Why choose us?
Our site is a goldmine of information and support. So, whether you're an employer or a candidate, why not pop over to our advice section to help you get the most from the recruitment process.
In this section
World’s Top CEOs - How To Get There?
Becoming CEO of one of the biggest businesses in the world can net you millions of pounds a year, no wonder why everyone wants to make it to the top. According to Glassdoor data, the average CEOs annual income is around £9.5 million a year1.
We’ve looked into the Chief Executive Officers of the biggest 100 companies in the world by revenue2 to discover what really makes a top CEO and how they’ve made it to where they are.
Key Findings of Our Study
We've summarised the main conclusions of our study into the top 100 CEOs in the world below:
- To become CEO of one of the biggest businesses in the world you may need to be internally promoted - the average 'top CEO' has worked at their respective company for 25 years. Out of the CEOs we reviewed, only 25% had worked at their business for less than 15 years and the majority of CEOs in our study have worked at their company between 20 and 40 years.
- The majority of 'top CEOs' are at the end of their career - the average CEO in our study is 59 years old, with 42/100 of the CEOs reviewed being between 56 and 60 years old. Only 4 of the 'top 100 CEOs in the world' are below the age of 50.
- CEOs tend to have a career background in finance or operations roles - grouping the career backgrounds of the CEOs reviewed into concise categories, 54% had a background in operations or finance.
- You need to be a graduate to become CEO of a multi-national business and an MBA definitely helps - 98% of the top 100 CEOs are graduates with 36% of these CEOs studying a business related degree and 23% completing an engineering course. 25% of the 98 CEOs with degrees have also completed a Masters in Business Administration (MBA).
- The 'gender divide' is obviously prevalent for those working in CEO roles - 96 out of the 100 CEOs we reviewed are male, only 4 of the world's biggest businesses by revenue have female CEOs.
The full results of our study are discussed in the article below, with our data sources also available at the bottom of the page.
How Long Has Each CEO Worked at Their Respective Company?
The average 'top CEO' has worked at their company for 25 years - suggesting that if you want to be the leader of one of the biggest businesses in the world, there is inevitably some element of 'working your way up'.
We've broken down the length of time that the CEOs we reviewed have worked at their chosen company into groupings below:
|Duration of Employment at Company||Count of CEOs
(out of 88)
|1 to 5 years||9|
|6 to 10 years||5|
|11 to 15 years||8|
|16 to 20 years||10|
|21 to 25 years||13|
|26 to 30 years||11|
|31 to 35 years||11|
|36 to 40 years||11|
|41 to 45 years||6|
|46 + years||4|
Out of the time groupings, the most common length of employment for a CEO at their respective company was 21 to 25 years, which arguably makes sense as company's which turn over billions of pounds a year will look for a leader that knows their business in-side out.
This is backed up by the fact that two of the least common age groupings were working at the company for 1-5 years and 6-10 years - implying that to make it to the top of one of these businesses, you probably need to have worked in that company for at least 15 years.
How Old is The Average Top CEO?
The top 5 CEO age groupings can be seen below:
Average CEO age: 59
Out of the 96 CEOs whose age was publicly available, by far the most prominent age range was between 56 and 60 – accounting for 42% of the CEOs reviewed.
Generally, the most powerful CEOs are over the age of 50, with only 4 people in our study being below this age. The youngest ‘Top CEO in the World’ is John Elkann, 41, CEO of EXOR, an Italian investment company.
The oldest CEO in the top 100 is Warren Buffett, 87, of Berkshire Hathaway.
The full age breakdown can be seen below:
|Age Range||Count of CEOs|
Education of the Most Influential CEOs
Of the top 100 CEOs in the World, 98 have a degree, proving that there’s an undisputable link between your education and how far you can progress. From our study the majority of CEOs are educated beyond undergraduate level, with many of the top performers earning masters or doctorate degrees.
Looking at each CEOs highest level of study, we’ve also broken down our results into the most popular degree subjects:
CEO’s Degree Subjects
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the CEOs we reviewed studied business, with 33 of the 90 CEOs with accessible degree information completing a business-related course. A further 25 of these CEOs studied an MBA (Master of Business Administration), by far the most popular route of study.
The full results of education by degree subject can be seen below:
|Degree Type||Count of CEOs|
|Accounting & Finance||9|
CEO Gender Breakdown
In 2018, only 4 out of the 100 top companies in the world have CEOs who are female. These 4 CEOs are Ginni Rometty of IBM, Isabelle Kocher of ENGIE, Gail Koziara Boudreaux of Anthem and Mary T. Barra of General Motors.
