How to Become a Chief Executive Officer in the US

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Are you an ambitious person with superb leadership abilities? Do you possess the potential to rise to the top of the corporate structure? If you believe you possess these qualities, you stand a chance of becoming a chief executive officer.

What Do Chief Executives Do?

Chief executive officers are way more than just managers. Their job is not to micro-manage the day-to-day operations of a company; that is the job of operations managers. CEOs are the face of a company. Theirs is to:

  • Receive updates from junior managers and report to the board of directors
  • Find ways to maximize the value of the company
  • Attend national and international meetings and conferences – a role which sees them serve as company ambassadors
  • Make corporate decisions, such as whether to establish a new branch in an emerging market
  • Advise the board of directors
  • Lead policy creation and strategy formulation meetings.

The CEO bears the overall responsibility for a company’s performance. If it performs poorly over an extended period of time, he or she is often the first to give way.

Work Environment

On official records, CEOs work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. It is, however, not uncommon for them to work long hours attending meetings.

If you want to be a CEO, you should be prepared to spend days away from your family. Like many high level corporate jobs, CEOs travel extensively.


CEOs earn as follows:


Average Annual Wage

Lowest-earning CEOs

$69,000 - $100,000

Middle-earning CEOs

$100,000 - $230,000

Highest-earning CEOs

$230,000 - $310,000

Source: PayScale

Salaries vary by size of company and CEO performance.

Education and Professional Experience

Graduating top of your class alone is not enough to land you this job. You must be an experienced manager with vast industry expertise.

The often long and patchy road to becoming a CEO begins in undergraduate school, where you should earn a bachelor’s degree in management. This is not mandatory though. Many CEOs have an undergraduate degree in diverse disciplines, ranging from healthcare to engineering.

Your academic background may influence the company you can work for. For instance, a healthcare management background can make you a favorite candidate for the CEO’s job in a hospital as opposed to an airline.

You could then proceed to find a job or pursue a master’s degree. Preferably, you should obtain a master’s in business and management.

It takes hard work to rise to the top: from entry-level gigs to middle-level management and finally top executive positions, such as chief strategy officer or chief operating officer.

Important Qualities

To be a competent CEO, you need:

  • Excellent corporate leadership skills
  • Excellent personnel management skills
  • Topnotch problem-solving and decision making skills
  • To be a risk take
  • Good team-building and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to innovative
  • The ability to delegate responsibility and trust others
  • Analytical intelligence
  • Skills in policy formulation
  • Strong business skills
  • Vast industry knowledge.

Career Development

After working your way through several ranks and landing the top job, you will have no time to sit around and celebrate your achievement. Knowing what’s at stake should the company start performing poorly, it is necessary to undertake professional development activities, such as:

Job Opportunities

The major employers of CEOs include:

  • Professional associations
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Large healthcare facilities
  • Financial services organizations
  • Telecommunication companies
  • Government agencies
  • Airlines

Experienced and well-educated CEOs often secure jobs in large, multi-national companies. Others progress to become board directors.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of all top executives will grow by 11 percent within the next seven-year period, just as fast as the average for all jobs.

So if you feel you can lead on the corporate level, perhaps you can make a good CEO. Good luck.