What Does a President Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
The role of president typically refers to the leader or head of a business, organization, agency, institution, union, university, or branch of government. The president is typically the top employee in the organization's chain of command. This job title can also be used to designate the leader of portions or divisions within an organization, such as an acquired company that becomes a subsidiary of a larger corporation.
Organizations use various job titles to designate the individual who serves in this capacity. Some organizations have Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). Some have Chairmen/CEOs while others have CEO/Presidents.
In some organizations, the president reports to a CEO who is the top leader. In others, the head of the organization takes on the title of president and CEO. The president/CEO might also own or have founded the business.
President Duties & Responsibilities
The president has specific responsibilities depending on the needs of his or her organization, but they can vary somewhat from company to company.
- Provide leadership: Presidents are expected to provide direction for all other employees. The president's role starts with the fundamental job responsibilities of a manager.
- Create, communicate and implement the organization's mission: Make sure that direction is communicated on a level that allows every employee to understand his role.
- Lead, guide, direct, and evaluate the work of other executive leaders: This can include senior vice presidents, vice presidents, and directors depending on the size of the organization.
- Meet with senior company officials: Make sure that decisions are well thought out and timely.
- Formulate and implement the strategic plan that guides the direction of the business: Use the input of employees at every level of the organization to develop the strategic plan.
- Evaluate the success of the organization: Determine the ongoing success—or lack of it—that the organization is experiencing.
- Represent the organization in civic and professional association responsibilities and activities: This might be in the local community or at the state or even national level. Presidents frequently participate as board members or senior advisors.
The president's responsibilities might be less than these in organizations with a separate CEO.
These salary figures range across various top-level executives in various industries, but presidents tend to be very well compensated.
- Median Annual Salary: $183,270 ($88.11/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $208,000 ($100.00/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $68,110 ($32.74/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Presidents typically receive very attractive compensation packages that might include performance bonuses, stock options, and expense allowances in addition to salary.
Education, Training & Certification
Expertise, experience, and education are required for this position.
- Education: At a minimum, a bachelor's degree in business administration or a related major is required, and a master's degree is generally preferred. Many colleges and schools require that their presidents have earned doctorates.
- Experience: This can be a work-your-way-up-the-ladder type of career. Many presidents begin with their companies on the ground floor. This isn't to say, however, that companies never hire from outside the organization. Even in this case, a documented history of experience is essential.
President Skills & Competencies
The buck stops with you, so you should have the skills and personality traits to handle that and handle it well.
- Communication: Whether they're oral or written, words are key to this profession. It's important to get your points across clearly and succinctly. You won't want to waste time repeating yourself—or worse, have someone take off in the wrong direction with an important project because you were unclear.
- Problem-solving: Yes, there will be problems. You should be able to effectively and unceremoniously put out fires before they become blazes.
- Leadership and people skills: Everyone else will look to you for the answers. This requires that you know when to act, how to act, and often when to intercede before there's even an apparent problem.
Competition for these jobs can be fierce. Those with advanced degrees will likely fare better in securing positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this field will at least grow on pace with the average for all occupations, by about 8% from 2016 through 2026.
In organizations where a CEO exists, the president is second in command.
This career is generally office-bound, but it can involve travel to other business locations or for conferences and meetings.
This is rarely, if ever, a 9-to-5 job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that roughly half of these executives work more than 40 hours a week on a consistent basis.
Comparing Similar Jobs
Top management positions can be found in virtually every industry. Some of the more common include:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017