A lot of teens have big dreams, and sometimes becoming a CEO is one of them. That might sound far-fetched, but it’s entirely doable; however, it requires early and strategic preparation and planning. Deciding you want to follow the CEO track at 45 is a lot harder than at 15.
That said, attaining that CEO title probably won’t happen for quite a few years from when the pursuit begins, but the sooner the better. In fact, having leadership and CEO-like experience even in building or running one’s own small company is one of the best ways to prepare for the future role at a much larger firm. That’s one of the benefits of youth entrepreneurship, even for those who don’t plan on careers founding or working with startups.
Of course, if you’re a teen hoping to become the next CEO of Disney or some other large corporation, there will definitely be some corporate ladders to climb and bureaucracy to navigate. But at Beta Bowl, we believe you can do it! Here’s a list of suggestions that should help you get there and scale that ladder to the top.
Study in the Right Field for You
It’s important that you prepare both for the soft skills and the hard skills that it takes to become a CEO, and a successful one, of course. The first question to consider is what industry or field you are passionate about. Is there a particular dream company you see yourself working for or becoming CEO of? There are often three different types of CEOs.
There are those who found their own companies, the entrepreneurs; there are those who major in business with plans to simply scale the corporate ladder regardless of industry; and there are those who major in a particular field, become a subject matter expert in their industry, and become CEO in a major company within that field. Depending on which type of CEO you plan to be, this will determine the path and areas of study you should pursue.
If you plan to build your own company and be your own CEO, studying entrepreneurship, business, and the skills relevant to the particular topic you’re pursuing in your business would be best. If you plan to be a CEO of a large company and don’t care so much about the industry, you would be better of studying business, public speaking, marketing, and sales.
If you plan to work your way up in a field of your passion, you would be best served to major in that topic, and then minor or double-major in business so you can prepare both your subject matter expertise and your business administration skills. While you’re still in high school, consider taking extra classes about finance and business. If you’re interested, check out our programs at Beta Bowl.
Get a Degree
Like it or not, a bachelor’s degree is considered pretty essential if you plan on nabbing the title of CEO at a large, established organization. However, that doesn’t mean a bachelor’s degree is necessary for every CEO at every company. If you plan on building your own company, your degree matters far less than your competence and work ethic, and if you work for a more modern or unconventional company, a small boutique company, or a startup, they may not care as much about your degree, but rather about your experience and the skills you bring to the table.
That said, the vast majority of CEOs at large companies do have undergraduate degrees, and many have MBAs or other similarly impressive master’s Degrees, as well. An undergraduate degree in business or finance and a master’s in law would take a potential CEO candidate far, since they would have extensive knowledge and understanding of business administration, finance and economics, and the legal aspects of running a company.
Every individual’s path is different, but if you are planning on getting a degree, there are definitely certain fields of study you can focus on to improve your chances of becoming a CEO and better prepare you for the job.
Best Undergraduate Degrees for an Aspiring CEO
Studying economics is a great way to grasp a robust understanding of business, pricing, finance, and the reasons behind the decisions that drive our economy. Economics is much more than the law of supply and demand, but even understanding simple principles like this and the other building blocks of economics, are crucial to making large production and pricing decisions.
Even if you don’t major in economics, but rather major in business or get an MBA, you will have a few required economics classes on your schedule. This is because business school professors know that economics is the crux of global business, and it’s essential to understand the drivers behind costs, prices, purchase volume, and macroeconomic events that may impact your business.
You can start preparing for economics classes in college by participating in Beta Bowl, which offers financial literacy and business training.
It should come as no surprise that a degree in business would be helpful to a future CEO. The biggest advantage of a degree in business over the neighboring degrees in economics, finance, or accounting is that business administration covers a much broader umbrella. Typically, a business degree will include classes in economics, accounting, finance, marketing, sales, organizational behavior, supply chain management, and more. This broader degree will help prepare students to become well-rounded and capable businesspeople, leaders, and CEOs.
Oftentimes, business schools are more selective than the narrower economics or accounting majors for this very reason; it all goes back to supply and demand, and there are often more students interested in majoring in business than many schools can accommodate. That’s also the reason they do offer the other similar disciplines, so even for those who don’t commit to an MBA or taking part in an undergraduate business school, they still have the ability to study the skills and topics that would help them succeed in the business world.
