Business Executive: Education & Career Requirements

Sep 12, 2019

Business executives provide leadership to ensure the success of an organization. A bachelor's degree is usually required and a master's degree is recommended. Most executives have many years of business experience in positions of increasing authority.

Essential Information

Business executives plan an enterprise's future by establishing goals and implementing initiatives. Examples of upper business management titles include chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO). Not all business executives hold bachelor's degrees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but entering upper management may be easier for those who have completed the minimum of bachelor's degree programs. Significant industry experience is required before attaining an executive position, and most firms prefer young employees to work within the company so they can gain valuable insights while climbing the corporate ladder. Professional certification is not required in this industry, but it may help workers get promoted faster.

Required Education Bachelor's degree; graduate degrees recommended
Other Requirements Many years of work experience
Certification Industry certification through trade organizations recommended
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% for all top executives*
Average Salary (2015) $200,140 for all chief executives*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Advanced Degrees for Business Executives

In order to speed the process of entering upper management, individuals may consider enrolling in an advanced degree program, like Master of Business Administration or Master of Science in Finance programs. Advanced degree programs typically last 1-2 years, during which students work on individual and group assignments ranging from marketing and brand management to finance and strategy. Most programs also require students to participate in presentations to build soft skills, like speaking and leadership.

Industry-Specific Education for Business Executives

Some employers within specific industries, like construction or telecommunications, may have established trainee or management programs for new hires. These programs help recent graduates to become familiarized with aspects of the business from the ground up.

Students wishing to work within a given industry, such as construction or engineering, may consider taking supplemental classes in those fields. For example, aspiring CFOs for construction management firms may enhance their employment and advancement opportunities by taking courses in sourcing, contract negotiation and bidding.

Career and Salary Information

The BLS predicts a 6% job growth for top executives during the 2018-2028 decade. These numbers reflect top executives in all industries, so the rate of growth or decline for top executive positions in individual industries may vary significantly. Data from the BLS showed that chief executives earned average annual salaries of $200,140 in 2018. According to BLS records from that same year, some of the industries that paid their top executives the highest average annual salaries included: other investment pools and funds ($284,480); pipeline transportation of natural gas ($282,520); natural gas distribution ($271,670).

Business executives develop and execute strategic plans to support the goals of an organization. A bachelor's degree is generally required, and advanced degrees, such as an MBA, may be helpful to career development. Job growth is expected to remain steady at 6% for all top executives, but depends on the specific industry, as do salaries.

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