Not everyone dreams of becoming a chief executive officer, or CEO. It’s a job with a high level of responsibility and pressure, and only a few employees at any company have the drive to work themselves up into executive-level positions. Those who do tend to have more in common than just their job titles. According to Job Application Center facts from a survey of Fortune 500 CEOs, it is possible to make some generalizations about the top CEOs in the US.
First of all, the majority of CEOs started their careers in the same field they are currently working in, but at a different company. Many of today’s CEOs started in a humble position and slowly climbed the corporate ladder, eventually reaping the rewards of their hard work. Others entered their current company as an executive, having gained experience elsewhere.
Most CEOs entered their career fields right after college graduation, between the ages of 22 and 24. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s famous CEO, got his start while he was just a sophomore in college. A few outliers started much earlier, in their teens. The current CEO of Kroger, the grocery chain, started working for the company as a clerk at the age of 17. A few CEOs also got a later start on their careers, at age 29 or 30.
The vast majority of CEOs earned a college degree, and many, though not all, of them attended top ranking schools. Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Brown each gave a degree to three of the top 100 CEOs surveyed.
The Fortune 500 CEOs in the survey are concentrated in just a few states in the US. California has the highest number of top CEOs, followed by New York and Texas. Fortune 500 companies are attracted to states with large populations and major metropolitan areas. It’s not a coincidence that the least populated states, like Wyoming, Vermont, and Alaska, have no Fortune 500 companies at all.
Top CEOs are almost all white males. Only eight women numbered among the top 100 CEOs in the survey, indicating that barriers to advancement are still firmly in place in most companies.