What Degree Is Needed To Become A CEO?

CEOOne of the highest paying and most influential careers is becoming a chief executive officer, or CEO, of a large corporation. CEOs are responsible for deciding courses of action to be taken within management, overseeing operations of all divisions, acting as an interface between the organization and the community, assisting in the selection and evaluation of board members, ensuring all divisions are following set objectives, and collaborating with board members on strategic initiatives. CEOs typically make over $170,000 a year and control the interests of cross-industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read on to learn what degree is needed to become a CEO.

Undergraduate Education

Although it is not legally required for CEOs to have a particular degree, years of experience with a particular company or in a particular industry are necessary to move up to an executive position, according to Investopedia. Students reaching for executive status often pursue a bachelor’s degree in business, business administration, law, finance, economics, management, or the liberal arts. These degrees provide students with an opportunity to develop leadership skills in management as well as provide them experience in other key business areas such as finance. To prepare for undergraduate courses, high school students looking into corporate management positions are encouraged to take advanced math classes, English and communications classes, and get involved in leadership activities such as student government.

Related Resource: Chief Financial Officer

Graduate Education

Most chief executive officers of large corporations have a master of business administration, or MBA. Getting an MBA in graduate school provides prospective CEOs with professional education and corporate internship opportunities. College presidents and school superintendents, which are considered educational executives, pursue doctoral degrees in education administration as well. Because of the competitiveness that accompanies corporate industries, earning a professional graduate degree from a top-tier institution or Ivy-league college such as Yale or Harvard is often given more credence.


Becoming a CEO is improbable without advancing within a firm to a managerial or supervisory position. Although education can substitute for experience, it is important for leadership skills and loyalty to develop within a company. Moving up in management also fulfills the expectation that the prospective CEO will have experience in the particular industry the company represents. Work experience to become a CEO can also be influenced by company training, executive development programs, and certification. The Institute of Certified Professional Managers provides a certification program for students to earn the Certified Manager, or CM, credential. Before completing this certification, students must meet all education and experience requirements as well as pass the three exams.

Students wondering what degree is needed to become a CEO will find that many of the skills needed to be an executive of a large corporation will be taught in graduate degree programs such as a master of business administration program. The most important skills that a CEO will need to fulfill the position are communication skills, decision-making skills, leadership skills, management skills, problem analysis and solving skills, and time management skills.