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Business Executives

At a Glance

  • Are in charge of organizations from businesses to government agencies
  • Duties vary by size and type of organization
  • Frequently interact with the public, clients, and coworkers
  • Usually work long hours and travel often
  • Are responsible for outcomes
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree (many have a master's degree)
  • Have a great deal of prior work experience

Career summary

Executives run companies or government agencies.

Business executives may also be called chief executive officers (CEO), chief financial officers (CFO), chief operating officers (COO), executive directors, executive vice presidents, or senior vice presidents. Government executives are also included under this title. Small business operators are sometimes called entrepreneurs.

#from wois occs 1144, 1146, 1142

# review 3/26/19 lh

The business executive occupation covers many jobs. These positions include:

Business executives are in charge of their organization. They create and review goals for the company. They work closely with a team of upper-level staff or assistants to achieve company goals. They meet with the managers of all the departments and get progress reports.

Business executives' duties depend on how many people are on their staff. Some executives oversee general managers in different areas. Other executives hire and train new staff. In larger organizations, they may direct one area, such as marketing, finance, or legal services.

Business executives are responsible for developing relationships with people outside the organization. Executives may give speeches at conferences or serve on the boards of community groups.

In addition, business executives oversee budgets. They use budgets to analyze how well the organization is running. Executives also negotiate contracts with outside agencies.

Government executives oversee agencies that develop laws and regulations. They may meet with citizens to learn how they feel about issues.

The government executive occupation includes many jobs. They range from city council member, mayor, and governor, all the way up to President of the United States. Some of these positions are elected. Other officials are appointed to their jobs. In smaller communities, many of these jobs may be volunteer positions.

Related careers

This career is part of the Business Management and Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to business executives.

Common work activities

Business executives perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, business executives:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Business executives frequently:

It is important for business executives to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for business executives to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Business executives need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a business executive, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most business executives have at least a bachelor's degree. Many have formal training in areas related to the type of company or agency where they work. For example, an executive at a computer software company may have a degree in computer science. Some executives have a master's degree in business administration (MBA) or a law degree. Others have a master's degree that is specific to their area. For example, a city manager may have a degree in public administration. Some executives have general liberal arts degrees.

Work experience

While education is important for this occupation, work experience is just as important. You can prepare for this occupation in many different ways. Most business executives gain experience in the type of company or organization that they want to manage. For example, government executives may gain experience as political staff members or participants on governing boards. They also prepare by becoming known within their community. They may volunteer or participate in religious, fraternal, or social groups.

Some business executives begin in entry-level positions, with only a high school diploma or equivalent. As they learn about the company and gain skills, they work their way up. For example, business executives in retail trade or transportation are more likely to move into management positions this way.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many business executives are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most business executives are hired for their knowledge of the industry or the issues. They are usually recognized as leaders in their field. They also are recognized for their previous performance as managers. Executives must have highly-developed personal skills. They must have a mind that can quickly assess large quantities of data. They also must be able to figure out what information is most important and how it affects others. Executives must be able to communicate clearly and be able to convince others of their ideas. Many business executives are hired from within their company.

Government executives who are elected may only need to meet age, residency, and citizenship requirements. They need to be able to inspire and motivate people to vote for them. They also need to be good at raising money for their campaigns.

Graduation from a four-year college is usually a minimum requirement for entry as a management trainee or beginning supervisor. Companies vary in their preference of backgrounds. Many look for workers trained in business administration. Others prefer technical skills such as engineering. Some background in law is becoming increasingly desirable. A well-defined idea of one's job goals and qualifications is also important. For middle and top-level positions, many companies require an advanced degree either in business administration or in an area of special skill. Several years of supervisory experience are usually necessary for these positions. Business executives with proven records are often recruited by other companies.


Participate in Junior Achievement programs and small business projects while in high school.

Costs to workers

Business executives may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues. They also must buy business attire. Some must pay for continuing education courses.

