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How to Become a CEO with the Right Education and Experience


Keys to the Corner Office

There are few career goals that are loftier than becoming a CEO. The journey to that position is a long one requiring much education, talent, and experience. Although each CEO has his own experience to share, many have similar accomplishments that have led them to their dream position. Below, we analyze the path of becoming a CEO.


Over 90% of S&P 500 CEOs have earned a degree at the Undergraduate Level while 66% of S&P 500 CEOs study for an advanced degree. Of these, 39% studied law and 27% studied other fields. This translates to about 1 in 10 S&P 500 CEOs having a law degree.

Most Common Fields of Study
1. Engineering – 20%
2. Business Administration – 15%
3. Economics – 9%
4. Liberal Arts – 11%
5. Accounting – 7%


Most S&P 500 CEOs had previous experience. 24% of the sampled audience had experience in marketing and operations. 17% had sales experience while 26% had a background knowledge in finance. 36% had previous international work experience while 45% had previous board experience.


On the average, the age of the CEO at the time of appointment was 50. For those who rose through the ranks, it takes an average of 16 years to get to the position. As a matter of fact, only few ever make it to the position of CEO. It is 32% of Fortune 500 companies and 21% for S&P 500 companies. Taking a closer look, it is discovered that 77% of S&P 500 companies are appointed internally while 54% say they are currently grooming an executive specially for that position.

Different companies have developed a system that works well for them. About 39% of companies say they have no internal candidate, 50% have a document stating the skills of the next CEO, more than 50% of the sampled companies said that if their CEO becomes incapacitated, they had no permanent CEO as the candidate of choice must prove himself over time that he is qualified for the position.

In spite of the differences in path to the position of CEO, education, experience, and being noticed as a potential successor are keys most aspiring executives use to achieve the goal of sitting in that seat.

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