How Do I Become a CEO?

Explore the career requirements for CEOs. Get the facts about employment outlooks, degree requirements and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Business degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

CEOs, or chief executive officers, are the top management executives of public and private institutions. Find out the education and skills needed for these positions, as well as average salary information.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree
Education Field of Study Business administration, law, public administration
Key Skills Leadership, communication, problem-solving, decision-making
Certification Optional
Job Growth (2012-2022) 5%*
Mean Salary (2013) $178,400*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do CEOs Do?

CEOs are employed in as many different industries and sectors as you can think of. Hospitals, Internet startups, utility companies, wholesalers, banks and non-profit charity organizations all employ CEOs to run their companies. Other names for CEO include president, executive director and vice president.

The specific job duties of a CEO vary from one type of business to another, but generally they revolve around making sure that the organization meets its goals, financial and otherwise. CEOs often report to a board of directors. As a CEO of a smaller company, you could be in charge of hiring, training and supervising employees, purchasing materials or overseeing quality control. If you work for a large corporation, you might engage in higher-level tasks, like strategic planning, formulating company policies and collaborating with other top executives in the organization.

What Kind of Experience or Education Do I Need?

To become a CEO, you will most likely need a minimum of a bachelor's degree and an extensive amount of work experience in the industry that you want to work in. You'll also need managerial experience. While you might work your way up in a company and be promoted from within (this happens more often in specific industries, such as transportation and retail trade), many companies prefer to hire outside of the company.

Though it's not unheard of for people to become CEOs without a college degree, you might want to think about earning a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration. The Master of Business Administration (MBA) can be helpful for becoming a top executive within a large corporation. MBA programs often contain an internship or capstone project, which can provide much-needed work experience. Some programs allow you to earn a dual MBA/Master of Science degree in an area of specialization that interests you, such as finance or human resources.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

Your salary as a CEO can vary. In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that CEOs in many industries made over $200,000 per year; the mean salary across all industries was $178,400 at that time. Those who managed private companies, which accounted for the largest number of CEOs employed, earned $212,570, while those who worked for grant-making and giving services averaged $161,890. CEOs of banks earned $198,230, and chief executives in the radio and television broadcasting industries earned $228,710 on average at that time.

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