When vice, deputy, associate, or assistant is collocated with a job title, such as vice manager, deputy manager, associate manager, assistant manager, I wonder how to rank or differentiate their levels. Or, they sometimes can be the same, can't they?

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    Vice usually combines only with president, as far as I know. Because the word has another meaning, a "vice manager" sounds like someone who would be fun, but I unfortunately don't work in that kind of industry. Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 5:04
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    Vice-chair, vice-principal, vice-chancellor. It seems to go with words that mean the boss, not just somebody with a position of authority.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 11:56
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    Ah yes, the vice-deputy associate assistant. A well known role in modern business ;) Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 13:20
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    Just be wary of vice kingpins, vice tsars and vice lords, very different meaning of vice there!
    – Robb
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 19:19
  • @MattE.Эллен, Is there even a "vice-deputy associate assistant"? Or do you mean "associate assistant of vice-deputy"?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 8:05

7 Answers 7


Vice refers to the one who is next in command! And its usage is usually confined to a small number of people, whereas Deputy also refers the same but it is confined to considerably large number of people.

For example: There would be just one or two vice presidents under a president! On the contrary, there can be many deputy engineers under a manager.

Associate refers to someone who is usually not as high in the cadre as Deputy/Vice but of someone who is of equal level in being a sub ordinate & Assistant being the least in the cadre of the above mentioned!

So if you are looking to differentiate, it would be something like this,

Vice = Deputy > Associate > Assistant

  • I agree that an X is higher than an Associate X who is higher, in turn, than an Assistant X. I agree that a Vice X would typically be between X and Associate X, but at least in the case of X = President there can be many... so many that the term Senior Vice President is now quite common.
    – Charles
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 16:40

'Deputy' literally means someone who can act in the stead of his/her superior. Hence, the verb to 'deputize' for somebody, to take their place. A sheriff's deputy is a good example.

Similarly, 'vice' comes from the Latin meaning 'in place of'. We have the familiar example of the President of the United States of America, and his/her Vice President who, while being subordinate, may take on the role of President in certain circumstances.

I would rank both 'deputy' and 'vice' ahead of 'associate' and 'assistant'. 'Associate' is commonly used to refer to general employees of not especially high rank, such as associates in a law firm. 'Assistant' is a term which can be used to mean something like 'helper' or 'aide' - it may even be pejorative depending on context - but in some cases can be used to indicate a rank similar to 'deputy', such as Assistant District Attorney, or Assistant Coach.

In general, these are quite fluid terms depending on the setting in which they are used.


"Vice-," "deputy" and "assistant" are generally used to refer to the "second-in-command" or the one who may act as a representative for the holder of the original job title. Usually, these are also job titles held by a single person. "Associate," on the other hand is used to mean something similar to the others (in terms of being a subordinate), but they may be one of a number of such persons.

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    As a couple of exceptions, in large corporations, the title vice-president is frequently held by several people (e.g. VP of HR, VP of Sales, etc.). Similarly, a deputy sheriff refers to any law enforcement officer associated with a sheriff's dept, with the titles undersherrif or chief deputy often used to designate someone serving just under the actual sheriff.
    – Dusty
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 5:06
  • Yes, I knew there were a few exceptions, and exactly those ones you mentioned, but I couldn't think of many so I said generally this was the case. Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 0:19

I'm not looking this up, but…

Vice goes only with president and signifies a position that is both executive and subordinate.

Deputy specifically implies that the person in charge hired the underling so as to delegate not only tasks, but authority over others as well.

Associate is often used in marketing positions, so clients may be impressed that they are talking to a "manager." If your manager is only an associate manager, then you are definitely low on the chain.

Assistant signifies delegation like deputy, but the person works more closely to perform tasks for the superior. The assistant gives orders less often than the deputy and writes more reports.

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    That's not true about vice being limited to presidents. Universities have vice-chancellors, for example Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 13:21
  • @Matt: True, and I see Colin has some other examples above. Anyway, "executive and subordinate" still holds. Vice-principals are executive in theory at least, although in most cases deputy would really fit better, and some schools do call them assistant principals. Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 13:52

This depends on the ranking system of the institution in question, geographical location also plays a big part, see academic ranks below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_ranks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_ranks


For the military services, the term "Vice" is used to identify the second in line for non-command roles, such as the Vice Chief of Staff, Army/Air Force. The term "Deputy" is used to denote the second in line for Command billets, as in Deputy Commanding General, Pacific Command.


Gets even more complicated with armies.

Lieutenant originally meant assistant so Lieutenant Colonel is below a Colonel. While Major means senior - hence a sergeant major is a senior sergeant - but a Major General is below a Lieutenant General.

edit - corrected, I mis-remembered the quote

  • Er, no, a Major General does not outrank a General. As I understand it the sequence "Captain, Lieutenant, [Sergeant] Major" is repeat at "[Captain] Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, Major [Colonel]" and again at [Captain] General, Lieutenant General, Major General", with the bracketed words being obsolete or only implied.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 12:01
  • For officers in the US Army/Marines/Air Force: Major General < Lieutenant General < General. And Lieutenant < Captain < Major < Lieutenant Colonel < Colonel.
    – Dusty
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 13:09
  • @Dusty, you forgot Brigadier General, which is the lowest, or "one-star" general
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 17:52
  • as the others have said, a Major General, at least in the U.S. Military does not outrank a General. Brigadier General is the lowest followed by Major General, then Lieutenant General, then General
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 17:54
  • @Kevin - I didn't forget, Brigadier just hadn't been mentioned, so I didn't include it.
    – Dusty
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 18:27

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