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How to become a CEO in Australia

Have you set your sights on becoming the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)? This is the highest-ranking executive role you can hold within a company, and it’s best suited to people who are good with people, and excel at making strategic decisions.

In this article, we’ll look at how to become a CEO by explaining the qualifications that can lead you closer to this goal, and the kinds of skills that this position requires. If you’re hardworking, ambitious and business-minded, your dream of becoming a CEO could one day become a reality.


What are the roles and responsibilities of a CEO?

The general responsibility of the CEO is to make corporate-level decisions for the operations and direction of a business. The CEO is the primary contact between the board of directors and the operations and teams within the company, so strong communication skills are key.

So, what are the roles of the CEO? As the face of the company, a CEO is responsible for:

  • Communicating with shareholders, the public, government entities, and the media about the financial health of a company.
  • Providing the board of directors with reports about the company’s overall performance.
  • Assisting with the development of a company’s operational strategies.
  • Implementing and furthering the company’s mission.
  • Maintaining an awareness of market trends and industry developments.
  • Identifying areas where leadership within the company could be improved.
  • Conducting risk assessments to ensure that risks are minimised.
  • Developing budgets and strategic plans.


How do you become a CEO?

If you’re wondering how to become a CEO in Australia, for most, the journey usually starts with a degree – ideally one suited to the skills of a CEO such as a Bachelor of Business. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, such as Steve Jobs (the former CEO of Apple Inc.) who managed to achieve incredible professional success without completing his college degree. However, he built the company up around him, so, if you want to give yourself every advantage in today’s highly competitive corporate landscape, it’s a good idea to start with tertiary study.

Let’s take a look at what kinds of qualifications could help you in your journey to becoming a CEO, as well as the skills gained from professional business experience.


1. Study a bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is more than just a piece of paper – it teaches you how to manage your time, juggle various responsibilities, and work as part of a team. Studying business gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people, including your lecturers and teachers. Swinburne Online’s degree programs are taught by industry experts with years of experience, so you can benefit from their wisdom.

What qualifications do most CEOs have?

Usually, a CEO will have a bachelor’s degree as a minimum. Good areas of study, if you want to succeed in business, include:


2. Build your work experience

If you want to know how to become CEO, the short answer is: work hard, and take every opportunity to learn! The CEO of a company is ultimately responsible for steering it in the right direction, and ensuring consistent growth over time, so it’s essential that they’ve spent a good number of years honing their decision-making skills while on the job.

Another advantage of studying a degree program is that you can make use of career development services to find work in a relevant field. The Swinburne Skills and Job Centre provides support for Swinburne students in their career journeys, which is great as you are starting your journey.

What qualifies you as a CEO, in terms of professional experience?

The most important CEO qualifications and skills you’ll need to achieve your career goals include:

  • Years of experience in a management role
  • Exceptional communication skills
  • The ability to convey and implement your vision for the business
  • Excellent decision-making and problem-solving skills
  • An aptitude for assessing and managing risk


3. Consider studying a master’s degree

If you’ve already completed an undergraduate program and you want to supercharge your employment prospects, you might like to consider studying a Master of Business Administration (MBA). The MBA is designed to scale up your skill set by guiding you through the steps to exponential growth: management, marketing, innovation and strategy. You’ll graduate with the confidence to make crucial business decisions and lead your company to success.

Swinburne Online allows students to complete an MBA while working, so they don’t have to sacrifice their career (or their income!) to gain this valuable qualification. An MBA can be found on just about any article about how to become the CEO, and for good reason: it is specifically designed to help you rise through the ranks of the corporate world, and uncover your full potential.


4. Develop your leadership skills

The next lesson in how to be a CEO is to develop your leadership skills, so you’re fully equipped to oversee an organisation and fully utilise the skills and talents of the people who work there. Here are some ways you can build upon your skills as a leader:

  • Seek mentorship: If you admire the leadership skills of a person within your current workplace, you could ask to meet with them periodically so you can learn from their experience and expertise.
  • Attend leadership workshops: Leadership development programs are often available as part of a business degree, or sometimes also through your workplace. If there’s ever an opportunity for you to learn – you should grab it with both hands.
  • Learn from your mistakes: If you didn’t do as well in a unit of your degree as you’d hoped, or you failed to meet a target within your workplace, ask for feedback from your tutors/supervisors to find out where you went wrong, and how you can improve next time.
  • Learn from the leaders: It can help to read biographies and case studies of successful business leaders, so you can gain insights from their experiences.
  • Never be afraid of a challenge: If ever there’s a chance – either at uni or work – to put your hand up for a special challenge, embrace it. Don’t let a fear of failure hold you back; it’s through discomfort that we learn and grow.
  • Keep learning: After you’ve finished your formal studies, keep your knowledge up-to-date by attending webinars and conferences, and reading about current trends within your industry.


