Chief Executives: Salary Overview
Chief executives, also known as CEOs, supervise and coordinate companies or private and public sector organizations while following the guidelines set forward by the company’s board of directors.
They represent the highest level of management and plan, direct, and coordinate operational activities within the company with the help of subordinate executives and managers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for chief executives was $198,859 as of May 2019.
The median annual salary- the wage at which half the workers in this occupation earned more than the amount and half earned less- was $184,460 in May 2019.
Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, including experience, the industry of employment, and level of education.
A CEO’s compensation is highly correlated with the company’s dimension and revenue, its complexity, and his/her level of performance.
Chief executives who work in smaller companies may have a salary in the range of $60,000-$70,000 while those who work for top companies can receive more than $1,000,000 a year in total compensation.
Chief Executive Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chief executives held about 205,890 jobs in 2019.
More than 16,500 chief executives worked for companies that provide management services to other companies of enterprises.
The second biggest employer for chief executives was elementary and secondary schools, a field that employed over 9,500 chief executives in May 2019.
The state government employed 8,300 chief executive while 8,120 of them worked in the field of computer systems design and related services.
The highest salaries were offered in the industry of pipeline transportation of natural gas, a field that hired only 30 chief executives and offered an average annual salary of $268,750.
The industry of other pipeline transportation hired about 50 chief executives in 2019 and offered a mean annual wage of $268,630 while the industry of natural gas distribution hired 150 chief executives and paid them, on average, with $266,030 a year.
The biggest employer for chief executives, the management of companies and enterprises field, offered an average annual salary of $234,690 as of May 2019 while chief executives who worked for elementary and secondary schools earned a mean wage of $151,940 per year.
Chief executives who work for the state government earned a mean annual wage of $109,880 as of May 2019 while those who worked for companies that provide computer systems design and related services earned an average annual wage of $232,840.
Companies that provide management, scientific, and technical consulting services employed about 7,860 chief executives that were paid with $207,600 a year, on average.
Chief Executive Salary by Compensation Structure
Some chief executives receive a base salary but typically their earnings are affected by the company’s success.
They are rewarded substantially if the company performs well so they are motivated to work hard and make smart decisions and may be penalized if the company performs poorly.
Many chief executives also receive annual bonuses that depend on the company’s performance and his/her shares on the company.
Other perks include generous retirement plans, health insurance, and more.
According to a survey conducted by the Chief Executive Research in 2018, the median total compensation (including base salary, bonuses, equity appreciation, and other benefits) for CEOs in 2017 was $350,622.
The average annual compensation, however, was much higher than this because the largest private companies offer substantially greater packages to their chief executives than smaller companies.
Chief Executive Compensation by Company Revenue
The same survey shows that the compensation of CEOs of companies that make more than $1 billion in revenues is five times that of a CEO whose company generates between $100 million and $500 million in revenues.
The median CEO who runs a company that makes between $10 and $25 million earned a little more than half the compensation received by the median CEO who leads a company that generates revenues between $100 million and $250 million.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Chief Executives. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.