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How to Become a Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

There are several steps to become a CEO, including earning a bachelor's degree and getting managerial experience. Those wishing to start a CEO career can learn more about what CEOs do and how to go about acquiring the necessary training and skills here. View article »

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CEO Job Description

A CEO career typically involves a wide range of job duties that all work to help an organization reach its goals. These professionals provide vision for the direction of a company and create and oversee operations that are consistent with this vision. Some of these professionals may work in specific areas of the company, like human resources or finance. Job duties for CEOs may include:

  • Hiring other managers
  • Implementing new policy
  • Managing budgets
  • Overseeing other top executives
  • Setting goals

CEO Qualifications & Employment Info

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Business administration
Experience Required 5 or more years of work experience
Annual Mean Salary (2018)* $200,140 for all chief executives
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)* -4% for all chief executives

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

Steps to Become a CEO

Chief executive officers, or CEOs, lead and oversee their organization. CEO requirements include formal training and work experience, as well as important skills in areas like time-management, communication, problem-solving, and leadership. The steps to become a CEO are outlined below.

Step 1: Meet Education Requirements

If you're wondering what degree you need to be a CEO, chief executive officer education typically entails earning at least a bachelor's degree. Usually this degree is in a field related to business and leadership, such as business administration, management, or public administration. Bachelor's degrees in business management usually take 4 years to complete, but some accelerated programs are available.

Some CEOs also hold a master's degree, which again is usually in an area of business. There are several different master's degrees in business available that allow students to specialize in areas like accounting or business administration.

CEOs or aspiring CEOs may also pursue continuing education through additional courses that discuss such topics as leadership, information technology management, and contract law. A number of free online continuing education courses in business are available.

Step 2: Get Work Experience

Students wondering ''how long does it take to become a CEO?'' need to take into consideration the required amount of work experience needed in addition to the time it takes to earn a 4-year bachelor's degree and/or a 2-year master's degree. Most CEO positions require 5 years or more of related work experience.

Chief executive officers need extensive managerial experience, which professionals typically gain by working their way up through their organization or in positions with other businesses. Some companies may provide training or development programs within their organization that can also help prepare professionals for advancement.

Step 3: Earn Certification

Although it is not usually required, some CEOs need to hold professional certification in a particular area of management, depending on their job duties and their organization's requirements. Aspiring CEOs might also earn credentials to help them move up through the ranks. Some professional certifications for CEOs could include:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

CEO Salary Info

According to the BLS, in 2018 the average annual salary for a chief executive was $200,140. The highest paying industry for CEOs in this year was other investment pools and funds, where chief executives made an average salary of $284,480. However, local governments, excluding schools and hospitals, employed the most chief executives, with about 17,200 positions in 2018. Professionals in this industry earned an annual salary of $120,130.

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