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A program director is responsible for making decisions about programming, ranging from services offered by a community agency to the broadcast schedule on a radio station. This job position can be seen in a number of professions and the nature of the work varies, but revolves around understanding the target demographic, researching available programming options, and scheduling programming so it is appropriate for the needs of the organization. Some people working as program directors have advanced college degrees, while others may learn on the job and eventually rise into positions as program directors.
In broadcast media like television and radio, the program director decides what kind of programming to offer and how to arrange the schedule. This person has to research the demographic, determine what kinds of people to attract with programming, and work with advertisers and sponsors to discuss programming decisions. Research to explore the kind of programming available is also part of the job. Program directors can do things like selecting features to run on a news program, making decisions about how to schedule primetime television, and so forth. This kind of work requires broadcast experience and a knowledge of the industry.
Nonprofit organizations offering community services can also use a program director in their work. In this case, the person organizes programming in keeping with the mission of the organization. A program director at a rape crisis center, for example, might run a crisis hotline, provide walk-in services, and offer educational outreach in schools and medical clinics in the area. This type of work requires reaching as many members of the target community as possible, keeping issues like racial and class divides in mind when arranging programming.
Other companies offering services may also have a space for a program director. Educational institutions, as well as other organizations, rely on a program director to develop appropriately targeted programming for their demographic. This can include everything from deciding what kinds of degree programs to offer to creating public outreach to get members of the community more interested in the type of services the company offers.
In all cases, a program director needs to be comfortable with research, statistical analysis, and related topics. Good communications skills are critical, as is an ability to be innovative. Program directors are often working with companies that compete with others for funds and clients, and they need to be able to develop programming that stands out, attracting loyal clients, viewers, and supporters.
In a college radio station where you have volunteer disc jockeys, the program director is the guy who gets to make out programming schedules and enforce the rules of the station. As you might imagine, that's not always a fun job.