What Is a Vice President's Role?

The VP is a Senior Officer in an Organization

The role of the vice president is documented on an organizational chart.
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The vice president is an employee who is an officer of an organization in the private sector (business) or the public sector who reports to (is below) the president or the CEO. The vice president usually functions as the second in command in rank within the organization. According to Merriam-Webster, the name comes from the Latin vice meaning a person who acts “in place for” another.

The vice president serves as the second or third employee who is in charge of the overall business, organization, agency, institution, union, university, government, or branch of government.

This charge varies with the organization. When an organization has a CEO and president, the VP is third in command. In other organizations, the same person may have the title CEO and president. In these instances, the VP is second in command.

Vice President is also a title used to designate the leader of portions of the organization or functions within organizations.

Vice Presidents Can Lead Departments or Functional Units

These functional areas are often called departments, to use the HR department as an example, so the individual's title would be vice president of Human Resources. Vice presidents, depending on the size of the organization, can head up each department as in the vice president of marketing, vice president of computer sciences, vice president of finance, customer service, purchasing, or community affairs, and so on. (In smaller organizations, these departments would be led by managers or senior managers, to differentiate.)

A vice president may also head up divisions of organizations that report to an overall organization, such as an acquired company that is now a subsidiary of a larger corporation.

In organizations such as banks, that deal closely with the public or in sales functions, the job title, vice president, is often conferred on a manager to generate and obtain customer comfort and support. The public assigns a certain level of significance to a VP title and customers feel important when they are served by a VP. They also have confidence that they are speaking with an important person.

Vendors, too, like the assurance of knowing that they are dealing directly with an individual who has the power and authority to purchase their products and make commitments on behalf of the company. This comes with the assurance of the role of the VP as an officer of the company.

Ranking Titles for VPs Exist in Large Organizations

In large organizations, vice presidents may have ranking titles. The executive VP is the highest level vice president followed by senior vice presidents, VP, assistant VP, and associate VP. All are management-level positions with responsibilities that vary from company to company.

The number of VP's and their job responsibilities vary considerably from company to company. A smaller organization may have fewer managers at the VP level but the managers may have extensive responsibilities and status. Whereas, larger organizations have many layers of executive leadership at the VP level.

Responsibilities of a Vice President

The responsibilities of a vice president can closely mirror those of a president as the VP heads up a department, capacity, or function, a portion of the organization. 

In cases where the vice president serves as the second in command to the president with responsibilities over a total organization, the VP may lead particular goals or hold leadership roles within all of the strategic goals of the organization. The VP also serves as a member of an organization's senior leadership team along with the CEO, the president, and other senior directors.

He or she may also serve as the president’s backup where designated. This backup role may be assigned on a daily basis to make important decisions in a president or CEO's absence when waiting for their return might cause a problem with a customer, supplier, or employee. Or, the backup designation could be a regularly assigned role that rotates among the organization's managers at the VP level.

In instances, as described earlier, when senior VPs exist, they would normally fulfill the role of the backup decision-maker in a president or CEO's absence.

As an officer in an organization, the VP can sign contracts and speak for the company so the title of VP is respected and comes with serious, official responsibilities. The VP of an organization is widely recognized as significant and important to an organization's functioning.

These are the specific, typical responsibilities of a vice president.

Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and ​employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.

Article Sources

  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. "Vice." Accessed April 30, 2020.