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.
A CEO is the leader of a company. He or she is the highest-ranking executive in the corporate field and makes important decisions for the company. The CEO is the face of a company and, although has great power, also has great responsibility.
Not every CEO runs a major company. Some CEOs run small businesses. Regardless, the responsibility is still heavy.
That said, attaining that CEO title probably won’t happen for quite a few years. Becoming a CEO takes many years of education and hard work building experience and connections. But the sooner the better.
Many teenagers and young adults are starting their own businesses and are working their way to the top to becoming CEOs of their own companies. Having leadership and CEO-like experience even in building and running one’s own small company is one of the best ways to prepare for a future role at a much larger firm.
Not everyone wants to start their own business though. If you’re a teen hoping to become the next CEO of Disney or some other large corporation, you will have to climb some corporate ladders and navigate some bureaucracy. But at Beta Bowl, we believe you can do it! Here’s a list of suggestions that should help you reach your goal of becoming the leader of a company.
The Skills a CEO Needs
It’s important that you prepare both for the soft skills and the hard skills that it takes to become a CEO.
For soft skills, CEOs need to understand how to adapt to situations. Running a business is difficult and often unpredictable. Learning how to adapt will help you make better decisions for the company.
CEOs also need strong communications skills. How you speak to people individually and in a group setting is important for different situations. For example, motivating and reprimanding are two very different situations. You will need to know how to communicate effectively for each one.
A CEO also understands how to empathize with others. Empathy helps build strong relationships both personally and professionally and unifies a company.
For hard skills, CEOs need years of education and experience which we will discuss throughout this post.
If you’re still up for the challenge, then choosing a field of study is next on your list.
Choosing a Field of Study
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:
- Those who found their own companies, the entrepreneurs.
- Those who major in business with plans to simply scale the corporate ladder regardless of industry.
- Those who major in a particular field, become subject matter experts in their industry and become CEO in a major company within that field.
Knowing what type of CEO you want to be will determine the path and areas of study you should pursue, and how long it will take to reach that goal.
If you plan to build your own company and be your own CEO, studying entrepreneurship and 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 off 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 to major in that topic, and then minor or double-major in business. That way, you can prepare both your subject matter expertise and your business administration skills. Consider taking extra classes about finance and business while you’re in high school. Check out our programs at Beta Bowl to see what we offer.
Get a Degree
Like it or not, a bachelor’s degree is 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. 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. So what is the best degree to earn if you want to lead a company?
An undergraduate degree in business or finance and a master’s in law would take a potential CEO candidate far. They would have extensive knowledge and understanding of business administration, finance and economics, and the legal aspects of running a company.
Obtaining these degrees would take between 4-8 years. A CEO also needs a minimum of 5 years of experience in the field, but usually more experience is required.
Every individual’s path is different, but if you plan to earn a degree, you can focus on certain fields of study to improve your chances of becoming a CEO and better prepare you for the job.
Most Common Degrees for CEOs
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 understanding simple principles like this and other building blocks of economics are crucial to making large production and pricing decisions.
You will have a few required economics classes on your schedule even if you choose to pursue a business undergraduate degree. 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 is helpful to a future CEO. The biggest advantage of a business degree over the neighboring degrees 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 business people, 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. There are often more students interested in majoring in business than many schools can accommodate. That’s also the reason they offer similar disciplines. Students still have the ability to study the skills and topics that would help them succeed in the business world if they don’t commit to an MBA or take part in an undergraduate program.
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 being smart, analytical, problem-solvers, 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 skill set 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 a profit and loss statement. 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 others along the way.
Accounting refers to the checks and balances of an organization’s budgeting and financial statements, while finance typically refers to 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.
CEO Salaries and Job Outlook
The path to becoming a CEO is challenging, but the salary can be quite rewarding. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2020 median pay for a CEO is $107,680 per year. Put another way, a CEO makes around $51.77 per hour.
CEOs can be found in various industries and overall employment is expected to grow 8% by 2030. The primary source for job availability is the start of a new company or executive retirement. Remember, it takes time to become a CEO. The men and women in these positions are nearing retirement by the time a position opens, but this isn’t always the case.
The Youngest CEOs of 2021
If you don’t want to wait until you’re older to run a company, then you don’t have to. Many teenagers and young adults have started their own companies and are earning a CEO salary. In fact, being young means you have insight into the wants and needs of people your age.
Isabella Dymalovski is a great example. She founded her own cosmetics line when she was only 13 years old and appeared on the Australian version of Shark Tank in 2014. Isabella shares her story- both her journey and with cosmetics and business- on her website.
Mikaila Ulmer is another young CEO that started her own lemonade business called Me and the Bees using her grandmother’s recipe. She was only 5 years old when she started her business and is still running it today!
The youngest CEO of 2021 is Alex Rodrigues. Alex created an autonomous trucking software company, a company that specializes in self-driving 16-wheelers. At age 26 he skyrocketed his net worth to about $500 million.
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 you’re interested in.
Once you enter the 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. Business 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 matter, 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.