Professional Background of the Top CEOs
We have reviewed the career history of 74 of the top 100 CEOs with easily accessible career information. From this data we have grouped CEOs into different professional backgrounds, our definitions of these groupings can be seen at the end of the article:
The majority of CEOs have spent their career prior to becoming a Chief Executive in either Operations or Finance roles.
The full results of this part of our study can be seen below:
|Professional Background||Count of CEOs|
|R & D||10|
Looking into the results of our study, the most obvious CEO correlations come from age and gender. 76% of the World’s top 100 CEOs are male and between the age of 50 and 65.
Our results also suggest that it is near impossible to become an influential CEO without a degree and that you are far more likely to make it to the top if you have an MBA.
Finally, working throughout your career in a finance or operations role is likely to give you a greater chance of becoming a CEO. Arguably this makes sense as those in the highest positions of a multinational business need to know the nuts and bolts of how that company actually works, from cashflows and supply chains to how business activity is actually conducted.
2) The ‘biggest 100 companies in the World’ is based from the 100 companies with the largest revenue in 2017: https://www.forbes.com/global2000/list/3/#header:revenue_sortreverse:true
Professional Background Grouping
Operations - Involved in project management, internal process design or supply chain management.
Finance - Involved in managing, reviewing or auditing a company's finances and assets.
R&D - Involved in designing or innovating a company's products or services
Data Analysis - Working in an analytical role for the majority of their career.
Sales - Primarily working in roles selling businesses products or services.
Engineering - 'Hands-on' roles improving and maintaining technical systems in the public or private sector.
Marketing - Roles in business branding or promoting a company's products or services.
About The Research
Research on the CEOs came from a range of sources, mixing Wikipedia data with reports from publications and outlets to collate the first career moves and education of the world’s most powerful CEOs.
We welcome use of our data in other studies or articles. Please reference Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment and www.aaronwallis.co.uk as the author of the study.
Revised and Re-published: 3rd March 2018
With hundreds of jobs available, now is the time to look for your perfect position
Recruit sales staff
Just fill in your details below to get started
by Rob Scott
About the author
From our blogRead more
Our employers say...
Thank you for your dedicated help during the recruitment process - we came to you after unsuccessfully searching elsewhere, and hired, not one, but two! Quick response times, and a really personal approach, without being pushy.
Managing Director, Accora Ltd
I found Aaron Wallis to be very professional and efficient, taking time to understand the role and the type of candidate we were looking for. The candidates they put forward met our criteria and were of a high standard. The service they provided was exemplary and I would have no hesitation in recommending them, and will certainly consider using them again in the future.
HR Assistant, Fischer Connectors Ltd
Since joining DSGi, Rob has been a supplier of permanent staff and has performed to an extremely high standard, successfully filling 98% of roles he has worked on. If anyone is looking for a good sales and marketing based consultancy with an informal yet professional approach, I would recommend Rob.
Senior Recruitment Consultant, DSG International
Giles is highly professional and was a pleasure to work with. He achieves excellent results through his personable skills and tenacity. I have no hesitation in recommending Giles to anyone who considers employing his services.
Commercial Director, G4S Government & Outsourcing Solutions
I just wanted to thank you for your help with our recruitment process which went very smoothly and has – we hope – found us just the person for the job!
Managing Director, Citrefine International Ltd
We appointed Aaron Wallis in February and the successful candidate, out of the six which Aaron Wallis introduced, was able to join Alphametrics before the end of April. The whole process took less than three months. I would recommend Aaron Wallis' services to others without hesitation.
Chief Financial Officer, Alphametrics
Rob’s knowledge of the recruitment industry and his thoughts and how to make it better for his clients have always been eye opening. I would recommend Rob to anybody who is looking for a professional, knowledgeable and flexible recruitment specialist.
CEO, Friday Ad Online Services
Thanks for all your help during the recruitment process. I have been extremely impressed with Aaron Wallis especially when compared to other agencies we have dealt with. I really felt you grasped the type of person we required and found strong candidates.
UK Sales Manager, Nexcom
We were impressed not only by the quality of candidates you found for us but also the level of information, preparation and qualification you put into the process. You continually kept us informed of each person’s feelings about the process, which is very important but often overlooked. I am looking forward to working with your company again in the future.
