How to Become a CEO of a Company in 5 Steps

Becoming a CEO in any business is one of the most rewarding accomplishments for any ambitious person, but it’s sure not easy. Thankfully, with the right strategy and mindset, the path to get there can become a little less daunting. Take it from me—I started literally in my dorm room, and now I’m a CEO and a New York Times best-selling author with my own Netflix show.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the five fundamental steps to becoming a CEO, including the qualifications you’ll need, the skills you must develop, and the different paths you can take to the top.

So, if you’re ready to take your career to new heights and become the leader you’ve always aspired to be, let’s get started.

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How to Become a CEO in 5 Steps

Here are the 5 steps  you need to take to reach the top of the corporate ladder:

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Getting a bachelor’s degree is super important to becoming a CEO. A solid educational foundation will give you the knowledge and skills needed to understand the complexities of running a business, from financial management to strategic decision-making. While it’s possible to become a CEO without a degree, having one will open more doors and make your journey easier.

Business administration, accounting, or finance degrees are recommended because they teach you how to run a business. These programs will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of business principles, including marketing, operations, and financial analysis. You’ll also develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for any CEO. If you’re unsure which degree to pursue, consider reaching out to industry professionals or alumni from your target schools to gain insights into their experiences.

Consider which degree best aligns with your career goals. If you have a passion for a specific industry, such as technology or healthcare, you may want to pursue a degree in that field. The key is to choose a program that will help you thrive in your desired industry while also developing your leadership and management skills. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and combine your interests with a solid business education.

Step 2: Get Relevant Work Experience

To become a CEO, you need to gain practical experience in leadership roles. Seek out opportunities to manage teams, oversee projects, or even start your own small business. These experiences will help you develop the skills and confidence needed to lead a company.

As you progress in your career, look for chances to take on increasing levels of responsibility. Volunteer to lead cross-functional teams, take on stretch assignments, or seek leadership roles in nonprofit organizations. Constantly challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone to grow as a leader.

Working in various leadership roles across different companies or industries will give you a broader perspective on how businesses operate. This diverse experience will help you make informed decisions as a CEO and prepare you for the high-stakes challenges that come with the role.

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree

Want to give your CEO aspirations a serious boost? Consider earning a master’s degree. While it’s not a mandatory requirement, an advanced degree can be a game-changer. 

The key is to choose a specialty that aligns with your CEO goals. Whether it’s an MBA, a Master’s in Finance, or a program tailored to your industry, select a degree that will arm you with the necessary skills needed to excel as a top-tier leader.

Sure, investing in a master’s degree takes time and resources, but think of it as an investment in your future as a CEO. The knowledge and skills you gain will be your secret weapon as you steer the challenges of leading a company.

Step 4: Networking

Never underestimate the power of networking. Building connections and maintaining relationships throughout your career journey can be the secret sauce to your success as a CEO.

Start early and make networking a habit. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and participate in conferences. These gatherings are gold mines for meeting potential mentors, collaborators, and even future employers.

Don’t forget about the virtual world. Use online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field, share your insights, and engage with others’ content. Establishing a strong online presence will expand your network beyond geographical boundaries.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to acquaintances for support or advice. You never know who might have a valuable connection or insight that could help you on your path to becoming a CEO.

Step 5: Start a Company

Ready to take the leap and become a CEO? You have two paths: start your own company or climb the ladder within an existing organization.

If you’re feeling entrepreneurial, starting your own company allows you to shape your business from the ground up and learn skills along the way. It’s a challenging but rewarding path.

Alternatively, if you prefer to work within an established company, demonstrate your dedication and leadership skills at every opportunity. Take on challenges, deliver results, and show your superiors that you have what it takes to lead the organization to success.

Regardless of your path, becoming a CEO requires hard work, strategic thinking, and a willingness to take calculated risks. Welcome the challenges, learn from your mistakes, and never stop pushing yourself to grow as a leader. 

What is a CEO?

A CEO, or Chief Executive Officer, is the highest-ranking executive in a company. They are responsible for making major corporate decisions, managing the overall operations and resources of the company, and acting as the main point of communication between the board of directors and corporate operations.

What does a CEO do?

A CEO’s primary responsibilities involve setting the company’s strategy and direction, making major corporate decisions, and managing the overall operations and resources of the company. They serve as the public face of the company, communicating with the board of directors, shareholders, and other stakeholders. 

The CEO is responsible for ensuring the company meets its financial goals, drives growth and profitability, and maintains a strong organizational structure. They build and lead the executive team, oversee staff, and identify and mitigate risks to the company.

