How to Become a Chief Operating Officer (COO): Education & Skills

Discover how to become a chief operating officer. Learn about the schooling, experience, typical industries, and the professionals you might work with inside of various organizations, to see if this career is suitable for you. Schools offering Global Operations & Supply Chain Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Chief operating officers are responsible for managing the systems, functions, and people that work within an organization. They provide employees with leadership, management, and clear targets and objectives in order to meet organizational goals. Check out the table below for quick career info.

Education Required Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree preferred
Educational Field of Study Business administration, law, public administration, liberal arts
Key Responsibilities Management skills, leadership skills, and analytical skills
Job Growth (2016-2026)* -4% (chief executives)
Median Salary (2018)* $189,600 (chief executives)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

How Do I Become A Chief Operating Officer?

Some chief operating officers work their way up within an organization and are then promoted to the role of COO. In other instances, organizations hire qualified candidates for the role from outside of their company. For someone interested in pursuing a career as a chief operating officer, the pursuit of roles that allow one to obtain experience within different departments will be useful, as it will help interested individuals become well-rounded in all aspects of business function.

What Type of Schooling Do I Need?

A bachelor's degree is required at a minimum, with many chief operating officers possessing a master's degree. Degrees are generally obtained in the area of business administration, law, public administration, or even liberal arts. In some instances, a comprehensive record of management experience can be substituted for some of the educational experience.

What Type of Experience and Skills Do I Need?

Most chief operating officers have had many years of work experience prior to stepping into the role. An extensive record of managerial and/or supervisory experience is generally needed. A background in senior management is preferred. Strong critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills are also an asset for chief operating officers to possess. Participation in professional development programs is often a good way to aid individuals aiming to advance into such a role.

What Is the Work Environment of Chief Operating Officers?

The role of the chief operating officer is often one that is high-stress and high-demand because they are responsible for all areas of an organization, as well as making critical business decisions. As of 2016, the BLS noted that nearly half of all chief executives worked more than 40 hours per week, to include nights and weekends. Their work generally requires a large amount of travel to various conferences and meetings to handle business affairs for the organization.

Who Do Chief Operating Officers Work With?

Chief operating officers are top executives within organizations who oversee the various aspects and departments within the organization. This means they often collaborate with other top executives in the company, particularly those are responsible for the more direct oversight of specific departments. Chief operating officers coordinate all areas of a company, to include operations, marketing, technology, sales, and production and development among other departments. Professionals they often collaborate with include chief executive officers, chief financial officers, and human resource directors, among others.

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