Learn English – Difference between Assistant and Assistant to


I've been speaking English since I was 4 so I'm pretty confident with my English skills. However, when I visited my former university, I talked to one of the professors and found out she is now the 'Assistant to the Dean'. I started a conversation and asked her if she's in fact the current Assistant Dean. She corrected me saying, "No, I'm the Assistant to the Dean." Her reply felt more like an admonishment. I think she finds being called 'Assistant Dean' as insulting.

What's the difference? Did I do something wrong? Thanks for the help in advance.

Best Answer

Assistant Dean is presumably a position in the university's governance hierarchy -- the relationship between a Dean and Assistant Dean is comparable to that between a President and a Vice President.

Assistant to the Dean is an administrative position, perhaps a secretary who works for the Dean; in modern times, the term "secretary" has fallen out of fashion in many organizations, and these roles are often called "administrative assistants". The Assistant Dean could also have their own assistants, who would be the Assistants to the Assistant Dean.