If you asked any CEO, or chief executive officer, what do CEOs do, they might tell you it would be easier to list what they don’t do, and for good reason. As the head of a business, no matter how large or small, a CEO’s responsibilities range from tracking financial performance to figuring out where the next corporate retreat will take place, and everything in between.

In order to gain the necessary chops for leading a business in today’s world, education is key. It provides the foundation upon which to build experience, and it’s the first important step to getting onto any CEO track. While leadership also relies on that certain indefinable flair, it mostly comes from knowledge, commitment and diligence. If you’re wondering what do CEOs do and how you can put yourself on the road to the top position, read on.

What Does a CEO Do?

There are over 210,000 CEOs in the United States who run everything from national financial institutions to local construction companies. Though every CEO position requires specific skill sets unique to the job and the industry, there are some commonalities across the board.

First and foremost, a CEO’s primary role is to look after the financial health of the company. Because of this, having a head for numbers is a must-have. Whether it’s digging into financial reports of publicly traded companies or reading a simple monthly profit and loss statement, a CEO needs to be able to interpret numbers, spot trends and look for ways to improve the bottom line.

Diving deeper into the question of what do CEOs do, another requirement is an in-depth understanding of marketing and sales. Every company is selling something, so CEOs need to know how to sell, and they need to understand their company’s position in the overall marketplace and how to leverage it. Business development and strategic planning govern almost everything a CEO does and having a clear idea of where the company needs to focus its sales and marketing efforts is a priority for this leader.

As a facilitator and orchestrator, a good CEO also has a knack for day-to-day business operations, including finding ways to cut costs, increase productivity and ensure the internal structure of the company functions efficiently.

Rounding out the list of qualifications for a CEO are a solid grasp of time management, forward-thinking mindset, exceptional communication skills and an ability to make decisions quickly and efficiently. Many of these qualities start with a solid educational foundation, which are then expanded through on-the-job experience.

Work for Reward

While the road to the top takes dedication and hard work, the financial rewards are considerable. The average wage for a CEO position is about $161,000 according to Payscale or $196,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reason for the discrepancy in these numbers is that Payscale separates out compensation in the form of bonuses, commissions and profit sharing, which totals an average of $80,000.

On the lower end of the CEO pay scale are self-employed CEOs who earn just over $90,000, while CEOs of larger publicly traded companies earn upwards of $250,000.

Degrees Matter

The stories about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropping out of college are the stuff of legend, but the fact is that degrees matter. Almost 97 percent of CEOs in the United States have undergraduate degrees, with the following majors ranking among the most popular:

  • Engineering
  • Finance, economics, accounting
  • Business administration
  • Computer science
  • Law
  • Political science
  • History

The road to the CEO chair typically doesn’t end with a bachelor’s degree. More than 40 percent of the CEOs on the Fortune 500 list go on to earn a Master of Business Administration degrees (MBAs), and this number is rising as more companies are looking for employees that go the extra educational mile. In fact, according to Fortune, the rise in MBA degrees has been nothing short of astronomical, jumping 623 percent since 1970. While MBAs reign supreme, master’s degrees in other fields that are unique to the industry you want to join are equally as important, such as computer science or education.

If you want to get started on your climb to CEO, Bethel University’s flexible online MBA will help you build your career while maintaining your commitments to work and life. Our programs offer you a personalized learning experience in a supportive atmosphere designed for your intellectual and spiritual growth.

Become a CEO

Earn the degree you need to excel in C-level positions with our online MBA.

Explore Degree

Request More Information

Learn more about online academic opportunities at Bethel.

Get Started