Necessary Skills for CEOs

Want to be a successful CEO? You’ll need a range of skills to lead your company well. The exact skills might change based on your industry and company size, but there are a few key things every CEO should be good at: 

Collaboration Skills

As a CEO, you need to create a work environment where people work together well. When teams cooperate, they build strong relationships and loyalty. This is important for moving your business in the right direction. 


CEOs face a lot of challenges and roadblocks. Being able to solve problems is super important for getting past these issues and finding solutions that work. You need to be able to look at tricky situations, figure out what’s causing the problems, and come up with creative plans to fix them. If you’re good at solving problems, you’ll help your company deal with changes and stay in front of competitors.


Strong leadership might be the most important skill for a CEO. You need to encourage and inspire your team, create a clear plan for the company, and keep everyone on track to reach the goals. You have to make hard decisions, even when things are uncertain, and take responsibility for what happens.


As a CEO, you must be able to communicate clearly and effectively. You need to explain your vision and plans to your team, investors, and the public. You also have to listen well, get input and feedback from others, and use that info to make good choices. When you communicate well, it helps create trust, openness, and agreement within your company.


CEOs are in charge of making important decisions that can have a big impact on the company. You need to collect and look at information, consider the potential risks and rewards, and make smart, timely choices. Sometimes you’ll have to make tough calls, even if they’re not popular. 


If you are a CEO, you must be adaptable. You need to expect and respond to shifts in the market, technology, and what customers want. You have to be open to change and guide your company through transitions and transformations. 


These days, being transparent is more and more important for CEOs. People involved in the company, employees, and the public expect you to be open and honest about how your company operates, its finances, and its challenges. When you’re transparent, you build trust and credibility with your team and stakeholders. 

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What Qualifications Do You Need for a CEO?

So, you want to be a CEO? Well, there’s no one magic degree that’ll get you there. But you’ll need a solid mix of education, experience, and serious leadership skills.

Most CEOs need at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in a field like:

  • Engineering
  • Business Management
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Economics

But a degree alone won’t cut it. Companies want to see that you’ve got real-world experience leading teams, making tough decisions, and delivering results. They want to know you can walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Many CEOs work their way up within a company, starting at the bottom and taking on more responsibility over time. Others bring experience from different companies or industries.

Beyond formal qualifications, CEOs need to be great communicators, strategic thinkers, and adaptable problem-solvers. They also need to inspire and motivate their teams, even when times are tough.

So, while there’s no one-size-fits-all path to becoming a CEO, the role demands a powerful combo of education, experience, leadership skills, and personal qualities. The exact mix might vary, but these are the key ingredients that most companies look for in their top leader.

What is the Salary of a CEO?

If you’re considering the CEO path, you’re probably wondering about the paycheck that comes with the top job.

According to, as of April 2024, the average Chief Executive Officer salary in the United States is a whopping $838,489. That’s right, the average CEO is bringing in over $800K per year.

But that’s just the average. CEO salaries can actually range pretty widely, typically falling somewhere between $633,609 and $1,080,346. That’s a big spread, and where a CEO lands on that scale depends on a few key factors.

First, company size matters a lot. CEOs of large, multinational corporations are usually going to be on the higher end of that pay scale. They’re managing huge teams, overseeing complex operations, and often dealing with massive budgets. All that responsibility comes with a hefty paycheck.

Second, industry also plays a role. CEOs in certain sectors, like technology or finance, tend to command higher salaries than those in, say, non-profit or education. It’s all about the market and what the going rate is for top talent in each field.

Finally, a CEO’s experience and track record can greatly influence their salary. A CEO with a long history of success, who has led multiple companies or navigated major challenges, is going to be able to negotiate a higher salary than someone who’s new to the role.

So, while the average CEO salary might be $838,489, there’s a lot of variation within that number. Some CEOs might be making closer to $600K, while others are easily clearing a million dollars per year.

But here’s the thing: CEO salaries are often just the tip of the iceberg. Many top executives also receive bonuses, stock options, and other perks that can significantly boost their total compensation package. So, while the base salary might be impressive on its own, the real earning potential for a CEO can be much, much higher.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a CEO is no easy feat. It requires a unique blend of education, experience, leadership skills, and personal qualities. It demands hard work and dedication. But for those who are up to the challenge, the rewards can be tremendous.

CEOs have the opportunity to shape the direction of their company, drive innovation and growth, and create value for shareholders, employees, and society. And, as we’ve seen, the financial rewards can be substantial.

If you’re considering the CEO path, know that it won’t be easy. You’ll need to invest in your education, build your experience, and develop your leadership skills over time. But if you’re passionate about business and willing to put in the hard work, it can be an incredibly fulfilling career.

So, set your sights high and don’t be afraid to dream big. With perseverance and a commitment to excellence, the corner office could be yours!

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.