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Executive Director: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an executive director. Learn about the education requirements, job duties, average wages, and job outlook to find out if this career is for you.

What is an Executive Director?

Executive directors create strategic plans to help address and meet the needs of companies. While their roles and responsibilities may vary depending on what industry they are working within, in general they are responsible for making sure the company is operating within its financial means, creating goals and creating strategies to achieve them, and appointing individual to other managerial positions. The table below provides a summary of the requirements to become an executive director.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree and master's degree recommended
Education Field of Study Business administration, liberal arts, leadership
Key Skills Management and delegation skills
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% (for all top executives)*
Average Salary (2018) $200,140 (for chief executives)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Positions Are Available for Executive Directors?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), executive directors may be employed by a variety of private and public businesses and organizations, including nonprofit institutions (www.bls.gov). You may also work as a director for a government agency or board. As an executive director, your job title may vary depending upon the type and size of the organization. You could serve, for example, as chief executive officer, chief operating officer, school superintendent or mayor.

While advancement opportunities are limited beyond this upper-level position, experience and demonstrated proficiency may lead to greater job security. You could also move from one sector of business to another, or you might find employment with larger or higher-paying companies. You might also explore corporate subsidiary positions.

What Requirements Do I Need to Meet?

The BLS states that executive directors generally have at least bachelor's degrees. To enter this career, you might earn a degree in business administration, liberal arts or a major specific to the industry in which you wish to work. Some positions, particularly those in academic institutions, entail advanced degrees, such as MBAs or Ph.D.s in leadership-based programs. Experience is also an important factor, and many employers prefer to hire or promote executive directors with multiple years of industry-specific experience.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

Depending upon where you work, your primary activities might include interacting with other executives to create policies, set organizational goals and meet objectives. You may also lead board meetings, oversee daily business operations, maintain financial records, oversee investments and handle company acquisitions. Since you will likely be responsible for the company's overall functioning, you need to have effective management skills and the ability to delegate.

Specific duties may vary by your specific job title. If you're a chief information officer, for example, you would probably handle the company's technology, according to the BLS. As a result, you would need the technical skills to set up computer, Internet and intranet systems as well as the human resources skills to hire knowledgeable staff. You would also need to understand how the company works in order to meet its technological needs.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

The BLS states that the median salary for chief executives was $91.15 per hour as of May 2018, which added up to $189,600 per year. The highest-paid executive directors worked in other investment pools and funds sector, which paid a mean annual wage of $284,480. Directors who worked in pipeline transportation of natural gas brought in the second-highest earnings at $282,520 on average per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in running a more specific aspect of a company, you could pursue a career as a financial manager. These professionals are in charge of managing all financial aspects of an organization or company. You could also become a human resources manager, who is in charge of managing the employees in a company. This includes recruitment of new employees, discussing wages and benefits packages, and dealing with workplace disputes. Both these careers would also require a bachelor's degree.