5. Expand your network

Networking is very important if you want to learn how to become a CEO. Getting to know other business professionals in your industry is essential, not just because it’s a matter of ‘who you know’, but because these people can inspire you and keep you informed about recent developments.

Here are some ways you can grow your network:

  • Join The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)
  • Reach out to other executives in your company
  • Optimise your LinkedIn profile so other professionals can easily find you
  • Attend professional development webinars and conferences


What skills do you need to become a CEO?

The more experience you have, the better equipped you’ll be to handle the demands of being a CEO. In your journey towards your ultimate career goals; embrace the challenges that come your way – put your hand up, get out of your comfort zone, and seek out new experiences wherever you can.

If you’re currently experiencing setbacks in your career, treat this as a valuable challenge and an opportunity to grow. It’s through adversity that we learn the most, and if you can successfully navigate rough seas, you’ll come out of the experience as a stronger leader.

What skills do you need to become a CEO?

  • Problem-solving: CEOs are often called upon to identify what’s causing a problem, and provide instructions on how to fix it.
  • Teamwork: You must be an excellent team player to succeed as a CEO. The better your company works together as a team, the better it will function – it’s up to you to set a good example for everyone to follow.
  • Communication: It could be helpful to take a course in understanding different communication styles, to improve how the company communicates as a whole.
  • Decisiveness: As a CEO, you’ll need to be able to make good – and timely – decisions. This skill comes with experience, and is often honed in times of difficulty or even crisis.


What is the salary of a CEO?

Because of the hard work and experience that goes into being a CEO, these positions are remunerated well. What is a CEO salary, on average? According to data from Seek, the average annual salary for CEO positions in Australia is around $205,000 to $225,000.
However, it should be noted that CEO salaries can vary greatly depending on the industry. If you’re interested in the average salary for a CEO in your field, it is helpful to check out job listings and review the industry and education experience they are accepting from applicants.


Need more info? Explore our Bachelor of Business or Master of Business Administration degrees or contact our friendly Course Consultants for further guidance.


To qualify as a CEO, you need a combination of education, experience, and essential skills. A strong educational foundation, such as a relevant bachelor’s degree, is common. Moreover, accumulating years of experience in management roles, honing exceptional communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, along with the ability to convey and implement a vision for the business, are key qualifications that make you suitable for the role of a CEO.
Most CEOs have at least a bachelor’s degree, typically in fields like finance, financial planning, accounting, management, logistics and supply chain management, business administration, or marketing. While some exceptional individuals may have succeeded without formal degrees, having a solid educational background paired with relevant experience greatly enhances your chances of becoming a successful CEO.
Becoming a CEO requires a diverse skill set. Key skills include exceptional problem-solving ability to identify and address issues, effective teamwork to foster collaboration within the company, strong communication skills to interact with stakeholders, decisive decision-making especially in challenging situations, and the capacity to develop and implement strategic plans. Leadership skills, adaptability, and a willingness to embrace challenges are also crucial attributes.
Becoming a CEO involves a strategic progression. Start with a bachelor’s degree in relevant fields like finance or management. Gain experience in management roles, hone leadership skills, and consider pursuing an MBA for advanced knowledge. Attend workshops, build networks, and continuously develop. As you advance, showcase your leadership in diverse roles, express interest in executive positions, and convey a clear strategic vision. Apply for CEO roles, navigate the selection process, and demonstrate your leadership acumen.
The process of becoming a CEO in Australia is like the process in other countries. To enhance your prospects, consider accumulating work experience within Australian companies, fostering connections with local CEOs and industry leaders, engaging with industry associations and organisations in the Australian context, staying current with evolving Australian business trends, and deepening your understanding of Australian business laws and regulations. These steps will empower your journey toward CEO success within the distinctive framework of the Australian business landscape.