Government executives and legislators may have to pay for part of their campaign expenses. There may also be filing fees when registering to run for office.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Chief executives (SOC 11-1011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $53.95 $72.77 $99.31 (1) (1)
Monthly $9,350 $12,611 $17,210 (1) (1)
Yearly $112,210 $151,360 $206,560 (1) (1)
    Bellingham Hourly $51.96 $67.93 $81.35 (2) (2)
Monthly $9,005 $11,772 $14,098 (2) (2)
Yearly $108,061 $141,293 $169,198 (2) (2)
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $49.71 $62.32 $90.28 (2) (2)
Monthly $8,615 $10,800 $15,646 (2) (2)
Yearly $103,398 $129,635 $187,771 (2) (2)
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $31.99 $36.80 $50.75 $70.19 (2)
Monthly $5,544 $6,377 $8,795 $12,164 (2)
Yearly $66,533 $76,552 $105,570 $146,003 (2)
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $67.51 $75.14 $94.99 (2) (2)
Monthly $11,699 $13,022 $16,462 (2) (2)
Yearly $140,422 $156,296 $197,577 (2) (2)
    Longview Hourly $38.53 $55.86 $65.91 $90.92 (2)
Monthly $6,677 $9,681 $11,422 $15,756 (2)
Yearly $80,155 $116,198 $137,094 $189,118 (2)
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $47.64 $59.08 $77.15 (2) (2)
Monthly $8,256 $10,239 $13,370 (2) (2)
Yearly $99,089 $122,885 $160,460 (2) (2)
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $48.54 $55.14 $72.23 $90.98 (2)
Monthly $8,412 $9,556 $12,517 $15,767 (2)
Yearly $100,974 $114,691 $150,238 $189,234 (2)
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $68.29 $87.45 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $11,835 $15,155 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $142,037 $181,901 (2) (2) (2)
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
Monthly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
Yearly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
    Vancouver Hourly $51.87 $82.27 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $8,989 $14,257 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $107,886 $171,119 (2) (2) (2)
    Walla Walla Hourly $42.90 $47.38 $63.35 $85.41 (2)
Monthly $7,435 $8,211 $10,979 $14,802 (2)
Yearly $89,216 $98,550 $131,779 $177,658 (2)
    Wenatchee Hourly $30.48 $45.72 $60.00 $82.43 (2)
Monthly $5,282 $7,923 $10,398 $14,285 (2)
Yearly $63,401 $95,087 $124,810 $171,446 (2)
    Yakima Hourly $57.06 $70.27 $89.55 (2) (2)
Monthly $9,888 $12,178 $15,519 (2) (2)
Yearly $118,686 $146,156 $186,264 (2) (2)
United States Hourly $32.86 $55.75 $91.15 (1) (1)
Monthly $5,695 $9,661 $15,796 (1) (1)
Yearly $68,360 $115,960 $189,600 (1) (1)

(1) Wages are greater than $90/hour or $187,200/year.
(2) Wage estimate is not available.

In business, pay varies based on the amount of responsibility and how long executives have worked for the firm. It also varies by the type, size, and location of the firm. For example, top managers who work for very large corporations usually earn more than those at small companies.

In government, executive pay varies widely. It may vary by the size of the government unit. It also varies by whether the position is year round or part time. States with more people, such as New York, pay more than small states, such as Arkansas. City governments tend to pay more than county.

In addition to pay, business executives receive other perks. They may receive company stocks and yearly bonuses. They may be given company cars, expense accounts, and access to executive dining rooms. Other benefits include paid health and life insurance plans. Some executives are given club memberships and limousines with drivers. Those who are self-employed must provide their own insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Chief Executives (SOC 11-1011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 5,118 19.4% 16.1% 591
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 172 16.9% 13.4% 18
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 184 8.7% 8.6% 16
    Benton and Franklin Counties 135 16.3% 15.0% 14
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 180 18.3% 11.9% 20
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 286 14.7% 15.2% 29
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 428 15.2% 14.1% 45
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 210 16.7% 14.6% 23
    King County 2,283 24.3% 19.6% 290
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 204 16.2% 13.8% 22
    Pierce County 296 16.6% 15.2% 32
    Snohomish County 354 13.8% 12.4% 36
    Spokane County 411 18.0% 13.9% 46
United States 263,200 -5.5% 5.2% 16,800

National employment

About 21% of business executives are self-employed. They work in almost every industry.

Major employers:

Some government executives work only part of the year. They continue to work in the occupation they were in before they were elected.

National outlook

Demand is expected to decline for business executives. Competition for jobs will be very strong as there are a lot of qualified workers. Job growth varies by how well an industry is doing. Overall, more job openings should appear in service industries than manufacturing industries.

There should be very little change in the number of jobs for government executives. Few new government agencies are likely to be created. However, some new jobs may open at the local level. As the population grows, counties, cities, and towns may hire more managers.

Other resources

American Academy of Financial Management (external link)
1670 F East Cheyenne Mtn Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
American Management Association (external link)
American Public Power Association (external link)
2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000
Arlington, VA 22202
American Road and Transportation Builders Association (external link)
250 E St SW
Suite 900
Washington, DC 20024
American Society for Public Administration (external link)
1730 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
Americans for the Arts (external link)
Associated General Contractors of America (external link)
2300 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22201
Associated General Contractors of Washington (external link)
1200 Westlake Avenue North, Suite 301
Seattle, WA 98109
Association of Washington Cities (external link)
1076 Franklin Street SE
Olympia, WA 98501
Business Professionals of America (external link)
5454 Cleveland Avenue
Columbus, OH 43231
Club Managers Association of America (external link)
1733 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (external link)
4420 West Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50014
Council of Better Business Bureaus (external link)
3033 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600
Arlington, VA 22201
International City/County Management Association (ICMA) (external link)
777 North Capitol Street NE, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20002
National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (external link)
1029 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005
National Management Association (external link)
3055 Kettering Blvd, Suite 210
Dayton, OH 45439
The United States Conference of Mayors (external link)
1620 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
US Small Business Administration (external link)
Seattle District Office
2401 Fourth Avenue, Suite 450
Seattle, WA 98121
Washington Association of County Officials (external link)
206 - 10th Avenue SE
Olympia, WA 98501
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057
Washington Small Business Development Center (external link)
Washington Society of Association Executives (external link)
1401 Marvin Road NE, Suite 307, #172
Lacey, WA 98516
Washington State House of Representatives (external link)
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
Washington State Senate (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster