What Is an Executive? (With Salaries and Job Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 January 2023

Published 23 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you feel passionate about leading a business and making high-level strategy decisions, you may consider pursuing an executive position in a company. Executive positions might suit you best if you're an individual who has strong leadership skills with proven results, experience in management, a positive and confident professional attitude and a solution-focused approach to the workplace. Due to the complex and important nature of the work, executives often make high-paying salaries. In this article, we answer the question "what is an executive?" by exploring a list of 15 executive positions you can find in a company.

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What is an executive position?

Executives, also known as C-suite executives, are the most influential leading figures within an organisation who usually oversee other employees in the company. These roles require strong leadership, planning, business decision making and communication skills. In a C-level position, you are often responsible for management, supervision and project execution. In large companies, there are many different executive positions, each with its own distinguished role and responsibilities. Regardless of the title, the primary goal for any C-suite executive is to ensure that their efforts help the company thrive and maintain profitability.

Related: How To Improve Leadership Skills: Guideline and Tips

What's the difference between an executive and a manager?

While both executives and managers have important roles in a company, their job duties and scope differ. A manager oversees a group of employees in a department or office, depending on the size of the company. However, an executive creates and oversees strategies for an entire company.

Related: What Does an Executive Assistant Do? (Definition and Skills)

15 executive positions in a company

Here's a list of executive positions in an organisation:

1. Chief accounting officer

National average salary: $43,655 per year

Primary duties: The chief accounting officer generally reports to the chief financial officer and oversees accounting and financial business matters. They hire personnel within the accounting department and collaborate with account managers to ensure that work follows laws and accounting regulations. They might work with other finance-related departments and the CFO to create profit-maximising strategies.

2. Chief operating officer

National average salary: $81,987 per year

Primary duties: The chief operating officer reports to the CEO. COOs oversee daily operations to ensure the efficiency of a business. While the CEO sets the company's tone and vision, the COO promotes that tone and carries out the CEO's vision by creating policies and designing and implementing plans. Depending on the size of the company, you may also manage human resources, playing an active role in employment.


  • What Is a Chief Operating Officer? (With Skills and Types)

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3. Chief executive officer

National average salary: $119,627 per year

Primary duties: The chief executive officer is the top executive in many companies. As CEO, you are responsible for major decision-making, managing resources and operations and defining the company's vision, tone and public image. Your duties as CEO may vary based on the size of the company. In large corporations, you are often responsible for large-scale operations only, including strategic planning for company growth. In smaller businesses, you may have more involvement in daily operations in addition to your role in upper-level decision-making and management. CEOs manage all other executives.

Related: Managing Director vs. CEO: Responsibilities and Differences

4. Vice president of human resources

National average salary: $120,754 per year

Primary duties: The VP of human resources oversees an organisation's human resources operations and company-wide HR initiatives. They report directly to the chief executive officer. They work closely with department leaders and management teams to create guidelines for the company's culture, mission and goals. To perform this role means to have expert interpersonal capabilities so you can draft HR strategies that benefit all employees. In this role, you can expect to handle recruitment procedures, training exercises, compensation plans and employee complaints.

5. Chief development officer

National average salary: $122,532 per year

Primary duties: The chief development officer has a great responsibility to ensure that a company succeeds by creating strategic plans that help the organisation develop and flourish. They work to instil innovation in all processes and seek to create a philanthropic culture so there is always positive growth and financial development. These professionals look at the overall scope of the organisation to identify what departments they can streamline and optimise. The CDO can identify organisational issues and create solutions.

6. Chief compliance officer

National average salary: $127,130 per year

Primary duties: The chief compliance officer's primary focus is to ensure that all company operations and business functions follow regulations and laws. To do this, they monitor all the company's ongoing processes to identify unethical behaviour and illegal activity. Sometimes they may conduct investigations and create compliance programs to teach employees what actions are unlawful. They also serve as the primary figure in correspondence with government regulatory entities.

