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Chief Operating Officer, COO

Education and Training: Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree preferred
Average Salary: $68,255 – $274,835 per year
Job Outlook: Fair

A chief operating officer, also known as a chief operations officer or a COO, is one of the top executives in a company or organization. He works closely with the chief executive officer (CEO) and is responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations.

The chief operating officer is often considered the CEO’s right-hand man. In fact, the position of chief operating officer is analogous to the Vice President of the United States, as the COO’s duties can vary greatly depending on the priorities of the chief executive officer as well as those of the company.

Some examples of a chief operating officer’s duties include: managing other C-level executives’ performance (CFO, CMO, etc), spearheading a specific project as directed by the chief executive officer, seconding the chief executive officer in his projects, directing the implementation of the chief executive officer’s strategies among the company’s departments, ensuring the company is on track to meet its goals, managing key supplier relationships, and developing company policies as needed.

The chief operating officer reports to the chief executive officer.

Education and Training Requirements

A chief operating officer must hold at least a bachelor’s degree; however, employers prefer someone who has a master’s degree for this position. Relevant fields of study include business administration, management, finance, marketing, accounting, and human resources.

Getting the Job

Though the search to fill a chief operating officer position is often initiated by headhunters at the chief executive officer’s request or handled by human resources staff using job vacancy announcements to screen qualified candidates, it is the chief executive officer who makes the final hiring decision.

At the same time, successful applicants are expected to have previous management or supervisory experience, preferably as an executive-level manager; excellent communication skills; and knowledge of core business functions such as strategic planning, sales, and business development.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Chief operating officers have a fair employment outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not foresee job creation at this level between 2008 to 2018; however, a number of new chief operating officers will be needed due to turnover – chief operating officers leaving to work at other companies or retiring altogether. At the same time, a high level of competition to fill these positions is expected.

Working Conditions and Environment

Chief operating officers work seated in comfortable offices or sometimes attend meetings in conference rooms. They spend part of their time liaising with the chief executive officer and key staff members and part of their time alone at their computers. Chief operating officers tend to work long hours; however, as the chief operating officer’s duties vary so greatly, the position may or may not be stressful.

Salary and Benefits

Chief operating officers are paid very well. Their compensation ranges from $68,255 to $274,835 per year, which includes salary, an annual bonus, and profit sharing. In addition, healthcare and medical benefits are provided. At the same time, the most lucrative chief operating officer positions in the United States are with large private companies as well as companies that are located on the West Coast and Eastern Seaboard.

Where to Go for More Information

Harvard Business School
Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
(617) 495-6000

International Association of Business Communicators
601 Montgomery St., Ste. 1900
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 544-4700

Stanford Graduate School of Business
Knight Management Center
Stanford University
655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-7298
(650) 723-2146

The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania
420 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104.6340
(215) 898-6183

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesBusiness