Executive compensation is a significant investment, but one that is necessary for the success of a business. Each member of the C-suit—from the CEO, COO, and CFO to the CMO , CSO, CGO, and more—brings a unique set of skills, experience, and expertise to the business.
Without these top leaders, your business would not be where it is today, which is why adequate compensation for each role is essential. Many top executives are recruited by competitors every year because a better compensation package is offered.
With this in mind, it’s wise to regularly review executive compensation plans to ensure your company is staying competitive.
When reviewing C-level executive compensation plans, consider all of the various benefits you can offer. Compensation for each C-suite role typically includes at least four different categories:
Take a look at what else your company can offer executives to show them how much they’re valued. As you work to develop an adequate compensation plan for each C-suite role, start with the base salary. The salary range for C-level positions can vary widely depending on location, industry, skill set, years of experience, and more.
You need to offer a competitive salary for your area and industry if you want to attract top-level executives. Review the average annual salary of each C-suite position to get an idea of what your competition may be offering.
With the help of Salary.com, Cowen Partners breaks down the average annual salaries and compensation for top C-suite positions. The table below shares the average executive salaries, providing an easy way to compare CEO vs COO vs CFO salary amounts (and more).
|Executive Role||Average Salary|
|Chief Executive Officer (CEO)||$754,713|
|Chief Operating Officer (COO)||$457,468|
|Chief Financial Officer (CFO)||$363,559|
|Chief Legal Officer (CLO)||$333,980|
|Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO)||$266,171|
|Chief Revenue Officer (CRO)||$255,524|
|Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)||$250,000|
|Chief Technology Officer (CTO)||$234,700|
|Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)||$230,735|
|Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)||$217,144|
The following takes a closer look at each position, examining how role-specific duties and other factors can impact compensation levels. It also provides more insight and context regarding the differences between CEO vs COO vs CFO salary averages.
CEOs are responsible for the short- and long-term profitability and growth of their company. They organize leadership and staff to meet strategic goals, ensure appropriate governance and controls, define the corporate vision and strategy, and identify and deliver value to stakeholders. This job may require an advanced degree or its equivalent and typically requires 15+ years of related experience. Additionally, there may be specific qualification or experience required for certain industries, like SaaS CEOs.
COOs are responsible for the development of functional or business unit strategies for the entire organization. This role plans and directs all aspects of an organization’s operational policies, objectives, and initiatives. COOs also develop strategies to attain short- and long-term financial and operational goals.
Like the name suggests, CFOs are typically responsible for developing an organization’s overall financial policies – providing strategic direction of all financial functions including accounting, budget, credit, insurance, tax, and treasury. CFOs ensure that proper financial controls are in place and that financial transactions support the overall business strategy while complying with applicable laws and regulations. Given their pivotal role in the C-suite and across an organization, CFOs earn competitive salaries, with CFO compensation covering bonuses, benefits, and more.
An executive-level legal expert and corporate leader, the Chief Legal Officer or General Counsel helps the company minimize its legal risks by advising the company’s other officers and board members on any major legal and regulatory issues the company confronts, such as litigation risks. A CLO typically has an extensive career in law; positions a CLO might hold before becoming an executive include the head of legal, first general counsel, and firm partner.
A Chief Legal Officer or General Counsel requires a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school and may require admittance to a state bar. Typically reports to CEO. Responsible for the development of functional or business unit strategy for the entire organization. Defines corporate vision and strategy establishes company direction and focus. Executes multiple high-impact initiatives to achieve overall corporate goals.
An IT Leader, like a CITO, is the most senior executive in an organization responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support organizational goals. The CITO summons together technology and moves the company’s IT forward. The CITO is a key contributor in formulating strategic goals and implementing immediate business plans. A CITO gives technical guidance on high-priority projects and orients the company to trends in the IT industry.
A Chief Revenue Officer is a corporate officer responsible for all revenue generation processes in an organization including sales, marketing, demand generation, etc. In this role, a CRO is accountable for driving better integration and alignment between all revenue-related functions, including marketing, sales, customer support, pricing, and revenue management.
The Chief Human Resources Officer is responsible for employment, placement, orientation and training, employee/labor relations, compensation, benefits, and employee services. CHROs also:
Slightly different than the CITO, a CTO is primarily customer-facing. This top technie frequently heads product research and development initiatives as they relate to the company’s current and future product offerings. CTOs typically hold advanced degrees in Computer Science or Engineering and often reports to the CIO or the CEO. A CTO is responsible for the long-range trajectory or an organization’s technology function, directing the strategic design, acquisition, management, and implementation of an enterprise-wide technology infrastructure.
The CMO manages and directs marketing policies, objectives, and programs for all products and services. He/she directs and works with the marketing management team to form business plans and strategies and execute multiple high-impact initiatives to accomplish corporate objectives. They are responsible for the development of functional or business unit strategy for the entire organization.
The CISO is in charge of IT risk evaluations, audits, and security incident investigations. They oversee the development, implementation, and enforcement of information security standards and procedures at a business, ensuring that all information systems are functioning correctly regarding secure policy. This role typically requires 8+ years of managerial experience as well as comprehensive knowledge of the overall departmental function.
Our hands-on executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEO, Chief Operating Officer, CHRO, Chief Financial Officer, CMO, and include vice president human resources, general counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.
Cowen Partners delivers 3X more qualified candidates than the competition. Through our proven retained executive search process, we find, vet, and deliver the top 1% of candidates for positions across the C-suite. Our process works for all industries, including technology, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, real estate, financial service, private equity, and more.
Learn how we deliver top talent, no matter the need, with our industry-leading research and resources. Discover the strategy that made Cowen Partners the top retained executive search firm in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond.
Cowen Partners Executive Search provides recruitment services to all major and minor industries including:
Accounting, Advertising, Aerospace & Defense, Biotechnology, Banking, Credit Unions, Board and CEO Services, Computer Hardware, Construction, Consulting, Consumer Products, Computer Software and Hardware, Education, Energy & Utilities, Entertainment & Sports, Finance, Financial Services, Food Products, Government, Human Resources, Health Care, Hospitality & Tourism, Insurance, Industrial, Internet & New Media, Legal, Tax, Crypto, Bitcoin, Private Equity, Journalism & Publishing, Marketing, Manufacturing, Medical Device, Non-Profit, Pharmaceutical, Private Equity, Real Estate, Retail & Apparel, Sales, Technology, Telecommunications and Transportation.