which allow career progression - and help distinguish increasing responsibilities and abilities. Typically this is a combination of industry standard as well as company specific (it's in the interest of everyone to have roughly similar responsibilities associated with titles).

So when comparing Director vs Senior Director there could be different expectations or responsibilities associated with the position even though the "job" is the same. Many of these responsibilities may be difficult to see from an external perspective, as well, but as Chad notes the difference is generally increased responsibilities.

Having a Senior Director position also allows for promotion once in a Director role (some positions may have pay range limitations, etc) to avoid perceptions of stagnation, etc, especially if someone is a director for a considerable amount of time.


As an example, a more technical career progression in engineering, summarized from this is similar to:

  • Associate Engineer
  • Engineer
  • Senior Engineer
  • Staff Engineer
  • Senior Staff Engineer
  • Principal Engineer
  • Distinguished Fellow

Note this is not necessarily exactly the same in all companies.

Academia has its own heirarchy (especially when combined with "Professor" - see here for just some of this).

Also note that "Associate" is used within some engineering as well as academia to effectively represent "junior" - it sounds considerably nicer, however.

  • A senior executive title usually denotes enhanced responsibilities. The Senior will usually be a resource for the rest of the executives and able to make higher level decisions as needed so that a board meeting does not have to be called to deal with day to day activities. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 29 '13 at 18:51
  • Academic ranks typically go Assistant Professor (i.e. no tenure), Associate Professor (with tenure), Professor. Becoming an Associate Professor can take 5 years so it is definitely not a junior title in academia whereas it definitely is a junior title in a technical track. – Eric Aug 4 '15 at 16:06
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There is a tendency to avoid using the word junior in a job title. If there are going to be two tiers for a particular job, some will be called Senior X, and the rest will be X.

When only one has the title Senior, it may be that they are more of an emeritus, they used to be at the C-level and are now functioning as an adviser. This allows them to work fewer hours, or with a greater level of pay or benefits.

It can also be used to signify that they are expected to move to the next level when an opening occurs.

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Some organisations see having too many (Something) Vice Presidents as A Bad Thing™.

(Too many is, of course, a subjective measurement.)

A relatively easy workaround is to replace your lowest VP rank (say, Divisional Vice President) with a Senior Director rank.

Note: depending on the organisation Senior Directors may still be considered officers of the company.

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