Career, Salary and Education Information
What They Do: Top executives devise strategies and policies to ensure that an organization meets its goals.
Work Environment: Top executives work in nearly every industry. They work for both small and large businesses, ranging from companies in which they are the only employee to firms with hundreds of thousands of employees. Top executives often work many hours, including evenings and weekends. Travel is common, particularly for chief executives.
How to Become One: Although education and training requirements vary widely by position and industry, most top executives have at least a bachelor’s degree and a considerable amount of work experience.
Salary: The median annual wage for chief executives is $185,950. The median annual wage for general and operations managers is $103,650.
Job Outlook: Overall employment of top executives is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of top executives with similar occupations.
Following is everything you need to know about a career as a top executive with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:
Top 3 Chief Executive Officer Jobs
Executive Assistant To Chief Executive Officer
- Olympia, WA
This key position supports the CEO by providing high level, administrative excellence across diverse projects and activities. This position requires professionalism, integrity, excellent time ...
Business Coach - Mastermind Group Leader
- CEO Focus
- Seattle, WA
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS What does CEO Focus do? CEO Focus is a national organization comprised of local peer groups of company presidents and CEOs. In our group meetings, we work on business ...
Executive Assistant to the CEO (Temp)
- Remote, OR
Our team is looking for an Executive Assistant for our CEO, Melanie Fellay (Forbes 30Under30). The right candidate will have a high level of integrity & professionalism, with experience being at the ...
Top 3 Chief Operating Officer Jobs
Chief Operating Officer
- San Francisco, CA
The COO will work closely with the CEO and Executive Team to make strategic choices, identify and meet key metrics, drive daily operating decisions and lead key teams in growing a successful world ...
COO - Landscape Construction
- Growth Factor Group, Inc.
- Sacramento, CA
Are you COO of a residential landscape construction and maintenance business, but feel constrained from implementing a plan of exponential growth? Our Client, a landscape construction firm of ...
- Tahoe Expedition Academy
- Truckee, CA
The COO / CFO position provides the leadership, management and vision necessary to ensure that the school has the proper operational, administrative and reporting systems in place to effectively grow ...
What Top Executives Do[About this section] [To Top]
Top executives devise strategies and policies to ensure that an organization meets its goals. They plan, direct, and coordinate operational activities of companies and organizations.
Duties of Top Executives
Top executives typically do the following:
- Establish and carry out departmental or organizational goals, policies, and procedures
- Direct and oversee an organization's financial and budgetary activities
- Manage general activities related to making products and providing services
- Consult with other executives, staff, and board members about general operations
- Negotiate or approve contracts and agreements
- Appoint department heads and managers
- Analyze financial statements, sales reports, and other performance indicators
- Identify places to cut costs and to improve performance, policies, and programs
The responsibilities of top executives largely depend on an organization's size. For example, an owner or manager of a small organization, such as an independent retail store, often is responsible for purchasing, hiring, training, quality control, and day-to-day supervisory duties. In large organizations, however, top executives typically focus more on formulating policies and strategic planning, while general and operations managers direct day-to-day operations.
The following are examples of types of top executives:
General and operations managers oversee operations that are too diverse and general to be classified into one area of management or administration. Responsibilities may include formulating policies, managing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources. They make staff schedules, assign work, and ensure that projects are completed. In some organizations, the tasks of chief executive officers may overlap with those of general and operations managers.
Chief executive officers (CEOs), who are also known by titles such as executive director, managing director, or president, provide overall direction for companies and organizations. CEOs manage company operations, formulate and implement policies, and ensure goals are met. They collaborate with and direct the work of other top executives and typically report to a board of directors.
There may be other types of chief executives, for example chief operating officers (COOs), chief financial officers (CFOs), or chief human resources officers, who manage a specific part of the business organization. The knowledge, skills, and job duties that these executives have will differ depending on what department they oversee.
Job titles may vary in the public sector or in the education industry. The following are examples of types of top executives working in the public sector for local and state governments:
Mayors, along with governors, city managers, and county administrators, are chief executive officers of governments. They typically oversee budgets, programs, and the use of resources. Mayors and governors must be elected to office, whereas managers and administrators are typically appointed.
Most educational systems, regardless of whether they are public or private school systems, also employ executive officers. The following are examples of top executives working in the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary educational school systems:
School superintendents and college or university presidents are chief executive officers of school districts and postsecondary schools. They manage issues such as student achievement, budgets and resources, general operations, and relations with government agencies and other stakeholders.
