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How Do I Become a Chief Administrative Officer?

By Theresa Miles
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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To become a chief administrative officer (CAO), you need the right educational credentials, a broad-based background in business operations, and a number of years experience working with different business departments. The CAO is responsible for the daily operations of the company. An appropriate candidate for the position would have to demonstrate the ability to run the entire company rather than one specific department.

The CAO position is usually found in lieu of a chief operating officer (COO). A CAO reports directly to the chief executive officer (CEO) and functions in the CEO's stead if he is unavailable. Duties of a CAO will differ depending upon the size of the company. In smaller businesses, the position will likely require you to provide administrative support to the CEO and the board of directors while overseeing departments to make sure they are following policies and procedures. A CAO in a large corporation will operate more like a COO and have strategic and operational responsibility for the performance of the company.

There are no specific requirements to become a chief administrative officer. If you want a position with a major corporation, a bachelor's degree in a business major and an MBA will help your candidacy. Since the position is cross-departmental, nearly any business degree is considered a related field, including finance, human resources, operations, and management. The better your credentials demonstrate a broad understanding of the entire business framework, the easier it will be to obtain this type of position.

Most companies require anywhere from five to ten years experience in relevant positions before they will consider you for CAO. There is no specific work path to the CAO title, and increasing management responsibility across departments will likely be sufficient. Since the CAO substitutes for the CEO when he is not available, a good rule of thumb is to manage your career as if you want to ultimately hold the CEO position.

To become a chief administrative officer, you will also need to demonstrate strong leadership and organizational skills. Your ability to communicate effectively will be a key evaluative measure. Large companies will look for evidence of strategic thinking and the ability to control processes while maximizing production. Building up your resume with internal and external activities that provide evidence of proficiency in these areas is key.

Although you will achieve the highest salary range for a CAO position in a corporate environment, the title is perhaps more prevalent in organizations and governmental agencies. The credentials needed to become a chief administrative officer in either case are substantially similar. If you target your career to the more substantial requirements of a CAO in a major corporation, you should be able to apply that to the less stringent requirements of organizations or agencies.

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Discussion Comments

By donasmrs — On May 01, 2014

@fify-- I'm not an expert on this topic but I know that there are many executives and administrators who have started at a low position in a company and have moved up. But it's not possible to know if that will happen to you because each company is different. It is easier to move up in some companies than others. This also has to do with your skills, hard work and ambition.

If you can talk to people who are currently working for that company, you can get an idea about the working environment. You can also learn about the background of the current executives to see what type of experiences they have. There are no set rules on how to become a chief administrative officer. It's possible for people to get to that position with different types of careers.

Also keep in mind that as with most jobs, networking is important. Try to get to know people in this field and try to leave a good impression on them.

By fify — On Apr 30, 2014

@ysmina-- There is a company in which I would like to hold an executive position like the chief administrative officer one day. I have the education, but I obviously need the experience. Do you think it's a good idea to start working there at a random position? Will I be able to move up into an executive position eventually?

By ysmina — On Apr 30, 2014

Education is important but I think it's more important to have the right background and experience to be a chief administrative officer. This is not a position that one can attain overnight, it's a position that someone has to become qualified for, over many years.

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