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How to Become a CEO

ceo

CEOs, or chief executive officers, lead businesses and organizations. In for-profit and non-profit corporations, they report to a board of directors but are responsible for setting and carrying out the goals of their organization. Smaller businesses, such as sole proprietorships and partnerships, may have a CEO who is more involved in the day-to-day running of business operations.

CEOs look to the future and set goals that ensure the long-term success of their organization. In corporations, they advise and provide information to the board of directors and act as a liaison between the board, the organization’s employees, and the community. In small corporations, sole proprietorships, and partnerships, the CEO also oversees operations, finances, and human resources.

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What kind of training is required to become a CEO?

CEOs often have significant experience in their field in addition to a college education. Many CEOs have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in business or business administration, while others have degrees in their organization’s area of focus, such as computer science or public policy.

A company’s first CEO is often the founder, and in these cases, to become a CEO you should have expertise in your field, a vision for your company, and some business knowledge. Larger organizations that are looking to hire a new CEO typically prefer candidates with experience in management and, often, a master of business administration degree (MBA).

MBA programs accept students with bachelor’s degrees of all types, and some prefer applicants with working experience in management roles. Students in MBA programs take courses in teamwork and leadership, marketing, operations management, microeconomics, corporate finance, accounting, managerial statistics, and business ethics. After they complete the core curriculum of their program, students take electives in their area of interest, like consulting, health care, financial services, or entrepreneurship. Practical experience is another focus of most MBA programs, and students develop business ideas and complete internships in real organizations.

Some students work on their MBA at full-time status, but others who currently have jobs enter executive MBA programs. Students in executive MBA programs take classes part-time and are encouraged to apply their learning in their work environment.

Are there any certification or licensure requirements?

While CEOs must make sure their organizations are meeting their legal obligations, the CEO job itself does not require a government-issued license.

Some professional associations like the Institute of Certified Professional Managers offer voluntary management certification programs. Completing a certification program involves taking courses and passing an exam, and it can show that a manager has a high level of business knowledge.

How long does it take to become a CEO?

Becoming a CEO can take many years. While those who start their own businesses can make themselves a CEO, those who are seeking CEO positions with existing organizations spend years gaining education and experience. Some rise through the ranks of management to become the CEO of their current organization, while others gain management experience elsewhere and are hired by a new organization.

What does a CEO earn?

The median yearly pay for CEOs in the United States was $168,140 in 2012. CEOs of large, multinational corporations can make significantly more than this amount, however, while CEOs of small organizations may make less.

What are the job prospects?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of CEOs will grow by 11 percent between 2012 and 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The BLS expects that much of this growth will be due to new organizations forming and existing organizations expanding. Competition for CEO positions at large organizations will continue to be fierce, as these positions are very well-compensated and many qualified applicants will pursue them.

What are the long term career prospects for CEOs?

Talented CEOs may preside of the success of their organization for many years. Those who don’t want to stay with the same organization may seek CEO positions at larger organizations.

How can I find a job as a CEO?

Finding work in management depends heavily on networking. MBA graduates are often connected with opportunities through their alumni network. For this reason, the strength of a business school’s alumni network is one of the factors prospective MBA students consider when choosing a program.

Unless you start your own business, you will most likely not start your career as a CEO. Start out with management positions in your field of expertise, and as you gain experience and build a strong professional network, you may have the opportunity to become a CEO, either at your current place of employment or another.

How can I learn more about becoming a CEO?

Many prominent CEOs have written books and these might be helpful resources as you think about the kind of business leader you want to be.

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