What Are C-level Jobs? (With Examples)

By Caitlin Mazur - Dec. 22, 2020
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When you enter the workforce in a corporate environment or with a business franchise, your organization likely has a hierarchical structure or pyramid structure. This means that your company has an organizational distribution that consists of different levels of subordination. At the top level sits the C-level management or the C-suite.

The C-level executive teams include top-level management positions at any given company. These executives are responsible for decision-making that impacts the business, clients, and internal teams as a whole. Depending on your industry or type of business, the job titles within this brand may vary, as well as responsibilities for each individual.

An effective C-suite is essential for any company to reach its full potential. The group of executives that run the show influence overall business strategy and operational management while making final decisions that can impact the entire corporation.

Successful C-suite executives work together for the benefit of the organization. They strategize how best to achieve their goals through leadership and management and typically help lead a team of technical and operational-focused management to ensure everything within the business runs smoothly.

A key part of this group is to ensure they’re consistently looking for ways to improve performance. This forms the company culture and helps organizations scale efficiently with the best possible people in critical roles.

Those C-suite executives who cannot communicate clear visions and set tangible and achievable goals for the teams will create cycles of negativity. This can undermine a business with potential and cause talented staff to resign, leading to high turnover rates. Even if companies hire competent and skilled individuals for key roles, without strong leadership, even excellent employees can fall short.

  1. Chief Executive Officer Jobs (Overview)

  2. Chief Operating Officer Jobs (Overview)

  3. Chief Finance Officer Jobs (Overview)

  4. Chief Information Officer Jobs (Overview)

  5. Chief Marketing Officer Jobs (Overview)

Common C-level Executive Positions

Depending on your organization and the industry for which you work, the C-suite titles may change. However, some appear in almost every single organization. Below are some of the most common C-level executive positions:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
    Average Annual Salary: $190,000

    The Chief Executive Officer is the highest top-level executive position within any business. This individual is the top decision-maker in the organization and is responsible for executing its strategic direction.

    The CEO oversees all business operations and decisions and is ultimately responsible for the success of the organization. All other C-level executives report to the CEO. This person is typically the face of leadership to the general public.

  • Find Chief Executive Officer jobs near me

  • Chief Operating Officer (COO)
    Average Annual Salary: $157,000

    The Chief Operating Officer is responsible for the proper execution of all business plans and strategies. By overseeing the operations of the company, they are the individual who makes sure everything rules smoothly.

    They are typically the second-highest ranking executive in a company and also sometimes function as the face of the company.

  • Find Chief Operating Officer jobs near me

  • Chief Finance Officer (CFO)
    Average Annual Salary: $136,000

    The Chief Financial Officer is responsible for all of the company’s finances, including reporting and statutory compliance. They are responsible for long-term budging, risk analysis, and overall financial status.

    Additionally, they assist in all financial related decision-making, projections for the future, and more.

  • Find Chief Finance Officer jobs near me

  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
    Average Annual Salary: $152,000

    The Chief Information Officer is responsible for Information Technology (IT) across the organization. This individual typically has a team of IT specialists responsible for managing daily IT operations and helping the company grow.

    They are tasked with researching and implementing new technology systems, oversee the security of these systems, and oversee the infrastructure as it’s implemented. This individual can also be called a Chief Technology Officer or CTO.

  • Find Chief Information Officer jobs near me

  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
    Average Annual Salary: $174,000

    The Chief Marketing Office is in charge of building and implementing marketing strategies across the organization. They set marketing goals and objectives and oversee all branding, advertising, public relations, content creation, digital strategy, event participation, and more.

    This individual is responsible for the company’s overall external brand and typically oversees all news released to the general public.

  • Find Chief Marketing Officer jobs near me

  • Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)
    Average Annual Salary: N/A

    The Chief Human Resources Officer is the person who oversees anything that has to do with the internal people at an organization. This means they oversee company hiring, firing, promotions, training strategies and execution, employee satisfaction, and employee performance reviews.

    This person can also be responsible for employer branding, talent management, as well as diversity and culture initiatives. They can sometimes be called Chief People Officers, or CPOs.

Essential Skills for C-suite Executives

The skills for any C-level position will vary by function, as described below:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

    Despite traditionally holding the most power by establishing the board members themselves, CEOs nowadays are more accountable at the top. They often owe their jobs to board members placing them in their role.

