Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
The definition of an executive differs somewhat from company to company and from culture to culture. Generally, however, executive level jobs include owners and presidents of companies as well as all "C-level" positions, which are those titles often beginning with the word "chief." In addition, vice presidents are considered executives as are other titles that include the words "vice president." In some smaller companies, which may have few individuals in these types of roles, director-level positions and others might also be included in the executive team.
A company owner is nearly always considered an executive-level position. This person may be intimately involved in the daily operations of the company. She might, alternatively, be a "silent executive," someone who is involved in high-level decisions, but is not critical to the regular functions of the business.
Owners are frequently referred to as CEOs, which stands for "chief executive officer." This is the highest ranking C-level position and, generally, the highest ranking of the executive level jobs. In a private company, this position is most often, but not always, filled by the owner. In a public company, this position is generally appointed by a board of directors.
The president of the company is generally the CEO's second in command. This can be confusing for those unused to the business world because, in many governments, the president is the highest-ranking official. Even in business, it is not uncommon for no actual CEO title to exist, or for one individual to hold both executive level jobs simultaneously. In this case, the individual is usually referred to as the "president and CEO."
A given corporation may also have any number of additional C-level positions. The most common are chief operations officer (COO), chief financial officer (CFO) and chief information officer (CIO). Other C-level executive jobs include chief technology officer (CTO), chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief risk officer (CRO). In specific industries, other C-level titles might be common.
In some corporations, the executive team includes only C-level executives and the president. In many mid-sized companies, however, the vice president positions are also considered to be executive level jobs. This includes both the actual vice president job title as well as other titles, including junior vice president, associate vice president, assistant vice president and executive vice president.
Small companies may only have a president and vice president at the top. In this case, director-level positions may be considered part of the executive team. This could extend to associate directors and executive directors, but rarely includes assistant directors. In general business culture, however, a director is not traditionally considered an executive level position.
In a lot of larger corporations, vice presidents are technically in executive positions, but are also the managers in charge of the day-to-day operations of a specific department or division within the company.
In these companies, vice presidents have more of a hands-on role than other higher ranking executives and report to the chief operations officer, in most cases.
International companies use vice presidents to head operations or branches in cities throughout the world.
A vice president position is usually a stepping stone for a more important executive position within the company, like chief operations officer or executive vice president.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!