What Does a President Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Theresa Chiechi. © The Balance 2019

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 presidents who also hold the title of chief executive officer (CEO). In some organizations, the president reports to a CEO who is the top leader. The president/CEO might also own or have founded the business.

President Duties & Responsibilities

The president has specific responsibilities depending on the needs of the organization. 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 all employees to understand their individual roles.
  • 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 organizational level 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 advisers.

The president's responsibilities might not include all of these functions in organizations with a separate CEO.

President Salary

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)

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: Becoming a president can result from you working your way up the corporate ladder. 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 throughout an organization or operation is essential.

President Skills & Competencies

The buck stops with the president, so anyone with that job title needs to possess the skills and personality traits to handle that responsibility 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 and how to act, and often when to intercede before there's even an apparent problem.

Job Outlook

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 opportunities in this position will at least grow on pace with the average for all occupations, by about 8 percent from 2016 through 2026.

Work Environment

This career is generally office-bound, but it can involve travel to other business locations or for conferences and meetings. In organizations where a CEO exists, the president is second in command—and that makes a world of difference.

Work Schedule

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: