A Guide to 7 Top Executive Titles (With Salaries)
Updated January 17, 2023
This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach
If you feel passionate about leading a business and making high-level strategy decisions, you may consider pursuing an executive position in a company. Executive positions will likely suit you best if you have strong leadership skills with proven results, experience in management, a positive and confident professional attitude and a solution-focused approach to the workplace. Due to the complex and important nature of the work, executives often make six-figure salaries.
In this article, we will explore seven of the most common executive positions, as well as steps toward earning these titles.
What is an executive title?
Executive titles are the most influential titles to hold in a company. Also known as C-level titles, the “c” standing for “chief,” these positions usually oversee others and require strong leadership skills. In a C-level position, you are often responsible for management, supervision and project execution. In large companies, there are many different executive positions, each with its own distinguished role.
Top executive business titles
While many executive titles exist to describe the many departments and levels of management in business, a few main positions can be found in most companies. Here are seven of the most common executive titles:
Chief executive officer
National average salary: $85,315 per year
Primary duties: An executive director is often the highest executive in a nonprofit organization. In both nonprofits and businesses, the executive director responds to the board of directors. In many ways, the role of the executive director is the same as the role of the chief executive officer. However, unlike a CEO, the executive director must get permission from the board of directors before pursuing any significant project. The goal of the executive director is to maintain and guide the organization’s mission as determined by the board of directors.
Requirements: To become an executive director, you must normally hold, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Most employers will require several years of experience in senior management. Within nonprofits, you should be familiar with fundraising, budgeting and volunteer coordination. As the public face of organizations that rely on donor support, you should also possess strong communicative and interpersonal skills.
National average salary: $107,419 per year
Primary duties: As companies become increasingly reliant on technology systems to run, the chief information officer fills an important role. As a CIO in a large business, you will often report to the CEO, and delegate information technology duties to a deputy, who will then pass them on to specific IT teams. CIOs today are expected to keep pace with the accelerating rate of change in digital technology, meaning that you must offer innovative technological solutions to your company.
Requirements: CIO candidates must have a high degree of knowledge about technology. Employers will expect you to possess a variety of applicable hard skills, including how to establish IT services frameworks. CIOs should have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field such as computer science, software engineering or information systems.
National average salary: $126,973 per year
Primary duties: The chief executive officer is the top executive in many companies. As CEO, you are responsible for major decision-making, managing resources and operations, and defining the company’s vision, tone and public image. Your duties as CEO vary based on the size of the company. In large corporations, you are often responsible for large-scale operations only, including strategic planning for company growth. In smaller businesses, you may be more involved in daily operations in addition to your role in upper-level decision-making and management. CEOs manage all other executives.
Requirements: CEOs are usually elected into their position by the company’s board of directors. Applying for the position, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to strategically plan and develop and expand upon the company vision. You might hold previous experience in management and a Master’s Degree in Business or another relevant field.
National average salary: $131,003 per year
Primary duties: In charge of marketing strategy, the chief marketing officer is responsible for advertising and branding for the company. As a CMO, you are also a researcher, staying up-to-date on trends, defining and attracting your customer base. Your position depends on sharp communication skills, as you construct broad marketing plans to reach customers and business partners alike.
Requirements: CMOs usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing, though a master’s degree is generally preferred. Many employers will require you have at least 10 years of experience in advertising or marketing, in addition to experience in management.
National average salary: $134,250 per year
Primary duties: The chief operating officer reports to the CEO only. As COO, you are responsible for overseeing daily operations to ensure the efficiency of a business. While the CEO sets the company's tone and vision, the COO promotes that tone and carries out the vision by creating policies and designing and implementing plans. Depending on the size of the company, you may also head human resources (HR), playing an active role in employment.
Requirements: COOs usually hold, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field, with several years of experience in executive work. As COO, you must be able to understand advanced business operations and predict and solve company problems. Often, employers will prefer COOs to have experience in fundraising and international business.
National average salary: $135,753 per year
Primary duties: Also known as chiefs or directors, vice presidents often hold authority over a certain department or unit within a company. An example of a title might be “Vice President of Product Management.” As a vice president, you may be second- or third-in-command to the CEO. You are likely more involved in the daily operations of one department than the CEO or COO, but relatively uninvolved in the rest of the company’s operations. In other instances, you may participate in all areas of business, with responsibilities closer to that of a COO.
Requirements: Vice presidents, chiefs or directors often apply for titles based on their field of expertise. For example, you may hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree with a major in public administration or economics, establishing your specialty in that domain of business. Like a COO or CEO, employers typically require vice presidents to have several years of experience in business management.
National average salary: $137,318 per year
Primary duties: The chief financial officer is in charge of the company’s finances. This requires budgeting and accounting, but also forecasting, as CFOs must be able to predict the company’s financial gains and losses to determine where and when to spend money. As CFO, you may also be responsible for investments.
Requirements: Most CFOs have significant experience in their field in addition to bachelor’s degrees in accounting, finances or economics. A master’s degree in business administration or certification as a public accountant can increase your chances of employment as CFO.
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