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Executive Career Guide

Are you someone that loves to organize both yourself and others? Do you thrive off setting long term goals and work well under pressure?

If the answers YES, and you’re looking for a fast-paced and rewarding career, you should read our executive career guide.

An executive responsible for planning, directing and coordinating the activities, strategies and policies of a company. They do this to ensure that the company meets the organizational goals. To become an executives, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related field.To have the best employment opportunities, you might want to consider a masters degree in business administration (MBA)!

What may be the most surprising, however is that no CEO has ever told me that the best thing about the job was the compensation. For the most successful CEOs, money is just a way of keeping score; it's not what motivates them to do the job.

Geoffrey James

Executive Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Executive Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Executive field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33938 Chief Executive Office Male 34 $100,000 Los Angeles, CA 01/01/2010
33483 Cfo Female 48 $80,000 Southborough, MA 01/01/2010
33481 Vice President Male 24 $80,000 Batavia, NY 01/01/2010
33206 Sr. Vice President, Director Of Trading And Operations Male 27 $104,000 Cleveland, OH 01/01/2010
32926 Cfo Female 34 $85,000 San Jose, CA 01/01/2010

Overview

What an executive actually does

An ‘executive’ is someone who has the very important job of planning, directing and coordinating the activities, strategies and policies of their company. They do this to ensure that the company meets (and hopefully exceeds!) the organizational goals. It is a role with a huge amount of variety, as executive roles are available in a wide range of industries. The responsibilities of executives largely depend on the size of the organization they work for. However, nearly all executives can expect to tasks such as:

  • Establishing and carrying out the departments goals, policies and procedures
  • Overseeing budgetary activities
  • Managing general activities related to making products and providing services
  • Navigating contracts and agreements
  • Analyzing financial plans and sales reports
  • Identifying places to cut costs and meet goals more efficiently
  • Appointing head of departments and managers (in smaller organizations, executives will do more training and hiring too)

Why they are needed

Being an executive, regardless of the industry, is a very stressful job. Executives have a lot of responsibility. They are as the face of the company, and if anything goes wrong, it is their reputation on the line. Executives are responsible for making sure goals are met on time and that people are working effectively. In short, without executives, businesses worldwide would not be able to operate at their full capacity.

Pros and cons of a career as an executive

Pros:

  • There is a high sense of job satisfaction, as executives enhance business productivity and efficiency by setting goals, managing budgets and directing people
  • It offers a lot of variety, as there are jobs available in many industries
  • Executives normally receive a high salary
  • Executives are normally one of the most senior people in an organization and they have a great deal of responsibility and control over their decisions
  • It is a role with great importance, as many organizations cannot perform effectively without executives
  • There are jobs available globally, which is perfect for those looking to travel or relocate

Cons:

  • The hours can be long and travel may be required
  • There is a lot of responsibility, which makes it a high-pressured (and sometimes stressful) role
  • Like lots of jobs, there are some tedious and mundane tasks. For example, executives will have to read financial reports and will have their share of admin
  • As executives are responsible for overseeing employees, they may often face staffing challenges and conflicts
  • You have to make staffing decisions, which includes firing people. This can be emotionally draining

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of executives is projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This employment growth is expected because businesses and organizations will always have a need for executives to set goals and help them to operate productively and successfully.

Career paths

Most executives will have a bachelor’s degree in a related field,  such as business administration, public administration, law or liberal arts. To have the best possible employment and progression opportunities, executives should aspire to achieve a masters degree in business administration (MBA).

What is most important, however, is work experience. Most executives will progress up from lower level positions (management or supervisory). In some cases, executives who are promoted through the organization can substitute experience for education, and therefore may only need a high school diploma. In essence, the career path to become an executive begins with gaining as much experience in the industry you want to go in as possible.

Example Job Titles for Executive

Below is a list of common job titles in the Executive field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for chief executives in the United States was $184,460. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,290 per annum and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.

The top paying industry for executives in the United States was manufacturing, where the median annual salary exceeds $208,000. The professional, scientific and technical services industry was the second highest paying industry. Again, the median annual salary exceeded $208,000.  This is followed by healthcare and social assistance ($166,410) and then the government ($110,230).

Autonomy and Flexibility

Executives are normally one of the top people in the organization they work for. Therefore, they have a huge amount of control over their decisions, and the decision of the business. Based on this, the level of autonomy is very high. Being an executive is a highly demanding and often stressful role. Due to the huge amount of responsibility, executives are likely to find themselves working long hours and will have little flexibility over the hours they work.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an executive, based on average annual salary and the number of jobs available, are:

  1. Washington, where the average annual salary is $118,968
  2. Rhode Island, where the average annual salary is $109,523
  3. New York, where the average annual salary is $111,564
  4. Pennsylvania, where the average annual salary is $111,206
  5. Minnesota, where the average annual salary is $108,927

The worst states, according to Zippia, are South Carolina, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Kentucky and Indiana.

Work environment

24% of executives the United States were self-employed workers. 11% were employed by the professional, scientific and technical services industry. The government employed 9% of all executives in the United States, the healthcare and social assistances industry employed 7% and finally, the manufacturing industry employed 6%.