Engineering isn’t just a degree for math and science wizards or the next computer genius; engineering is a discipline that can give students a leg up in many fields, and particularly in business. Aside from the fact that engineering is a well-respected degree and field with a reputation for smart, analytical, problem-solving employees, it’s also an impressive skill set in business.
Those who pursue a degree in engineering don’t shy away from challenging subjects, and they learn to think critically and tackle problems head-on. This is exactly the attitude and skillset needed for a successful CEO. If you look at hiring statistics, engineering majors also have a higher rate of employment and higher entry salaries, so a degree in engineering can catapult your success up the corporate ladder, as well as help polish off your future-CEO resume.
Accounting and Finance
If you ever take an accounting class, you’ll probably hear the phrase “accounting is the language of business.” That is somewhat true, at least if you’re talking about understanding a profit and loss statement, which will be a must for any future CEO hopeful. Finance can be thought of as accounting’s bigger, more theoretical, but also more complex sister.
An understanding of both accounting and finance will be necessary for a successful CEO, and for anyone going into either field of accounting or finance, you’ll likely get a dose of experience with the other, along the way. Accounting often refers more to the checks and balances of an organization’s budgeting and financial statements, while finance typically refers more to their future projections, additional pipelines, and potential acquisitions, sales, or mergers.
While these are more up the alley of a CFO, or chief financial officer, a CEO would need to be comfortable and familiar with both. A degree in accounting or finance should prepare you to get deep in the trenches of your company’s financial statements and help make key decisions to improve the company’s future and growth.
Your real-world business and management experience is going to be one of the most important things at setting you up for the CEO job, well above your degree. As a student, you can start by getting involved in things like student government, any entrepreneurship or business clubs your school offers, or seeking out internships that get your foot in the door and give you an introduction to the field, industry, or business you’re interested in.
Once you enter the real workforce after graduating, it’s going to be all about doing your best, making connections, and going above and beyond to fast-track your success and road to CEO-dom. That said, a detour to start your own successful company along the way will only add to your impressive resume and further demonstrate that you have the required skill set to excel as a CEO.
If you do choose the corporate employee route, it’s important to take advantage of any management training programs, leadership opportunities, and work-related organizations your company offers or promotes. This type of involvement will show just how dedicated you are to your work and that you do have what it takes to become CEO.
Start gaining business experiences early in high school by working with mentors at Beta Bowl.
In business, connections are key, and it often is more about who you know than what you know. If you have your sights set on becoming CEO, you’ll want to align yourself with the higher-ups in your company and begin forging your path to the coveted throne. However, you can’t simply social climb your way up the corporate ladder; you have to be exceptionally good at your job, among the most dedicated of employees, and possess a strong commitment to learning about and bettering the organization.
If you are demonstrating those qualities, your network of higher-up connections will likely begin to grow, and it would behoove you to seek out a mentor within your company. Perhaps there’s a person who is much older, even approaching retirement, but who has been exceptionally successful at rising the ranks of the administration.
This person would be an ideal mentor and champion, especially if they are high enough to have some real clout in propelling your future. Additionally, you should never underestimate the value and importance of assistants and secretaries. Sometimes the CEO’s right-hand-man is the assistant who’s been tasked with scouting their future successor.
Don’t Fear Failure
Part of having big aspirations, like that of attaining a CEO job, means accepting that as you face challenges, you may experience some setbacks or failures. However, you can never let that stop you or derail you on your journey. In fact, the true test of a person’s ability to lead an entire organization has a lot to do with how they handle those setbacks and failures. CEOs face problems and failures, too; they make incorrect decisions; business deals go south. They have to evaluate the situation, regroup, and determine the best course of action to right the ship. And you should do the same with your career on your road to becoming the CEO you plan to be.
Becoming a CEO is no small feat, but it is a rewarding accomplishment worth pursuing, for those who are dedicated and committed to the journey. Starting early is key to setting oneself up for the straightest path to leadership as possible. There are many roads you could take, from starting your own company, to becoming a subject matter expert in a certain field, to majoring in business and playing your cards right as you climb the corporate ladder.
No matter which path you take, if you’re strategic with your decisions, do your best every step along the way, and challenge yourself to achieve more and bigger things than what’s expected of you, you’ll put yourself in the best position possible to take on the future job. And don’t forget, as much as your knowledge, effort, and perseverance matters, your connections do too. Don’t overlook the important people who may be integral to your journey, since these people could be the key to securing your throne. Now that you know how to acquire the skills to help you become the CEO of a company, check out our course selections and packages at Beta Bowl to guide you there.