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What the background of a typical CEO teaches us

businessWhether you’re an ambitious business student or a member of the workforce climbing your way up the corporate ladder, you’ve likely dreamt of one day becoming a CEO. While many CEO’s credit their success to hard work, drive, and sometimes even a touch of luck, you can’t help but wonder what the background of a typical CEO looks like and how this might affect your chances of becoming one.

A recent study on Fortune 500 CEOs answers pretty much everything that could ever spark your curiosity about the background of a CEO. Here are some of the most interesting findings.


As it turns out, if you’re the aforementioned business student dreaming of CEO-dom, there are likely many years of hard work in between you and your dreams. At 34, the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company is 12 years out of college, whereas the average CEO age is 57 and the oldest is 87. In other words, if you aspire to be a CEO, it might take a while.


If you’re from New York, California, Ohio, Michigan, or Illinois, there is good news — geographically speaking, your chances of becoming a CEO are much higher than everyone else’s, as these are the states that the most Fortune 500 CEOs are from. But don’t worry too much if you’re not from one of these 5 states. 372 of Fortune 500 CEOs are from the U.S., so if you’re American, your chances of being a Fortune 500 CEO are already drastically higher than they would be if you were born elsewhere.

Level of Education

Even if your chances of becoming a CEO aren’t great geographically speaking, your level of education could play to your advantage. Despite what you might think, a Bachelor’s degree was sufficient for many Fortune 500 CEOs — 179 to be exact. If you have a degree from Harvard, Stanford, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern, or the University of Michigan, you get bonus points. What’s more, if you’d like to slightly increase your chances, it might be worth looking into MBA programs. 194 of Fortune 500 CEOs went this route. Interestingly enough, though, 5 CEOs managed to work their way to the top without a college degree. So, even if you didn’t go to college, don’t count yourself out.

All in all, what does the background of a typical CEO teach us — that if you want to maximize your chances of being a Fortune 500 CEO, you should be a 57-year-old New York native with an MBA from Harvard? Perhaps. Nevertheless, there are exceptions to every rule. So, if you’re a degree-less 24-year-old from North Dakota, don’t give up on your dreams.

augusta free press
augusta free press