7. Vice president of business development

National average salary: $130,481 per year

Primary duties: The vice president of business development reports directly to the chief development officer. However, they have a more hands-on list of responsibilities compared to the CDO. The business development VP uses a variety of networks and might even develop their own to bring in new clients to the company. This person works directly with high-profile customers to ensure the company meets their needs. They might identify important resources that can improve the business development process and sales generation figures.

Related: What Is Business Development and Is It Sales?

8. Chief technology officer

National average salary: $138,492 per year

Primary duties: The chief technology officer monitors all corporate usage of technology to improve the company's productivity and enhance the way departments operate and accomplish their duties. To meet business goals, the CTO remains up to date on the latest technological developments to identify what technologies would best suit the needs of the business. This means they can be highly technical and have the ability to understand how technology works so they can create a vision and strategy for integrating those technologies into the company.

Related: What Does a CTO Do? (Responsibilities, Salary and Skills)

9. Vice president of communications

National average salary: $143,958 per year

Primary duties: The vice president of communications oversees all communication efforts within the company and ensures that communicative records remain preserved. This means that the VP manages written forms of communication as well, like articles of incorporation, bylaws, committee charters, board policies and character agreements. They coordinate the board meetings and maintain the meeting minutes. They might also directly prepare or oversee a team of writers and communication specialists to craft company newsletters and memos. This professional may also work with IT and web experts to manage the company's intranet websites.

10. Chief marketing officer

National average salary: $147,590 per year

Primary duties: In charge of marketing strategy, the chief marketing officer is responsible for advertising and branding for the company. As a CMO, you are also a researcher, staying up-to-date on trends, defining and attracting your customer base. Your position depends on sharp communication skills, as you construct broad marketing plans to reach customers and business partners alike.

Related: 14 CMO Roles and Responsibilities (With Explanations)

11. Chief product officer

National average salary: $166,350 per year

Primary duties: The chief product officer develops the strategies and organisational plans for improving the product that enables business growth and customer satisfaction. They oversee the entire life cycle of the company's products, from conception to execution. They track the progress and maintenance of the product and correspond with customers to ensure it meets their needs.

12. Executive director

National average salary: $172,791 per year

Primary duties: An executive director is often the highest executive in a nonprofit organisation. In both nonprofits and businesses, the executive director responds to the board of directors. In many ways, the role of the executive director is the same as the role of the chief executive officer. However, unlike a CEO, the executive director must get permission from the board of directors before pursuing any significant project. The goal of the executive director is to maintain and guide the organisation's mission as determined by the board of directors.

Related: Managing Director vs. Executive Director: Key Differences

13. Chief financial officer

National average salary: $174,446 per year

Primary duties: The chief financial officer is in charge of the company's finances. This requires budgeting, accounting and forecasting, as CFOs can predict the company's financial gains and losses to determine where and when to spend money. As CFO, you may also be responsible for investments and choosing profitable portfolios for the company.

Related: CFO Skills: Definition, Examples and Improvement Tips

14. Vice president of sales

National average salary: $189,718 per year

Primary duties: The vice president of sales oversees all sales initiatives and manages all the sales teams and departments. Their purpose is to implement initiatives to maximise profits and continuously increase sales revenue. This professional identifies where the company can make budget improvements and then they develop sales strategies.


  • Sales vs. Business Development: What's the Difference?

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15. Chief information officer

National average salary: $192,082 per year

Primary duties: As companies become increasingly reliant on technology systems to run, the chief information officer fills an important role. As a CIO in a large business, you will often report to the CEO, and delegate information technology duties to a deputy, who will then pass them on to specific IT teams. As a CIO, you can expect to keep pace with the accelerating rate of change in digital technology, meaning that offering innovative technological solutions to your company is an essential element of your responsibilities.

Related: What Does an Executive Secretary Do? (Including Salary)

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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