Chief Administrative Officer Vs. Chief Operating Officer

Nov 29, 2019

Comparing Chief Administrative Officer to Chief Operating Officer

A chief administrative officer and chief operating officer are two different versions of the executive position that reports directly to an organization's top leader. Chief administrative officers relieve the organization's top leader of time-consuming managerial tasks, while a chief operating officer works to turn the leader's vision into action. Find out the difference between these two second-in-command positions and helpful salary and job outlook information.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)**
Chief Administrative Officer Bachelor's degree $120,535 6% (for all top executives)
Chief Operating Officer Bachelor's degree $141,583 6% (for all top executives)

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

Responsibilities of Chief Administrative Officer vs. Chief Operating Officer

Chief administrative officers (CAO) and chief operating officers (COO) are executive-level leadership positions within an organization. Both report directly to the chief executive officer (CEO). These two positions can be found in government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations. The purpose of a CAO is to take on high-level administrative duties in an effort to give the CEO time to focus on more strategic goals. The role of a COO is to oversee the operations of the company and help turn a CEO's strategic vision into reality. Extensive prior experience in some form of business administration is required before working as a COO or CAO. A master's degree in a business-related field will make a candidate more competitive for these positions, but is not always required.

Chief Administrative Officer

The chief administrative officer is responsible for ensuring effective procedures are in place to measure, report on, and manage an organization. One main duty of the CAO is ensuring organizational practices comply with federal and state laws and that taxes are documented in a correct and timely manner. The CAO is usually tasked with managing human resources and other company departments. This might include hiring and onboarding new managers, preparing department budgets, and developing company policies and procedures. The CAO often acts as a liaison between the CEO and other leaders within the organization. A CAO must have effective leadership and managerial skills and be capable of balancing multiple projects and responsibilities. The position demands strong interpersonal skills and a high degree of professionalism.

Responsibilities of a chief administrative officer include:

  • Overseeing human resource policies and procedures
  • Giving updates and special briefings to the CEO
  • Building a constructive and professional work environment
  • Managing messages to and from the CEO

Chief Operating Officer

The COO is primarily concerned with improving and implementing the operations of a company. COOs receive performance reports from company departments they use to plan future improvements and update the CEO. The insight of a COO is sought for decisions regarding company operations. This might include choosing the location for a new manufacturing plant or deciding which department technology to upgrade. The COO has a close relationship with the CEO and is often the successor to their position. Strong leadership, effective communication, and a thorough understanding of business management and industry best practices is vital for this role.

Responsibilities of a chief operating officer include:

  • Identifying areas to improve cost efficiency and performance
  • Working with other top executives to implement strategic planning
  • Research and implementing new development projects
  • Carrying out special tasks assigned by CEO

Related Careers

If you are interested in working as a top company executive and enjoy sales and marketing, you might find a career as a chief marketing officer rewarding. Those interested in business administration, but who are not ready for an executive-level position, might want to pursue an office administrator position.

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