How to become an account director (with duties and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An account director oversees the running of advertising or marketing campaigns and develops relationships with clients. Account directors play a key role in a company's growth as they help a business build lasting relationships with existing and prospective clients. If this role sounds interesting to you, it's important to know what steps you can take to become an account director. In this article, we explain how to become an account director, what an account director does, the key skills required and the average salary for this position.

What is an account director?

An account director typically works in the advertising, digital or marketing sector and ensures the smooth running of advertising or marketing campaigns. They're primarily responsible for supervising client projects and the management of relationships with clients. They're the senior point of contact for an agency's clients.

An account director plans client projects, coordinates various teams, briefing designers and copywriters and manages budgets to help their clients achieve their goals. They supervise the account managers and account executives to manage strategies and negotiate contracts on behalf of the company and play a key role in an agency's new business program. They may also present reports regarding account progress, quotas and to senior leadership and stakeholders.

Related: What is social media advertising? (Plus types of ads)

How to become an account director

Below, you can learn how to become an account director by following these five steps:

1. Complete an undergraduate degree

While it's not essential, many companies look for candidates who have a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Though you can obtain a degree in any subject, a degree in a subject directly related to an account director career can provide you with an advantage over other candidates. Related subjects include marketing, business management or administration. You may also consider degree programmes that include finance, public relations and human resources.

Another option is to consider obtaining a postgraduate qualification, such as a master's degree in marketing or business. A postgraduate qualification can help you stand out from other candidates and help you secure a position as an account director.

2. Gain relevant work experience

To become an account director, it's important to first gain relevant work experience. One way of getting the necessary experience is to complete an internship while you're studying or when you graduate. An internship can provide you with a good understanding of the role and the skills required and can look impressive on future job applications.

Related: What is an internship?

3. Apply for entry-level roles

Gaining work experience in more junior positions can help you become an account director. Many account directors begin their careers as account executives and then receive a promotion to account manager and then account director. Working in an entry-level position can provide you with the skills and experience necessary to be an account director. Look for opportunities to take part in any training programmes that could benefit you in the role of an account director, such as learning how to use a particular software.

Related: How to become an account manager (plus duties and skills)

4. Create an impressive account director CV

Once you've completed your studies and have gained relevant work experience, you can then prepare your CV to apply for a role as an account director. When creating your CV, be sure to include information such as your contact details, educational background and any certifications or training you've undertaken. You can also include a section highlighting your key skills that are relevant to the role.

Review the job description for the post you're applying for and pick out any skills and experience that you possess and use similar language to describe your skills and previous work experience. This can help you highlight your expertise and knowledge about the field and demonstrate that you're suitable for the role.

5. Apply for account director jobs

Once you've completed your CV, the next step is to apply for jobs as an account director. It's a good idea to tailor your CV for each role and make sure you show that you're a good fit for the role and the company you're applying to. Many companies require that you send a cover letter with your CV. A cover letter provides you with an opportunity to show the employer that you have a good understanding of their company, any issues the industry is currently facing and that you have the skills and experience they require.

Related: How to write a marketing cover letter to impress employers

Account director vs. account manager

The main difference between the job of an account manager and an account director is the level of seniority and management responsibilities. An account manager typically works under the direction of an account director. Account directors are the most senior point of contact for the client, though account managers may handle more of the regular client contact and provide clients with regular updates. Account directors typically focus more on new business and directing the account managers and the rest of the account team to meet client demands.

Related: Account Manager Skills: Definition and Examples

Account director skills and qualities

Here are some skills you may want to develop to be successful in the role of an account director:

Communication skills

Strong communication skills are important for the role of an account director, as they're the key point of contact for the company's clients and it's important that they're able to communicate effectively with both clients and their colleagues. Besides written and verbal communication skills, active listening skills may also help an account director to be effective in their role. It's also important that they're able to communicate effectively on various platforms, including phone, email, social media and messaging platforms.

Leadership skills

As an account director manages the account team and ensures client projects run smoothly, it's important that they possess excellent leadership skills. Good leadership skills enable account directors to manage their team effectively and coordinate the various elements of an advertising or marketing campaign. It also helps them to ensure that they're able to meet client expectations.

Related: Account manager job profile: necessary skills and education

Customer service skills

As account directors work directly with clients, it's important that they have strong customer service skills. This enables them to better understand their clients' needs and explain how the company or advertising agency can help them achieve their goals. Having good customer service skills can also help an account director to gain a better insight into how to tailor their communication and service style to suit each client. Delivering excellent customer service can improve client satisfaction and help a company or agency retain their client accounts.

Ability to multitask

An account director usually manages several client accounts. This means that the ability to multitask effectively is crucial in this role, as they may work on many accounts at the same time. It's important that account directors are able to balance their workload and work under pressure to meet client deadlines.

Negotiation skills

Being an effective negotiator is key to becoming a successful account director. Account directors use skills in negotiation to set and meet the expectations of both their clients and their employers. They also require skills in persuasion and a high emotional intelligence when discussing matters such as client contracts and deadlines.

Analytical skills

One of the primary responsibilities of an account director is to build lasting relationships with existing clients and look for opportunities for new business. This requires strong analytical skills to guarantee ongoing partnerships with their clients. They also use their analytical skills when identifying opportunities for new business from both existing and prospective clients.

IT skills

Proficiency with technology and computer software is becoming increasingly important in the role of an account director. Many companies use project management software and customer relationship management (CRM) software to manage client accounts. It's also important for an account director to understand the various marketing technology tools to stay up to date with the latest trends in marketing to help their clients achieve their marketing goals.

Account director working environment

Account directors typically work full-time in an office, though many companies also allow for flexibility, and there are plenty of opportunities to work remotely from home. The typical working hours can range from 9 to 5 from Mondays to Fridays, though it may also be necessary for account directors to meet clients outside of regular working hours, meaning they may work some evenings or weekends.

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