Commercial Director, Incentive Facilities Management
I really liked the YouTube presentations which made the service seem both simple and accessible. The company came to see me, and my management team, at short notice to present their service and I liked the support and advice that I received about maximising the results from the applicant.
Managing Director, Leisuresec plc
Understood the type of person we were looking for and good follow ups - not too frequent.
Managing Director, bigHead Bonding Fasteners Ltd
I could not suggest anything I would like you to do better. The service you provided materially exceeded my expectations. I would especially like to commend Simon Bonner; he is easily the best recruitment consultant I have ever dealt with. I particularly valued his advice and guidance throughout the recruitment process.
UK Sales Manager, BTS Holdings Limited
Rob is a true recruitment professional that goes the extra mile that I have never experienced from any other recruitment agency before. If you need sales people call Rob or someone in his team, as they really are experts in sales recruitment.
Sales Director, Inside Business
Generally good standard of candidates. Especially liked the personality profile. Overall good value for money and will certainly use you again.
Managing Director, Medicash
I have used Aaron Wallis to fill a number of our Sales Development Manager roles and I have found them to provide a very professional service. I will use their services again in future recruitment campaigns.
HR Business Partner, Greene King
Really good service. Just the right amount of contact and easy to deal with.
HR Manager, Zircon Software Ltd
Giles Phillips is a rare find in the minefield of sales recruitment; an honest and thoughtful recruiter who considers the needs of both the client AND the candidate to create perfect role matches. I look forward to working with him again in the future.
Marketing Director, City of London Police
As always we were extremely impressed with Rob's understanding of the role and our specific needs.
Managing Director, Speck & Burke
Aaron Wallis has continuously provided us with suitable candidates that have been proactively sourced. Having used countless recruitment companies, Aaron Wallis are the only company that I can count on to deliver.
Managing Director, JARK Healthcare Recruitment
I have always found Rob to be very knowledgeable about our industry sector, and it is refreshing to see after all of these years that Rob continues to quickly and accurately understand my requirements.
HR and General Manager, THK
In an industry where people over promise and under deliver, Rob and his teams have consistently provided a high-quality service. It is great to deal with someone that has an excellent understanding of UK industry, and a passion for sales.
Sales Manager, TR Fasteners
Our candidates say...
Rob was really helpful when I was putting together a presentation for the second stage interview. Overall their communication was great and kept me updated of any progress
J. McGrattan, Candidate
I've had a really good experience working with Giles Phillips at Aaron Wallis. From initial contact to the finer details of securing the job, he has been very professional and a pleasure to work with.
M. Shutt, Candidate
Aaron Wallis helped me secure a position I really wanted. Giles sought to keep me updated with all the details preceding interviews and after with feedback. I would highly recommend Giles and Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment.
L. Taylor, Candidate
Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with.
J. Marcinkiewicz, Candidate
Excellent experience from first contact to ultimately securing a suitable placement. Giles looked after me in a very professional and friendly manner. He used his expertise and experience to ensure I was put forward for the most suitable positions for my skill set and found me a new role very quickly. I can't recommend Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment highly enough.
M. Green, Candidate
I can honestly say that the time and expertise you gave me was way beyond any other recruitment consultant I dealt with. You are a rarity in your industry.
S. Akers, Candidate
Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment are a very friendly and professional recruitment organisation who listen to your needs, work with you and act on your behalf which sets them apart from many of their competitors who in my experience are willing to throw anything at you. We discussed my history, my preferences and my wishes - one opportunity was introduced. It was perfect. I start at the end of June.
R. Buckley, Candidate
Perfect from start to finish. Simon deserves a shout out. Best recruiter there is. If you need a job, this guy will get you one. He's like the super man of recruiters. Top man, can't recommend him enough.
M. Crisp, Candidate
The Recruitment agent I used, Simon, was extremely helpful and really went the extra mile to ensure all of my questions were answered, and that I felt as comfortable and prepared as possible. Very professional company and would definitely recommend to others. Thank you Aaron Wallis!
A. Callaby, Candidate
I had a very good experience with Aaron Wallis. The company itself is offering great content for all things related to the hiring process. I definitely recommend.
J. Ostermeier, Candidate
Really excellent experience dealing with Aaron Wallis. Liam Oakes who helped me get a great job was brilliant. Kept me up to date during the process and offered great help and advice, and a thoroughly nice guy. Highly recommended!
J. Hathaway, Candidate
I had a great experience. Helped me every step of the way to get my new job. Sophie was very polite, kind and helpful!
