How to Become a CEO

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) lead their organization, be that in public, private, or nonprofit sectors. They report to the Board of Directors, but they usually have free rein when it comes to setting their organization’s goals and carrying those out. Good CEOs, like Mark Stiffler of Synygy, are forward thinking, excellent communicators, visionaries, decision makers, and more. They do not become a CEO overnight, however. So how do you get to this most prestigious of all positions?

Training to Become a CEO

There is no set required degree for someone to become a CEO. However, it is generally expected for them to hold a master’s in business administration (MBA) as a minimum. Alternatively, they are expected to have a graduate degree into the focus area of their organization, such as public policy or computer science.

Generally speaking, the very first CEO a company has tends to be the founder of the company. This means that those CEOs are experts in their chosen niche, while at the same time being visionaries with strong business knowledge. In larger organizations, where new CEOs are appointed, Boards generally look for those with an MBA and with extensive management experience.

The MBA, as such, is the generally accepted degree program that a CEO has to complete. This is because it is a graduate degree that immerses people in business, while at the same time being a generalist degree that focuses on every single element of the business. This includes business ethics, managerial statistics, accounting, corporate finance, operations management, marketing, leadership, and more. Additionally, the degree usually includes a practical experience, so that graduates don’t just now things on paper, they actually know them in real life.

License and Certification Requirements

You do not have to hold a specific license or certification to be a CEO. However, it is your responsibility as a CEO to make sure that all legal obligations are met within your company. There are also voluntary certificates that you can complete, which further improve your skills and make you more likely to find a CEO position.

How Long it Takes

Usually, CEOs have been working for a very long time. This is also why the average tenure for a CEO is just five years, with most ending their position because of retirement. Completing an education such as an MBA usually takes around ten years in total – four years for a bachelor’s degree, four to five years’ work experience, two years for the MBA program. Most CEOs also climb the corporate ladder through promotions every few years. Exactly how long it takes to become a CEO depends on a variety of factors. Furthermore, if you become CEO by starting you own company, it could take much less time.


A lot of people dream not so much of being a CEO, but about earning the salary of a CEO. While it is certainly true that these professionals generally earn six figure incomes, if not more, it is important to understand how much they do for that as well. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave, and they could lose their job when so much as a single mistake is made.

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