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Chief Executives Career Overview

Determine and formulate policies and provide the overall direction of companies or private and public sector organizations within the guidelines set up by a board of directors or similar governing body. Plan, direct, or coordinate operational activities at the highest level of management with the help of subordinate executives and staff managers.

Salary for Chief Executives

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U.S. $102,080
Annual figures are on top. Hourly figures are below in parentheses.
N/A = Information not available

Career Outlook for Chief Executives

Little to no change in employment of top executives is expected. Keen competition for jobs is expected because the prestige and high pay of these positions attract many applicants.

Employment change. Employment of top executives—including chief executives and general and operations managers—is expected to experience little to no change from 2008 to 2018. However, because these workers are essential to running companies and organizations, projected employment of top executives will vary by industry and will generally reflect the growth or decline of that industry. For example, job growth is expected in the fast-growing health services industry, while employment declines for top executives are projected for many manufacturing industries.

Employment of top executives also will be affected by the amount of consolidation occurring in a particular industry, because some management jobs typically are lost after a merger with another company. As a business grows, the number of top executives changes less than the number of employees. Therefore, top executives are not expected to experience as much employment growth as workers in the occupations they oversee.

Job prospects. Keen competition is expected for top executive positions because the prestige and high pay attract a substantial number of qualified applicants. Because this is a large occupation, numerous openings will occur each year as executives transfer to other positions, start their own businesses, or retire. However, many executives who leave their jobs transfer to other executive positions, a pattern that limits the number of job openings for new entrants to the occupation.

Experienced managers whose accomplishments reflect strong leadership qualities and the ability to improve the efficiency or competitive position of an organization will have the best opportunities. In an increasingly global economy, experience in international economics, marketing, and information systems, as well as knowledge of several languages also may be beneficial.

Employment Overview

Top executives held about 2.1 million jobs in 2008. Employment by detailed occupation was distributed as follows:

General and operations managers 1,733,100
Chief executives 400,400

Job Zone Description

Job Zone 5 - Extensive preparation

Overall Experience
Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of medical school and up to an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to do their job.

At a minimum, a bachelor's degree is required for these occupations. However, many also require a graduate school degree such as a Master's, Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).

Job Training
Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations require that you already have the necessary skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Lawyers, instrumental musicians, physicists, counseling psychologists, and surgeons.

These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising or managing the activities of others. Very advanced communication and organization skills are required.

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Additional Resources for Chief Executives Job Seekers

For more information on top executives, including educational programs, contact:

  • American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10019. Internet:
  • National Management Association, 2210 Arbor Blvd., Dayton, OH 45439. Internet:

For more information on executive financial management careers, contact:

  • Financial Executives International, 200 Campus Dr., Florham Park, NJ 07932. Internet:
  • Financial Management Association International, College of Business Administration, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Ave., BSN 3331, Tampa, FL 33620. Internet:

For information about management skills development, including the Certified Manager (CM) credential, contact:

  • Institute for Certified Professional Managers, James Madison University, MSC 5504, Harrisonburg, VA 22807. Internet:

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