“CEO” stands for Chief Executive Officer. The CEO is the man or woman “in charge” of a business or organization. (In nonprofit lingo, the “chief” is often dropped and the position is called executive director or executive officer.)
Every business and organization has a CEO, even if they don’t use this title. From the largest corporation to the single business owner, there is an executive officer in charge. So it is true that some CEOs enjoy a posh office full of support staff, but others work out of their cars.
The CEO is the top rung in the chain of command, right before owners or boards of directors. CEOs oversee and supervise all of a company’s operations. They often set goals (or are assigned goals by a board) and then ensure that a business reaches said goals.
Many CEOs are in charge of setting their own hours, but most still need to be “on call” round the clock. While some CEOs are able to work the standard 40-hour work week, many put in far more hours than that. If you are in charge of a business, you will likely do whatever it takes to make it a success. In 2012, about half of the CEOs in the US worked more than 40 hours per week (BLS).
A candidate for a CEO position will need to have the following:
- Management skills and experience (in large companies, a CEO is often in charge of other managers).
- Leadership skills.
- Critical thinking and problem solving abilities.
- Decision-making skills.
- Time management skills.
- A working understanding of economics and accounting.
- Good people skills.
- A good public image (a CEO is often a company’s representation to the public).
- Public speaking abilities.
- Ability to accurately read and respond to business communications.
- Ability to actively listen to others speaking and clearly respond orally.
- A willingness to travel.
Education and Training
Required education varies among industries. While more and more CEOs do hold MBAs (especially in large corporations), many others hold industry-specific degrees. (The CEO of an engineering firm may well hold an engineering degree, not a business degree.)
CEOs have usually “worked their way up” to upper management. New CEOs don’t usually roll off the truck — instead, they gain years of experience while learning how to succeed in their industry.
Some CEOs have earned a Certified Manager (CM) credential through the Institute of Certified Professional Managers. This is rarely mandatory, but can help candidates secure positions.
If you know you want to be a Chief Executive Officer one day, but you are not sure of what industry would suit you best, you may want to begin with a business degree. Nearly all CEOs do hold some sort of degrees.
CEOs are among the highest earners in the US. In May 2012, the median pay for CEOs was $168,140 per year. The lowest 10 percent of CEOs earned less than $76,220, and the top 10 percent earned more than $187,200 (BLS). CEO earnings vary considerably among different industries.
A CEO’s earnings may also depend in part on a company’s success. Compensation may include performance bonuses or stock options.
According to the BLS, job outlook for CEOs is about the same as most other job opportunities. From 2012 to 2022, CEO career opportunities are expected to grow by 11 percent.
CEO positions are more readily available in more populated areas. (Large businesses and organizations often headquarter in large cities.) In 2012, the following states led in CEO employment: California, Illinois, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts. Still, wherever there are businesses, there are people in charge.
Expect strong competition for CEO positions.