Assistant vs Associate…do you know which one to use in your job titles?

While assistant and associate refer to people who take on a supporting role, each means something slightly different. Associate vs Assistant roles exist in various industries, from law to academia. Understanding the specifics of each will help you write the best job description for the position you’re hiring.

What is an Assistant vs Associate?

Assistants are usually less experienced candidates, and associates are industry pros with the experience to guide coworkers. But it really depends on the industry or job family.

There are 3 key differences between associates and assistants:

  • Education level — for example, research assistants are graduate students vs research associates who have doctoral level degrees.
  • Salary range — e.g., the average retail associate manager makes $13/hour…and a retail assistant manager makes $22/hour on average.
  • Daily duties — most assistant directors have fewer day-to-day responsibilities than associate directors who have more strategic duties, and report directly to senior management.

Here are 5 examples of the difference between Assistant vs Associate:

1. Associate vs Assistant Professor

Is there a difference between an associate vs assistant professor? Both teach courses and conduct research, but there are some differences.

“In short, an associate professor is one step up from an assistant professor.”

(source: Salarship)

Assistant professors are entry-level, usually with very few (to no) years of experience. This role often reports to a director and performs duties like developing course work and teaching under supervision. 

Associate professors do extensive research, student advising and are highly involved with academic networks. They usually have at least 7 years of experience and a solid track record (e.g., academic excellence awards).


2. Associate Director vs Assistant Director

What’s the difference between an assistant vs associate director? Depending on the size of a company, an assistant director might report directly to the associate director to help align business plans.  

Associate directors are senior managers who report to an organization’s director. They are responsible for guiding projects based on company goals and vision. They do performance reviews, support departmental leaders, and manage organizational budgets. 

Assistant directors have fewer responsibilities than associate directors. They help with day-to-day operations, communicate information from the team to upper management, and help make smaller decisions.

Here’s a comparison table of assistant director vs associate director duties:

Associate DirectorAssistant Director
Reports to the director or executive directorReports to the associate director
Prepare reports and presentationsManages daily schedules and plans
Acts as a project manager Monitors progress on project tasks
Provides support to department headsSupervises daily operations
Makes creative choices for the companyCompletes administrative tasks
Creates new policies and proceduresDeploys new policies and procedures


3. Research Assistant vs Research Associate 

What are the duties of research assistant vs research associate? There are some common ones, but also differences.

Research associates oversee scientific facilities and ensure that teams follow the latest industry and ethical guidelines. These pros will often work with multi-disciplinary teams that include legal and medical departments. A research associate is a senior position with more responsibilities and usually has an advanced degree (e.g., a postdoctoral degree).

A research assistant is usually a new member of the scientific industry who follows protocol and directions outlined by primary researchers. Research assistants:

  • are appointed at the graduate level
  • work under supervision
  • have less responsibilities than research associates
  • get an entry-level salary


4. Associate Vice President vs Assistant Vice President 

Associate VPs and Assistant VPs have similar responsibilities and salary scales.

Associate vice presidents and assistant vice presidents hold one of the highest management roles in a company. They are usually one level below the VP. Both positions have leadership qualities and experience with a wide range of skills that include:

  • analyzing and developing company policies
  • managing budgets
  • creating strategic plans
  • reviewing employee performance
  • collaborate with senior management

Industries like finance or banking often use assistant vs associate when referring to the VPs second-in-command. 


5. Associate Manager vs Assistant Manager

Assistant manager vs associate manager is used interchangeably across different industries. But, depending on the company, associate and assistant managers might have varying responsibilities, job requirements, and salaries.

Unlike associate professors (mentioned above), who take on more senior roles, an associate manager usually means a lower-tier position. When hiring an associate manager, you might be seeking a supervisory role for a smaller group of workers and not require extensive leadership experience. 

According to Indeed, assistant managers serve as the liaison between customers, managers, and employees while covering the absence of a supervisor (i.e., the general manager).  

Here is a table breaking down a few differences between associate vs assistant manager:

Associate ManagerAssistant Manager
$13/hr average salary$22/hr average salary
usually a smaller team/group leaderreports to a manager (2nd in command)
needs to get authority for specific actionsreplaces manager role if needed
minimal leadership experience extensive leadership experience


Why I Wrote This?

Ongig’s Text Analyzer software helps you create consistent and bias-free JDs. Using the template builder feature, you can store your most-used job titles (and tasks) so there’s no confusion between assistant vs associate roles when creating new job ads.



  1. Associate Vs Assistant- A Complete guide, Their Roles and Responsibilities (By How I Got The Job)
  2. Associate Professor Job Description (By Betterteam)
  3. Assistant Manager Top Duties and Qualifications (By Indeed)
  4. Associate Vs. Assistant: What’s The Difference? With Five Examples (by Glassdoor)
  5. The Differences Between Assistant And Associate Professors (by: Nathan Brunner)
  6. Associate Director vs. Assistant Director: Definition and Differences (by Indeed Editorial)
  7. Differences Between an Assistant Manager & an Associate Manager (By Danielle Smyth)
  8. What is an Assistant Vice-President? (By Mark Kolakowski)
  9. What is the Difference Between Research Assistant and Research Associate (by Hasa)
  10. What Does a Research Assistant Do? (By Alison Doyle)
  11. Blog Image (by Christina @

by in Job Titles