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.

What Is a CEO?

CEOs, or chief executive officers, are the top management executives of public and private institutions. They oversee the policies, goals and procedures of an organization. CEOs work with other staff members, negotiate contracts and assign department leaders. They also look over statements and sales records to find ways to reduce costs. In some cases, they may keep records of performance to improve programs.

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
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) -1%*
Mean Salary (2015) $185,850*

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 2015, 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 $185,850 at that time. Those who managed private companies, which accounted for the largest number of CEOs employed, earned $220,700, while those who worked for local government averaged $110,230. CEOs of elementary and secondary schools earned $144,200, and chief executives in the computer system design industry earned $211,130 on average at that time.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you're not sure working as a CEO is for you, there are several other career options that also require a bachelor's degree. Administrative service managers maintain facilities and supervise parts of an organization. Construction managers are also very similar in that they manage construction projects. These career options require at least a bachelor's degree and focus on leading or managing a company or organization. Significant work experience is typically required as well.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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