They will typically work in an office and they may travel globally to attend meetings or visit other departments of the organization. Executives will work closely with other senior managers, such as those in finance, human resources or purchasing.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Executive careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Executive career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Executive.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DISC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

It is highly likely that successful executives will be an ESTJ personality type. ESTJ’s, or otherwise known as ‘the executive’ are decisive and confident. ENTJ’s have a preference for working in a logical and methodical way, which is will suited to an executive as they have to set clear goals and work towards them accurately and precisely. ESTJ’s work with a huge focus on productivity and are incredibly eager to take charge and ensure that things done correctly. All of these qualities are suited to an executive, who will have the huge responsibility of ensuring that a company meets its goals and is working effectively.

Accomplishment and mastery

Executives can only achieve this position through hard work. Therefore, when you finally make it to executive level, you will feel a high sense of accomplishment and mastery. Furthermore, throughout your career as an executive, you will feel accomplished as you help businesses, and their employees, smash their goals and work at their optimum.

Meaning and contribution

Executives play a hugely meaningful role in any business by directly contributing to the success of the business they work for. However, the work of an executive in a large corporate organization has little meaning and contribution to the wider population and the lives of those who are suffering.

However, if you’re looking for a high-flying career, that also has high meaning and contribution to the lives of those who need the most help, you should consider aspiring to become an executive for a charity/non profit organization that helps people in need! That way, you can be involved in lots of  the decisions and will directly be helping others.

Life fit

Most executives will work full time, which on the surface provides a good work-life balance. However, executives may often find themselves working long hours, as well as travelling a lot. Therefore, it can sometimes provide a difficult life fit.

Who will thrive in this career?

There is absolutely no doubt that an executive needs to be creative, quick thinking and a proficient problem solver. To really thrive as an executive, you will need to think outside the box. This will give you the ability to to set company wide goals and help the whole organization meet them.

Similarly, a keen eye for detail is essential to thrive as an executives, as they will need to spot things in financial reports, budgeting plans and contracts. Additionally, to truly thrive as an executive, you will need to be a strong communicator. This is because you must be able to interact confidently with the companies employees, other senior managers and third parties. You must be able negotiate with these people and give them clear instructions.

Who will struggle in this career?

Firstly, those who cannot lead a team and confidently interact with others may struggle as an executive. If you cannot make decisions with ease then you are likely to struggle, as executives need to be absolutely certain that they have made the right choice regarding staffing, goals, finance and planning. Those who aren’t organized and can’t manage their own time may struggle with the demands and workload that comes with being an executive. Finally, those who struggle to see the big picture won’t be able to set long term organizational goals and are therefore likely to struggle as an executive.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As mentioned previously, executives will need extensive experience in the field. As well as this, they will need skills and talents such as:

  • Verbal and written communication skills, as executives must communicate, both verbally and in writing, with company employees and third parties
  • Decision-making skills, as executives may often have to make decisions under pressure
  • Numerical skills, as executives need to manage budgets and stock and spot areas for improvement
  • Leadership skills, executives are in charge of a lot of other people, and they must be able to confidently lead and motivate them!
  • Interpersonal skills, as executives need to build trusting relationships with the companies employees
  • Analytical skills, as executives need to evaluate numbers and figures to work out the companies success

Education

Most executives will have a bachelor’s degree in a related field,  such as business administration, public administration, law or liberal arts. To have the best possible employment and progression opportunities, executives should aspire to achieve a masters degree in business administration (MBA).

In some cases, executives can progress all the way up from low level positions and may only need a high school diploma. But this isn’t particularly common.

Certifications

Some top executive positions may require the applicant to have a license or certification relevant to their area of management. For example, some employers may require their chief executive officer to be a certified public accountant (CPA).

How to Become

Summary

An executive responsible for planning, directing and coordinating the activities, strategies and policies of a company. They do this to ensure that the company meets the organizational goals. It is an incredibly well respected and fast-paced career, that is predicted to offer many exciting employment opportunities over the coming years.

Immediate action

If you have decided, after reading our career guide, that aspiring to become an executive appeals to you, then fantastic!

It is a career that requires dedication to the industry. So, if you haven’t already, we recommend picking a degree program in a related field and/or considering a masters. You should also be focused on getting as much experience as possible in lower level roles.

Education and learning

Executives will typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as business administration, public administration, law or liberal arts. To have the best employment and progression opportunities, operations managers will achieve a masters degree in business administration (MBA). Occasionally, executives can progress up from lower level roles with only a high school diploma, but this takes time and hard work.

Skill development

What is most important for success in this profession is experience. Executives will advance up from lower level position and develop their skills that way.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Executive careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33938 Chief Executive Office Male 34 $100,000 Los Angeles, CA 01/01/2010
33483 Cfo Female 48 $80,000 Southborough, MA 01/01/2010
33481 Vice President Male 24 $80,000 Batavia, NY 01/01/2010
33206 Sr. Vice President, Director Of Trading And Operations Male 27 $104,000 Cleveland, OH 01/01/2010
32926 Cfo Female 34 $85,000 San Jose, CA 01/01/2010

Resources