    Additionally, the typical skills required for a CEO have shifted towards business acumen and soft skills rather than technical skills. Those who are in this position must, at the minimum, be a good communicator, collaborator, and long-term strategic-thinker.

  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)

    The Chief Information Officer is a new role born from the digital and new technology age. Technology leaders must be sophisticated and in tune with the business.

    CIO’s must be trained to make complex decisions based on analytical analysis of the return on investment. They must be strategic and only take on new technologies and projects that they can adequately prove will positively improve the business.

    These individuals must be knowledgeable about analytics as well as data collection and dissemination. They must be able to make well-informed decisions for the company based on data collection.

  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

    The Chief Marketing Officer must be well-tuned to the head of sales. The line between these two roles continues to blur across industries, and the pair must work together to make strategic marketing and sales decisions across the organization.

    CMO’s must have broad branding and marketing knowledge and be up to date on the latest trends, especially in digital, as things change rapidly. Additionally, they face a unique challenge in managing the generation who has grown up in the digital age and catering to a customer base that requires immediate gratification.

  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

    In today’s day in age, managing finances for a company, especially a global one, has become increasingly complex. The Chief Financial Officer plays a very strategic role in the company.

    These individuals must be able to assess strategic and financial merits and risks. A broader background in finance is required. Many organizations require CFOs with experience in capital markets, mergers, and knowledge of information technologies. CFO’s often participate in managing external stakeholders, investor relations, and more.

  • Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO)

    With the rise of global companies, Chief Human Resource Officers have made a name for themselves within many organizations.

    Many companies have hired leaders from operations, marketing, or law to sit in the company’s top HR position due to their skills in legal issues, regulation and compliance, and a better understanding of commercial models.

    Still, the top HR position individual must have broad experience (ideally) working in different types of business cultures, with individuals of differing backgrounds.

    Chief Human Resource Officers must be comfortable managing diverse staff, efficiently juggling the needs of the different generations of employees, and competing adequately for top talent. They must be mindful of employee satisfaction, including difficult conversations around compensation.

What Does C-Suite Mean?

The “C” in C-suite means “Chief,” meaning that they are in charge of an overall department, business unit, or region. The title of each member in a C-suite or C-level management typically starts with “Chief,” such as “Chief Executive Officer,” also known as the CEO, or “Chief Marketing Officer,” also known as the CMO.

These types of jobs hold heavy responsibility that impacts a variety of different people. They may also hold significant influence over the company and the rest of the C-suite team.

The C-Suite typically focuses on similar responsibilities regardless of the organization they work for. This can include strategic planning, stock decisions, task delegation, decision-making for the organization as a whole, and hiring and firing decisions.

The C-suite is essential to organizations because no matter what you’re working towards or the product you sell, every business needs to make decisions. These roles are critical for keeping the business running smoothly through clear and strong leadership.

C-level management typically has higher salaries than other employees in the organization due to the nature of their responsibilities and heavier workloads. Typically it takes a long time to build your experience and skills to reach a C-suite position.

How to Work Towards C-level Roles

So, how do you snag one of these coveted positions? Well, it first depends on which C-level position you’re looking to attain. Typically the skills necessary will vary by function, industry, geographical location, and company.

However, there are general consistencies seen in individuals who attain a C-level position. For example, technical and functional expertise is less important in C-suite individuals than strong leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals.

Your Chief Executive Officer needs key business experience, leadership experience, and the ability to work under pressure. Chief Financial Officers need to understand, develop, and maintain risk management strategies. In contrast, your Chief Information Officers might need to understand how to create business models across various circumstances.

To that end, the skills you acquire as you work your way up through the ranks may not necessarily apply to a C-suite level position. What gives you the edge is having more in common with the other C-suite level positions than those you are managing in functional roles.

If you’re working in a senior management position, you will be well served by supporting your C-level colleagues on business strategy and goal setting. If you can get your foot in the door by offering insights and contributions to key decisions, the C-suite will begin to see you as a peer rather than a subordinate. Relationship-building is vital on your way to the top.

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Caitlin Mazur

Caitlin Mazur is a freelance writer at Zippia. Caitlin is passionate about helping Zippia’s readers land the jobs of their dreams by offering content that discusses job-seeking advice based on experience and extensive research. Caitlin holds a degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA.

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