How to Become a Business Executive: Education & Career Requirements

Jan 06, 2021

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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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. Business executives 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. Read on to learn more about how to become a top executive.

A business executive is responsible for high-level decisions

Business Executive 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 (2019) $184,460 (median for all chief executives)
Job Outlook (2019-2029) 4% growth

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

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

How to Become a Business Executive

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

In order to learn how to become an executive, we need to start with education. What education is needed to become a business manager or executive? 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 next step to consider when learning how to become a corporate executive is work experience. 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 and become certified.

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. This is the last step you should look into when learning how to become a company executive.

Business Manager vs. Business Executive

While you will often see these two terms used interchangeably, they actually denote different positions within a company. A business manager, or any kind of manager, operates at a mid-level position and is chiefly charged with managing employees, budget, and day to day operations. A business executive works at the top level of a company and oversees major policies and plans that will impact everyone employed, as well as the overall direction of the company. If you are looking into how to become a business manager, you should be able to achieve your goals using the first two steps in this article, as business management requirements are less stringent than the pathway for becoming an executive.

Job Description

A business manager or executive needs to have at least a bachelor's degree and often a master's degree in order to be as successful as possible. In this position, an executive will likely do most or all of their work in an office setting, with the possibility of doing some work from home. Because executives have so much responsibility, they may be required to work overtime on major projects if needed. They will need to take part in a number of meetings in order to maintain good communication within the company. Skills that business executives need include excellent organization, communication, and interpersonal skills. They also need good clarity of vision when it comes to the direction they want their company to take.

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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