Comparing C-Suite Positions

Posted: Apr 04  |  By: Parker + Lynch

CFO, CEO, COO, CIO, and CMO. They’re highly sought-after job titles, but what do they mean? With innovative C-suite positions expanding across organizations, it’s essential for employees to know what opportunities exist at the executive level. It’s equally important for entrepreneurs to be aware of the executive roles needed in their startups to ensure stability, attract capital and inspire employees.

Here’s a guide to understanding what everyone in the C-Suite does, with definitions adapted from with average salaries from

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The CEO is the top executive responsible for an organization’s overall operations and performance. CEO’s must maintain and implement corporate policies established by the board of directors and set a positive “tone at the top.”

Salary range: $583,963 – $932,572

Chief Operating Officer (COO)

The COO runs critical departments in an organization on a day-to-day basis. These can include departments such as production, marketing and sales, and distribution. He or she is also responsible for establishing procedures and processes to ensure smooth functions and providing timely operational information and assistance to the CEO.

This role typically requires a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline or MBA. Experience of 10+ years in a senior management position preferred. This requires a broad range of business skills including general financial knowledge and an array of soft skills. Those skills include consensus building, an understanding of personnel management, inspiring confidence and building trust.

Salary range: $331,547 – $538,508

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

The CFO is in charge of all financial and accounting functions in an organization, including credit, preparing budgets and financial statements, coordination financing, monitoring expenses, managing investments and taxation issues, providing timely financial data to the CEO, and reporting financial performance to the board.

This role typically requires a Master’s degree, a professional accounting designation such as CPA or CMA, and 10+ years’ experience in a senior financial management position.

Salary range: $290,516 – $461,014

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

The CIO is responsible for the development, implementation, and operation of an organization’s information technology (IT) policy. He or she oversees all IT infrastructure in the organization and is responsible for establishing standards to facilitate management control over all technology resources.

This role typically requires a Master’s degree and extensive experience in information technology.

Salary range: $224,268 – $329,118

Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO)

Also known as the Chief Learning Officer (CLO), the CKO makes available the knowledge appropriate to the organization’s requirements and strategically important in achieving its goals. He or she administers training and development programs, converts the company’s intellectual property into revenue-generating assets, and guides the organization toward becoming a learning organization.

This role usually requires a bachelor’s in HR or business administration and at least 10 years of related work experience.

Salary range: $159,800 – $234,300

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

The CMO is responsible for corporate branding, advertising, customer outreach and all other aspects of marketing.

Candidates for this role typically have a Master’s degree in marketing or an MBA, and they possess eight years’ experience working as a marketing manager or in a business development role.

Salary range: $190,470 – $293,570

Chief Procurement Officer (CPO)

The CPO’s responsibilities including sourcing, supply management and procurement for the company.

This role typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree, and many CPOs have an MBA. Areas such as supply chain management or business administration preferred.

Salary range: $171,200 – $231,500

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

A CTO’s primary responsibility is to manage and address technical issues that a company faces, including research and development. May also be called the Chief Technical Officer.

This role typically requires an advanced degree in Computer Science or Engineering, plus the business acumen and leadership experience to become a division head.

Salary range: $199,140 – $277,801

Filing these C-Suite positions can be challenging, but running without these highly specialized professionals can be costly. A consultant can serve as a stop gap between full-time hires; keeping a company’s operations flowing smoothly while allowing the necessary time to find the ideal replacement.