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How to Become a Business Executive: Education and Career Roadmap

Aug 18, 2018

Research the requirements to become a business executive. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step requirements to start a career as a business executive.

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a…
  • 0:45 Career Requirement
  • 1:55 Steps to Become a…

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Should I Become a Business Executive?

Business executives are in advanced positions, primarily within private corporations, that contribute in some way to the management of a company. Specific titles include chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief information officer, general or operating manager, among others. They serve in supervisory capacities to teams or departments within a company; make hiring, firing, and promotion decisions; contract or purchase choices; or any other number of executive decisions within a firm. In smaller companies, business executives may hold a number of positions and fulfill a range of responsibilities across departments.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; graduate degrees helpful and beneficial for career advancement
Degree Field Business administration or related fields
Licensure/Certification None required; voluntary certification is available from the Institute of Certified Professional Managers
Experience Several years in a supervisory or managerial position usually required
Key Skills Communication, leadership, time-management, problem solving, and decision making skills; administration skills; knowledge of economics and accounting; customer service skills; knowledge of laws and regulations pertinent to industry; ability to use human resources, project management, and enterprise resource planning software, such as Oracle PeopleSoft and SAP software
Salary (2015) $102,690 (median for all top executives)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online

Let's examine briefly the steps to becoming a business executive.

Steps to Become a Business Executive

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most business executives possess a bachelor's degree in business administration. The curriculum of these 4-year programs provides instruction about basic business operations and management techniques. Classes include organizational behavior, economics, financial and managerial accounting, management information systems technology, human resource management, and business communication. Some programs allow students to focus their studies in areas like leadership, entrepreneurship, or logistics.

Success Tip:

Complete an internship or other experience. Some programs allow students to participate in internships or special first-hand experience opportunities. Examples of the latter include visits to large businesses to learn about the particular industry. Completing one of these experiences provides students with hands-on learning about what it takes to manage a business.

Step 2: Work as a Manager

The BLS stated that many top and chief executives begin their careers in entry- or low-level management positions. One example of this type of position is that of a general and operations manager. Many of these managers have a bachelor's degree and may perform tasks formulating policies, overseeing human resources, and planning a business's daily operations. Working as a manager for an extended period of time, combined with good performance reviews, can lead to promotions that can eventually be executive positions.

Success Tip

Earn the Certified Manager credential. The Institute of Certified Professional Managers offers working professionals the certified manager credential. The curriculum of the program leading to credentialing covers topics like operations and project management, motivation, leading effectively, risk management, and information technology. Individual must pass three exams to earn the credential.

Step 3: Consider Earning a Graduate Degree

The BLS stated that while many executives are promoted to their positions because of extensive work experience, some top executives possess MBA degrees. These programs usually require two years to complete. Their curricula cover topics like managerial finance, entrepreneurship, negotiations, statistics, and accounting. Some programs are available in part-time formats that allow students to work while earning their degree. The BLS also reported that top executives of large corporations typically have obtained MBA degrees. Some positions may require an individual to earn an even more advanced graduate degree, like a Ph.D. or JD.

Earning a bachelor's degree, gaining years of managerial experience, gaining certification, and earning a graduate degree are ways to become a successful business executive.

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