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How To Become a Corporate Board Member

March 25, 2021

A company's board of directors can make influential decisions that can protect shareholders' interests and impact the company's operations and resources. Learning about the roles and duties of corporate board members can help you design a plan to achieve a board member job. In this article, we provide a job description, salary, job outlook, skills and duties for a board member and describe the steps you can take to become a member of a corporate or nonprofit board.

What is a board member?

A board member is an individual on a company's board of directors who helps make decisions about a company's finances, oversee a company's operations and elect chief executives. Depending on the size of the company, you may combine many board member roles into a single job. Here are some common roles on a board of directors:

  • President: Sometimes called the board chair, the president of a board of directors oversees a company's operations. They also collaborate with the CEO to ensure the company carries out the board's resolutions.
  • Vice president: The vice president of a board of directors, also called the vice chair, works closely with the president and leads the board in cases where the president is absent.
  • Chairman: The chairman of the board runs board meetings and leads the board of directors.
  • Secretary: A secretary can record meeting minutes and maintain these records. They can also monitor the activities of a board of directors to ensure the board follows its bylaws.
  • Treasurer: The treasurer on a board of directors can lead the finance committee and track an organization's finances.
  • Committee member: Some members on the board of directors focus on specific tasks as part of a committee. Common committees on boards of directors include an audit committee, finance committee, governance committee and an executive committee.

Related: Five Board of Director Positions You Can Pursue

What does a board member do?

Your duties as a board member can depend on your specific role. Here are the general responsibilities of a board member:

  • Attend regular board meetings to stay apprised of a company's activities
  • Attend committee meetings and participate in votes
  • Set a company mission statement and vision
  • Vote to elect or reelect officers on a corporate board
  • Set and follow policies for board oversight
  • Make decisions on company policies
  • Review reports on a company's activities and performance

Related: The Role of the Board of Directors

Salary and job outlook for a board member

According to Indeed Salaries, the average base salary for a board member is $11.90 per hour. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the job outlook for top executives, including board members, will grow by 4%, about as fast as average. Board members can also have stock options for a company, which can often pay more than the base salary rate.

Related: Q&A: Do Board Members Get Paid?

How to become a board member

Here are steps you can take to become a member of an executive board for a company or a nonprofit:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

The first step to becoming a member of a corporate board is to gain an education. Here are popular degree areas for board members:

  • Business: A bachelor's degree in business can give you valuable business acumen you can use to help operate a company as a board member.
  • Finance: Earning a degree in finance can give you the relevant knowledge to make financial decisions for a company as a board member.
  • Accounting: Board members with knowledge and experience in auditing and accounting are in high demand for corporate boards.
  • Software development: You can also gain expertise in areas like software development and computer science to join boards in the technology sector.
  • Marketing: Earning a bachelor's degree in marketing can give you marketing skills and business acumen you can use on a board of directors.

2. Gain experience

Next, you can gain experience in your degree area or desired industry. Gaining experience can help you build your professional reputation and skills you can use as a board member. Experience in a management position can also help you achieve a role on a corporate board. For example, if you plan to provide business expertise to a board of directors, you can gain experience from a management-level position. This kind of experience can show a nomination committee that you have strong ideas and leadership abilities.

One way to gain experience for a corporate board is to join a nonprofit board of directors. This can help you understand the functions and roles of a board of directors by giving you first-hand experience working as a board member. You can find a nonprofit that supports your passions and interests to ensure you enjoy your work as you gain board experience.

You can also look for board positions with small businesses and startups. This experience can give you an idea of what it will be like to serve on a larger corporate board. You can also learn valuable new skills in leadership, collaboration and large-scale thinking that can help you as a board member.

3. Self-promotion

Once you've gained work experience, you can begin to build your personal brand. Self-promotion can help you compete with other candidates for board positions by establishing yourself as a leader in your profession. Ideally, your efforts in this area will ensure that nomination committees know who you are when you apply to become a board member. Here are some ways you can promote your professional skills:

  • Public speaking: Speaking at industry events like conferences and seminars can help you establish your professional reputation.
  • Write articles: You can contribute articles to industry publications to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
  • Create a professional website: You can make a professional website that describes your accomplishments and activities to help market yourself.
  • Professional networking websites: You can share your work on professional networking websites so others can learn about your ideas and accomplishments.

4. Network

Next, you can grow your professional network. Networking can help you meet current board members and build professional relationships. These relationships can yield mentorship opportunities and may help you hear about open positions on boards of directors. One strategy is to research board members in your industry or area and join organizations where they contribute. Here are ways you can network to become a board member:

  • Industry conferences: Attending industry conferences can offer you the opportunity to meet other leaders in your industry. You may also meet board members at these events.
  • Networking events: Professional networking events can allow you to listen to speakers and meet other professionals in your industry.
  • Professional organizations: Joining and attending regular meetings of professional organizations can help you establish yourself in your industry and meet other professionals to grow your network.

5. Research companies

Before you apply to join a board of directors, it's important to thoroughly research a company. You can first learn about the companies in your industry that have open positions on their boards. Then you can research the companies' annual earnings and performance, as well as its board of directors.

Researching a company's board of directors can help you determine whether any members are in your professional network. You can also learn about the qualifications of the current board members to help you ensure they align with your own. You may also learn about whether any board members are approaching retirement or whether the current board has skill gaps your abilities could fill.

6. Create a resume

Now you can use your personal brand and work experience to create a resume that demonstrates how you can use your skills on a board of directors. Here are a few resume tips for a board member:

  • List past board experience. You can describe the impacts of your past experience serving as a board member to show how your presence can help a board of directors improve its operations.
  • Quantify the impact of your leadership. Rather than simply saying you ran a division of a company, for example, you can explain the results of your impact to make a case for your election to the board.
  • Include your transferable skills. Focusing on the most valuable skills that you can transfer to a position as a board member can help you show a nomination committee that you're the best choice for the role.

7. Apply for open positions

Finally, you can use your resume, professional network and industry experience to apply for open positions on boards of directors. If you learn about an opening through your professional network, you can ask a current member of the board to consider you for the open position.

The application process for becoming a board member has a few steps. On most corporate boards, a nominating committee interviews candidates and makes decisions on who should join the board of directors. Then, board members vote on whether to elect candidates the nomination committee has selected.

Related: 35 Interview Questions for Board of Directors

Skills for board members

You can use the following skills in a job as a board member:

  • Communication: Board members can use written and verbal communication skills to communicate about issues productively.
  • Critical thinking: You can use critical thinking skills to help you solve problems as a board member.
  • Collaboration: Members of an executive board can work together to find solutions to a company's problems. Collaborations skills can help you succeed in these circumstances.
  • Leadership: Successful board members can inspire others to perform with strong leadership skills.

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