Work Environment for Top Executives[About this section] [To Top]
Chief executives hold about 292,500 jobs. The largest employers of chief executives are as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||11%|
|Healthcare and social assistance||7%|
General and operations managers hold about 2.4 million jobs. The largest employers of general and operations managers are as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||11%|
Top executives work in nearly every industry. They work for both small and large businesses, ranging from companies in which they are the sole employee to firms with hundreds of thousands of employees.
Because top executives often are held responsible for their organization’s success, their work may be stressful.
Top executives frequently travel to attend meetings and conferences or to visit local, regional, national, or international offices of interest.
Top Executive Work Schedules
Top executives often work many hours, including evenings and weekends.
How to Become a Top Executive[About this section] [To Top]
Get the education you need: Find schools for Top Executives near you!
Although education and training requirements vary widely by position and industry, most top executives have at least a bachelor's degree and a considerable amount of work experience.
Education for Top Executives
Many top executives have a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration or in an area related to their field of work. Top executives in the public sector often have a degree in business administration, public administration, law, or the liberal arts. Top executives of large corporations often have a master's degree in business administration (MBA).
College presidents and school superintendents are typically required to have a master's degree, although a doctorate is often preferred.
Although many mayors, governors, or other public sector executives have at least a bachelor's degree, these positions typically do not have any specific education requirements.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation for Top Executives
Many top executives advance within their own firm, moving up from lower level management occupations or supervisory positions. However, other companies may prefer to hire qualified candidates from outside their organization. Top executives who are promoted from lower level positions may be able to substitute experience for education to move up in the company. For example, in some industries, workers without a college degree may work their way up to higher levels within the company to become executives or general managers.
Chief executives typically need extensive managerial experience. Executives are also expected to have experience in the organization's area of specialty. Most general and operations managers hired from outside an organization need lower level supervisory or management experience in a related field.
Some general managers advance to higher level managerial or executive positions. Company training programs and executive development programs can often benefit managers or executives hoping to advance.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Top Executives
Some top executive positions may require the applicant to have a license or certification relevant to their area of management. For example, some employers may require their chief executive officer to be a certified public accountant (CPA).
Important Qualities for Top Executives
Communication skills. Top executives must be able to communicate clearly and persuasively. They must effectively discuss issues and negotiate with others, direct subordinates, and explain their policies and decisions to those within and outside the organization.
Decisionmaking skills. Top executives need decisionmaking skills when setting policies and managing an organization. They must assess different options and choose the best course of action, often daily.
Leadership skills. Top executives must be able to lead an organization successfully by coordinating policies, people, and resources.
Management skills. Top executives must shape and direct the operations of an organization. For example, they must manage business plans, employees, and budgets.
Problem-solving skills. Top executives need to identify and resolve issues within an organization. They must be able to recognize shortcomings and effectively carry out solutions.
Time-management skills. Top executives do many tasks at the same time, typically under their own direction, to ensure that their work gets done and that they meet their goals.
Top Executive Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The median annual wage for chief executives is $185,950. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
The median annual wage for general and operations managers is $103,650. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $45,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
The median annual wages for chief executives in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Manufacturing||$208,000 or more|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$208,000 or more|
|Healthcare and social assistance||$160,950|
The median annual wages for general and operations managers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$142,920|
Top executives are among the highest paid workers in the United States. However, salary levels vary substantially. For example, a top manager in a large corporation may earn significantly more than the mayor of a small town.
Similarly, earnings for general and operations managers differ across industries because their responsibilities also vary by industry.
In addition to salaries, total compensation for corporate executives often includes stock options and other performance bonuses. These executives also may enjoy benefits such as access to expense allowances, use of company-owned aircraft and cars, and membership to exclusive clubs. Nonprofit and government executives usually receive fewer of these types of benefits.
Top executives often work many hours and have irregular schedules, which may include evenings and weekends.
Job Outlook for Top Executives[About this section] [To Top]
Overall employment of top executives is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 247,100 openings for top executives are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
See all executive jobs.
Employment of Top Executives
Employment of general and operations managers is projected to grow 9 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Organizations will continue to rely on these workers to help them operate successfully.
Employment of chief executives is projected to decline 6 percent over the next ten years. Improving office technology and changing organizational structures have increased the ability of these workers to perform tasks previously done by multiple chief executives. In addition, economic activity and employment have become increasingly concentrated in large, established companies, which may lead to fewer new jobs for these workers.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
|General and operations managers||2,411,900||2,638,200||9||226,300|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.