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What does a Department Head do?

A Department Head oversees the operations of a specific department within an organization. They manage staff, set goals, implement strategies, and ensure the department aligns with the company's overall objectives. How does the role of a Department Head differ across industries?
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

A department head oversees his or her sector of an organization. Heads of department may work in a corporation, institution or nonprofit. Each head of a department may report to a senior manager, vice president or other top executive. Department heads hold the responsibility of making sure that their department of the organization's whole is well run and efficient.

While the exact duties and responsibilities of a department head will vary depending on the industry and specific company, there are many common tasks these professionals share. To head, or lead, an entire department of a business or other organization, it typically takes years of supervisory and managerial experience. Department heads are expected to make decisions and solve problems. They must use their experience to anticipate the needs of the department they oversee.

Department heads often create committees to focus on specific issues.
Department heads often create committees to focus on specific issues.

Planning the best use of an allotted budget and monitoring expenditures is a common department head duty. Quite often, it's the head of a department in a large institution or other organization that approves spending and signs checks for needed supplies. He or she must usually keep records as well as receipts of all purchases and spending to give to the accounting department of their organization. It's up to this leadership position to make sure the budget is well spent on what the department needs to function effectively.

Creating committees to focus on specific departmental issues is another common task expected of many department heads. A head of department also usually prepares project outlines to which he or she often assigns team leaders. The team leaders then supervise the rest of the department's staff while reporting their progress on projects to the head person. Therefore, managing other workers tends to be a regular task of a department head.

The department head of any organization must not only hold meetings with his or her staff, but also attend those run by someone in upper management such as a senior manager or vice president. In these meetings, typically all department heads are asked to participate and inform the others about occurrences in each particular section of the organization. Top management may also assign special projects to the department heads as well as inform them of any changes or new policies. Department heads are often expected to incorporate new ideas into their section in order to make the best use of an organization's resources. For example, the department head of a special needs section of a public school may suggest to the principal that his or her students should have a new computer software program that has proven effective for similar children in other schools.

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Discussion Comments


As important as it may sound and despite the extra responsibilities the job description entails, a department head is not always paid that much more than the other employees in his or her department.

This is especially true in education. The salary for a department head at a high school or college ranges from around $40,000 to maybe $80,000 on the high end.

This depends on the school budget and sometimes even the actual department.

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    • Department heads often create committees to focus on specific issues.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Department heads often create committees to focus on specific issues.