J. Parnham, Candidate
The service provided by Aaron Wallis has been just great. I was constantly informed about what was going on with the process interview and the agent has always been supportive and kind to me.
L. Colagrossi, Candidate
Aaron Wallis is an outstanding recruitment agency specialising in high calibre sales positions. I was working directly with Darren Dewrance who went above and beyond my expectations in sourcing me my perfect role. I was kept in regular communication with Darren and he worked extremely hard to secure my dream job. Highly recommended and Thanks Darren for all your expertise and hard work.
R. Sealy, Candidate
George Humphries was a complete professional at every point, from our first phone conversation to his “good luck tomorrow” text on Sunday before I started in my new role.
E. Fry, Candidate
Darren at Aaron Wallis was really encouraging and helpful. He was very responsive and regularly made phone calls to explain the job opportunities available, and guided me through the application process.
A. Brown, Candidate
When talking with Simon you felt relaxed cared to help you find a position that suited your needs
D. Pinder, Candidate
Less than two weeks after joining Aaron Wallis I was offered my new job. I got a £10,000 rise in my basic salary, car allowance, a laptop and many other perks, which will help to further my career. I definitely would not have found my dream job without the help of Aaron Wallis.
C. Hoy, Candidate
Very good advice and support was given during the course of the interviewing process. Potential job seekers would be well advised to use this company whilst looking for their new career.
R. Speakman, Candidate
I have to say coming across and having dealings with Aaron Wallis proved to be very successful. Being highly experienced did not seem to count for much during my job search bit a conversation with Robert Scott gave me a real confidence boost and enabled to get a position at the age of 63. Great service!!!
D. Burgess, Candidate
Good swift process with Aaron Wallis, informative regarding the role and the process was moved at a good pace with healthy interaction. Would recommend them to anyone pursuing a change.
S. Bartlett, Candidate
I had the absolute pleasure of working with George Humphries on finding a placement best suitable for me.
A. Van Der Mescht, Candidate
Fantastic service, helped me find my ideal job quickly and smoothly. Would highly recommend them.
C. Caine, Candidate
Fantastic customer service, communication was brilliant, happy polite people to talk to, made everything a lot easier and smoother. Thank you for all your help getting me back in the work force, Keep up the good work :-)
K. Everitt, Candidate
Aaron Wallis (and in particular Rob Scott) have been fantastic throughout the recruitment process, and even a few months down the line, still continues to care. Rob clearly cares about each individual and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which shows in the work he does. Each candidate is not just a number, and the support received from Aaron Wallis has helped me get a career which I truly enjoy.
M. White, Candidate
A great recruitment company to work with. Excellent experience with Aaron Wallis through the entire recruitment process. The team was really professional and extremely helpful. Darren was a pleasure to work with. He was friendly, supportive and gave me great advice. Thank you very much!
A. Bauchet, Candidate
For anyone looking for work, I can't recommend Aaron Wallis highly enough.
C. Rockliffe, Candidate
Sophie has been fantastic and always so attentive, highly recommend.
T. Ashbourne, Candidate
Friendly, proactive, communicative. Overall a really positive experience.
R. Houston, Candidate
Simon was knowledgeable on his clients history, background and what their requirements were and he worked around time zones, holidays and a pandemic to get the right result.
J. Tooze, Candidate
I would highly recommend Aaron Wallis Recruitment, Darren was extremely helpful and provided me with plenty of advice and support throughout the whole process.
D. Bretherton, Candidate
The detail put into the preparation for interviews and the detail of the job description was first class. Rob and Simon in particular are amongst the best I've ever dealt with.
K. Peacock, Candidate
Excellent service, very professional and friendly, would and have, recommended Aaron Wallis.
E. Heley, Candidate
Aaron Wallis have provided me with an excellent service, Giles went out of his way to help me preparing for my interview and supported me through all the processes. If you need an agency to give you a fully professional and consultative approach to finding you a new career move, the Aaron Wallis can certainly provide this for you.
D. Richards, Candidate
The most professional recruitment agency I've ever worked with. Robert Scott was extremely proactive and send me a detailed briefing before each interview, ensuring I was well prepared.
D. Bermant, Candidate
Tom was a great help in finding me employment
N. Lignier, Candidate
The staff at Aaron Wallis were fantastic. Throughout the process, they maintained excellent communication and I always knew where I stood.
M. Owusu, Candidate