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How To Become A Chief Operating Officer

If you ask anyone in business what their dream job would be, they will almost immediately respond by saying that they would like to have a c-suite level role for a large and well-known corporation.

The response comes so quickly that one may think they don't entirely and completely understand the responsibility that comes from having a career in upper management. While this may be the case for some, others know exactly what they are getting themselves into and this is still their career goal.

You may be this person, and in your attempt to climb up the corporate ladder, perhaps your dream role would be that of a chief operating officer (COO) of a large organization. The COO of a business plays a big role, and they are basically in control of every facet of the business. Nothing happens without them and without their knowledge, and their eye has to be on every facet of a business.

To become a COO, you would need to have the correct qualification, which usually entails having a graduate degree in business management, having sufficient and appropriate work experience, gaining the appropriate skills, and lastly finding the perfect role.

Let us take a closer look at this role and how you could become the next COO of a large corporation.

What Is A COO?

As a senior executive role within an organization, the COO plays an important role in managing the operations of a business. Many c-suite level roles, while in higher management roles, would report to the chief executive officer, but they play an equally important role in overseeing their specific division.

As a COO, you need to have your finger on the pulse of a business at all times making sure that goals are set, targets are met, and the business remains a well-oiled machine to maintain financial and operational success.

What Does A COO Do?

Working in close collaboration with other members of senior management and with other executives, the COO will set operational tasks and goals in place for the organization. They will develop plans and strategies for the company to meet these goals, and they will work with divisional heads to meet these goals at a ground level.

They are responsible for assessing the performance of the company to see where operations are excelling and where more attention and more work are needed. It is then up to them to create feasible strategies to make sure that areas that need more attention receive that attention without taking away from sectors within the company that is already succeeding.

They also play a major hand in the human resources element of an organization. They work with interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training new recruits. After all, each employee has a role to play in meeting the ultimate aim and goal of an organization.

The COO plays an important role in keeping all divisions of a company well-integrated with each other and working cohesively.

While the inward-facing focus of a COO is of major importance, they are also responsible for communicating and reporting to clients and external stakeholders making sure that everyone who has an interest in the organization, financial or otherwise, knows exactly how the organization is doing.

What Do You Need To Be A COO?

Unfortunately, to be a COO, you need to meet a couple of minimum requirements, and you cannot walk into the role straight out of your degree program. Instead, you need years of extensive business-related experience, management experience, and very specific skills for you to even be considered for the role.

Also, a company would rarely recruit a COO externally for their company, so to qualify for this role, you would most likely need to work your way up the corporate ladder, although there are cases where COOs are hired externally.

At the very least, for any senior executive role, you would need between 10 to 15 years of direct, business-related experience. You would also need to have industry-related experience, meaning that you may not become the COO of a paper company if you previously worked in the steel industry.

You would need to have superior leadership skills and communication skills, you would need to be able to effectively manage a budget and the company's finances, and you would need to have effective decision-making skills.

How To Become A COO

Step One: Earn A Graduate Degree In Management

Let's be honest, you already know that a bachelor's degree is not going to cut it for this role. Instead, you're going to need a graduate degree in business management or a master's degree in business administration to qualify for the role of a COO. With that said, it is impossible to gain a graduate degree or a post-graduate diploma without having a bachelor's degree, so having a bachelor's degree could be considered the starting point for pursuing your role as a COO.

Step Two: Gain Experience

Becoming a COO is not a job you look for, but it is a goal to which you aspire. No matter what job you have, having the goal of becoming a COO in mind will motivate you to work hard and gain the 15 years of experience that is required to qualify for the role of a COO.

Gaining experience could look like starting with an internship, gaining an entry-level role, and then working toward management and the role of a COO. Or it could look like gaining your qualifications, entering in a mid-management role, and staying with a company for many years before applying for the role of a COO at a different organization. Whichever best fits your career goals should be the path you follow.

Step Three: Gain The Skills

Having the skills to be a COO takes a lot of hard work. It means gaining knowledge and having the ability to apply that knowledge successfully to different applications. Together with gaining experience, you will also acquire some of the necessary skills needed to be an effective COO.

Step Four: Find The Perfect Role

As previously mentioned, this can be done by working in a single organization until you climb the corporate ladder to become the COO, or you could apply for external positions within other organizations. Since you will represent the company you work for, it is always good to seek employment at an organization that fits your personality and that stands for everything you believe in.

What Is The Salary Of A COO?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chief executives earn a median annual salary of $179,520.


What Is The Job Outlook For COOs?

The BLS states that the overall employment for top executives expects to see a projected 6% growth over the next ten years with about 318,100 jobs becoming available on average each year.

Why Should I Become A COO?

If the salary prospects and the job outlook isn't enough to convince you, being a COO can be a very exciting albeit very stressful job. You will be consistently challenged, but you may also find extreme fulfillment and job satisfaction in this role.

Is The Role Of A COO Higher Than A CFO And A CEO?

A COO and a CFO are usually on the same level of employment as each other, however, both these roles report to the CEO which is the highest role within an organization.


If upper management is your goal, you should work hard to achieve this goal. While it is great to have the goal of being a COO, working consistently hard will make your chances of success a lot greater. Remember, it is better to lead by example than by instruction, and since a COO is one of the highest leadership roles in a company, being the best leader you can be will be your greatest chance at success.

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