How to Become a

CEO or Chief Executive Officer

The complete career guide to be a CEO or Chief Executive Officer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $185,850
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -1.2%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Deal Making
    Career Attribute
  • Get to Travel
    Career Attribute

Chief executive officers (CEOs) are the top executive at a company and oversee all company operations. For privately owned companies, the CEO is often the owner of the business. For publicly-owned companies, the CEO is usually a hired employee who reports to a board of directors and stakeholders.

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What is a CEO or Chief Executive Officer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in chief executive officer roles:

  • Make decisions designed to increase company profitability, expand reach, and/or streamline processes
  • Serve as the face of the organization within the community, with stakeholders, and for employees of the company
  • Present reports on company health and profitability to a board of directors or investors
  • Establish company-wide goals, and measure progress toward meeting those goals
  • Oversee other top executives and employees to make sure all departments are functioning properly and aiding overall business goals

A Day in the Life of a Chief Executive Officer

Chief executive officers, or CEOs, hold the most senior positions in the companies they work for. In some cases, CEOs are self-appointed business owners who have a large stake in business operations because they own the business. In other cases—especially for large or publicly owned businesses—the CEO is appointed by a board of directors. The CEO reports to that board of directors and is responsible for making overarching decisions designed to increase or sustain the profitability of the organization.

A large part of the role of CEO is delegation. Because it’s impossible for one person to oversee all aspects of a business—especially a large business—they must make sure that the managers, executives, and other leaders that they hire are competent and qualified. CEOs depend highly on the skills of other leaders to help promote the goals that the CEO has set in order to achieve desired outcomes. Other company leaders report progress to the CEO who then reports company health to a board of directors.

Another major responsibility of the CEO is acting as the face of the company for the public, to stakeholders, and for employees of the business. The CEO must be an adept public speaker who inspires confidence in both ability of his/her leadership skills and confidence in the company. Excellent CEOs are able to eradicate negative rumors about a business, keep proprietary information secret, and inspire employees at all levels to perform their best every day for the company.

Typical Work Schedule for CEOs

While the majority of a CEOs work is generally conducted during normal business hours, overtime is common in this role. CEOs may need to work nights and weekends to ensure their work is complete or to review reports from other departments. Additionally, many CEOs travel for work and spend some part of their week in different business locations.

Typical Employers

CEOs can be hired by businesses in every industry as the skills of CEOs are needed to run businesses of all types. Typically, any company that is publicly owned—as well as most privately owned mid-sized or large companies—rely on CEOs to assist with day-to-day and long-term business initiatives and goals.

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How To Become a CEO or Chief Executive Officer

The process of becoming a CEO is a long one that usually requires a combination of both education and extended professional experience. While there is no standard degree requirement for CEOs, most have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many also have master’s degrees. The focus of study for CEOs is also flexible, though most tend to focus on business or finance majors. Since CEOs are highly focused on numbers and revenue, degrees in accounting, finance, or business are beneficial for long-term goals.

Conversely, CEOs who open and operate their own businesses may be able to become CEOs with no higher education. If they have the right skillset, a great idea, and the ability to execute on the idea, they may be able to open their own successful business and grow that business, becoming CEO once the company is large enough to need a top executive. Through this method, it’s possible to become a CEO with no more than a high school diploma or GED.

Outside of owning and operating your own business, becoming a CEO is largely a matter of working hard, advancing throughout your career into positions of greater authority, and inspiring confidence in both your employees and leaders. Some CEOs work their way into the position by staying with a company for many decades. Others use the skills they’ve learned at a company to earn higher positions at other companies, working their way slowly, over time, toward CEO roles.

CEO or Chief Executive Officer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do CEO or Chief Executive Officer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, CEO or Chief Executive Officer's can make an average annual salary of $185,850, or $89 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $111,040 or $53 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #10 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a CEO or Chief Executive Officer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among CEO or Chief Executive Officers

  • 7.2%   Doctorate
  • 21.3%   Masters
  • 40.3%   Bachelors
  • 5.3%   Associates
  • 15.2%   College
  • 9.2%   High School
  • 1.5%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does CEO or Chief Executive Officer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -4,000 jobs for a total of 339,400 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -1.2% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #639 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most CEO or Chief Executive Officers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 81,700 4,700 5%
Management of companies and enterprises 21,200 -1,200 -1%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 17,700 -900 -1%

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