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Chief Administrative Officer: Job Duties, Requirements & Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a chief administrative officer. Get a quick view of the requirements and details about degree programs, job duties and necessary skills to find out if this is the career for you. View article »

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  • 0:01 Essential Information
  • 0:22 Job Duties
  • 1:29 Requirements
  • 3:42 Credentialing
  • 4:06 Career Information

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; graduate degree often required (MBA)
Degree Field(s) Business or a field to the industry
Licensure/Certification Voluntary business certifications available
Experience Substantial industry experience required
Key Skills Prioritizing, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills; expert business, management, and analytical abilities; multi-lingual a plus
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6% growth
Mean Annual Salary (2015) $185,850

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Chief administrative officers are high-level executives who supervise the daily operations of a business and are ultimately responsible for the performance of the departments they manage. Found across all industries and in both the non-profit and publicly traded sectors, these management professionals are experts at making businesses function efficiently.

Job Duties

A chief administrative officer (CAO) is a top-tier executive who most often reports to the chief executive officer (CEO). The CAO manages the day-to-day operations of a business and is sometimes referred to as the chief operating officer. The scope of this position depends largely on the size of the business and the industry in which it operates. However, a CAO usually manages numerous branches of the business, including finance, sales, human resources and marketing.

The CAO is ultimately responsible for the performance of each department and must report back to the CEO and board of directors of the company. Depending on the company's size, the CAO could be managing hundreds of individuals. A week in the life of a CAO might include such tasks as:

  • Providing instructional leadership to department managers
  • Developing and implementing the company's strategic plan
  • Reviewing administrative policy
  • Developing and implementing budgets
  • Supervising marketing efforts
  • Preparing financial reports
  • Motivating sales staff

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Requirements

Educational requirements for this position differ across industries; some companies will require an undergraduate or advanced degree in the field in which the business operates, and some will require more general business study.

One degree option is the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA). This baccalaureate degree program is found at many 4-year universities. Graduates will have solid business administration skills and will be prepared to work in management in any industry. Courses focus on problem-solving and decision-making, and good communications skills are heavily emphasized. Students will have exposure to all of the crucial functions key to operating a business.

Undergraduate students who major in business administration can expect to take classes on topics such as:

  • Quality assurance and management
  • Organizational behavior
  • Economic principles
  • Financial and managerial accounting
  • Introduction to marketing management
  • Business law

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is another option. The MBA has long been the gold standard for top-tier executives in any industry and is a requirement for most executive positions. Most MBA programs prefer students to have gained practical work experience before beginning graduate study, but some will accept students directly out of college. These 2-year programs can be specialized and tailored to a specific industry or a specific type of management skill that may be desired, or may be taken as a general graduate program that is applicable across all businesses. MBA programs are typically intense and require considerable out-of-class study time.

Students in a general business MBA program might take classes such as:

  • Analytical tools for management
  • Cost analysis planning and control
  • Change management
  • Strategic human resources
  • Conflict and negotiation
  • Managing cross-culturally

Regardless of the degree required, a solid background in business administration education is a must for any CAO. Substantial industry experience is also required.

Credentialing

While credentialing isn't usually required, it is available and is often valued by employers. The Institute of Certified Professional Managers offers the Certified Manager (CM) credential. Holders of the CM designation will have demonstrated their knowledge in all facets of management, including global management, social responsibility, entrepreneurship, accounting practices, and financial management.

Career Information

The prestige of their positions affords CAOs high salaries, but the competition at this level is fierce. Salary and job security often rest upon the performance of the company the CAO is managing. Job growth for top executives is expected to be as fast as the national average from 2014-2024 at 6%, with openings emerging just from the creation of new companies or the expansion of existing organizations. Mergers will thus negatively affect growth. In the increasingly global scope of business, proficiency with languages will be a useful tool when looking for a promotion or an executive position with a newer company. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the annual mean salary of chief executives in 2015 as $185,850.

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