How to become a CEO | Career paths | Open Universities Australia

How to become a chief executive officer (CEO)

Are you a future leader? Learn how to channel your business skills into a rewarding career, and discover what it takes to become the CEO of a company. 

Begin your CEO career path

The path to becoming a CEO takes years of hard work, but it’s not impossible. You’ll need a solid education behind you, as well as varied experience. Here’s where to start:

  1. While there aren’t any specific CEO degrees, studying a Bachelor Degree in business, finance, economics or commerce provides a solid foundation for a range of industries. 
  2. Build your employment profile and extend your knowledge with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). 
  3. Develop your career by seeking work experience in a variety of positions, honing your leadership skills while climbing the leadership ladder. Senior-level management experience is essential to becoming a successful CEO. 
  4. Find ways to network with other company executives and further your knowledge through connections and discussion. Membership associations, meetups and conferences allow you to mingle with other leaders and learn from those around you. 
 

What does a CEO do?

CEOs are responsible for the overall management of a company. They’re leaders of strategic direction, energising upper, middle and lower management to execute business decisions through carefully thought-out policy.

In addition to forward planning, CEOs are often responsible for budgeting, financial forecasting, monitoring profit and loss, and company goal setting to ensure everything stays on track. 

You won’t become a CEO overnight, but you can work hard to develop the skills and qualities many businesses want in a leader, including clear communication skills, natural leadership, financial management and business planning. Those in chief executive roles are cool cucumbers, bringing a sense of calm to pressure situations and upholding the company’s values. It sounds like a lot, but with time and experience, you’ll be up to the task.

Duties and tasks

Here are some of the roles and responsibilities of a CEO:

  • Creating and implementing a company’s mission and vision
  • Representing the organisation and communicating on behalf of the company with relevant stakeholders, including shareholders, government, media and the public
  • Developing and implementing business plans, strategies and budgets
  • Reporting the organisation's performance to the board of directors (if applicable)
  • Maintaining an awareness of the competitive market and identifying business opportunities
  • Collaborating and overseeing other executive leaders within the company
  • Providing clear leadership to company employees and external stakeholders

Industry bodies

Australian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

AuSAE is the leading industry association for organisation leaders in Australia and New Zealand. AuSAE supports leaders by providing networking opportunities, skills workshops and discussion with other industry professionals. Membership options include emerging leaders, executive level managers and CEOs. 

The CEO Circle

The CEO Circle is Australia’s leading membership organisation for executives, leaders and CEOs. The group provides a space to connect with other professionals so you can maximise your leadership development. Check out their thought leadership podcast to get a feel for the discussions you may have and the people you could meet.

The CEO Institute

The CEO Institute represents over 5,300 business executives by providing peer support and leadership programs for CEOs, senior executives and managers. It also offers three levels of certification designed to reflect an individual's career journey.

CEO jobs

As a CEO, you may take on a number of other roles in a business, depending on the size of the organisation. In smaller organisations, you’re likely to be in charge of a few areas at once, while in large-scale operations being the CEO will keep you run off your feet in itself. 

The following roles can act as stepping stones to get to CEO, or bolster your position once you’re there:

  • Associate
  • Business analyst
  • Business development manager
  • Chairperson of the board
  • Chancellor
  • Chief operating officer
  • Chief financial officer
  • Chief information officer
  • Chief marketing officer
  • Chief sustainability officer
  • Commissioners
  • Company director
  • Entrepreneur 
  • General manager
  • Managing director
  • Mayor
  • Operations manager
  • Project manager
  • Vice president

 

Get help every step of the way

Our student advisors can assist you with enrolment, help you plan your studies, and answer questions about how studying through Open Universities Australia can get you from where you are today, to where you want to be tomorrow.

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