How to become an associate manager (and what to expect)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 November 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.

Associate managers are important leadership figures in many organisations, and the position can serve as a step toward a role in senior management. Their responsibilities are like those of team leaders in that they supervise staff and liaise between junior employees and managers. Learning about the duties of an associate manager and the requirements of the role may help you advance towards this position more easily. In this article, we explain what associate managers are, what their role entails and how to become one.

What is an associate manager?

Associate managers oversee and support the activities of employees in various organisational departments, such as marketing, customer service and quality assurance. They typically hire and train staff to perform specific business functions, ensuring they have everything they require to perform optimally. Their job also involves evaluating performance and devising strategies for improving productivity and output. They report to senior management to understand organisational objectives and mobilise employees to achieve them. This means that their daily duties can vary, but they usually involve leading staff and monitoring their work.

Depending on the organisation they work for, associate managers may act as an assistant manager or team leader. The degree of responsibility and authority they hold depends on the hierarchical structure of the organisation and its specific business requirements. These professionals typically have a lot of experience in administration, often with around five years' worth of experience in clerical positions. They're typically proficient with a range of office equipment and software, like computers, spreadsheets and bookkeeping software. Their soft skills typically include customer service, organisation and leadership skills.

Related: Assistant manager duties: common duties and definitions

How to become an associate manager

Understanding how to become an associate manager can help you take the necessary first steps on this career path. While there are no standardised requirements in terms of qualifications, each business may seek different credentials from its candidates. Here are some steps you can follow if you're interested in learning how to become an associate manager:

1. Gain a bachelor's degree

Associate managers often have bachelor's degrees, but many advance within companies without them. If you want to be an associate manager within a particular department, such as marketing, consider studying for a bachelor's degree in that subject. Alternatively, a bachelor's degree in a subject like business management can equip you with the skills and knowledge you require to perform in the role, so gaining one can be beneficial. Some associate managers may also have master's degrees in their respective subjects, but this usually isn't necessary to get the job.

Related: What are honours degree grades?

2. Develop your skills

Associate managers rely on a range of skills to do their jobs effectively, so it's important to develop these skills before applying for a role. You can improve them through online courses, formal education and your social interactions. Some important skills for associate managers include:

  • Proficiency with computers: Many organisations rely on computers, particularly those with marketing, admin and customer service departments. Proficiency in using computers is essential, as it allows you to guide staff and enforce quality standards.

  • Bookkeeping: Associate managers often oversee the work of bookkeepers, so an understanding of bookkeeping practices is important. This ensures you understand the work bookkeepers do and can ensure it meets expectations.

  • Customer service: These professionals may deal with customers directly, offering support or resolving complaints. They may also oversee customer service departments, so having strong customer service skills can help drive positive results.

  • Leadership: Professionals in managerial positions are role models and a source of support and advice for staff, so it's essential to develop leadership skills and be comfortable directing people.

  • Organisation: Professionals in most roles can benefit from having good organisational skills, but managers rely on them heavily. They help you to keep track of multiple things at once and deliver on multiple objectives simultaneously.

  • Decision-making: Associate managers sometimes make high-consequence decisions that impact organisations, so it's crucial to be able to make quick and informed decisions.

  • Communication: Being able to speak and listen effectively are essential managerial qualities. This helps you transmit information clearly, communicate organisational objectives and receive valuable feedback from staff, all of which lead to improved outcomes.

Related: How to become a nursing associate (with definition)

3. Gain experience

Having relevant experience on your CV can help you secure a position as an associate manager, as it shows you not only possess the required skills but also know how to apply them. Getting managerial experience doesn't necessarily mean working in a managerial position. You can practise management by leading projects or coaching groups of people. Find opportunities to take the lead and manage individuals and include this experience on your CV.

4. Expand your network

Professional networking is always beneficial, but when trying to get a managerial role, it can be especially valuable to know business owners or people who work closely with them. By leveraging your network, you might be able to encourage a fellow professional to forward your CV to a hiring manager or to give you an opportunity. Consider attending networking events and reaching out to people on professional social media platforms to cultivate a network of useful contacts.

What do associate managers do?

The duties of associate managers vary from business to business, and they have different levels of authority and responsibility. They oversee the activities of departments that perform administrative assignments for businesses. They also complete assignments their managers designate for them. Here are some areas in which these professionals offer support and supervision:

Customer service

Customer service associate managers support customer service managers and assistant managers in ensuring businesses meet service delivery targets. They may interact directly with customers when lower-level advisors are unable to address issues, offering knowledgeable support. They may also assist with administrative duties to support management, such as dealing with employee leave requests.

Related: 42 sales associate interview questions (with sample answers)

Management assistance

While these professionals are not assistant managers, their duties often involve supporting managers in various ways. They may report to managers and help them execute tasks. Like assistant managers, they often take charge of recruiting and training staff to fulfil the requirements of the departments they manage. The businesses they work for dictate the specific duties they undertake. For example, an assistant manager working in retail may oversee the arrangement of displays and lead team meetings.

Payroll

This is another essential business function that often requires the support of a managerial associate. They work alongside payroll managers to help fulfil payroll requirements, deliver on projects and implement system changes. Their job may involve helping with administrative payroll tasks, such as tax reporting. Communicating with new clients and onboarding staff is usually a significant part of the role.

Related: What does a project associate do? (With required skills)

Marketing

An associate marketing manager typically undertakes the responsibilities of a fully-fledged marketer but with more supervision and less decision-making power. They may be responsible for overseeing client accounts, tracking key performance indicators and directing a team of lower-level marketers who undertake administrative tasks. In managing marketing campaigns, they often delegate work to team members and motivate them to hit targets. These may be tasks such as managing advertising campaigns on a particular platform. Customer service is also a significant aspect of this position.

Quality assurance

Associate managers who work in quality assurance work alongside assistant quality managers to ensure staff understand manufacturing standards and software development processes. They use their strong organisational skills and attention to detail to document processes and track production cycles. They have a deep understanding of regulations and quality standards and help to ensure production staff members comply with them. Businesses hiring for these associate management roles typically require candidate's to have a relevant bachelor's degree, such as an engineering qualification.

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