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Chief Administrative Officer vs. CEO: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

The roles of a chief administrative officer (CAO) and a chief executive officer (CEO) are both important in an organization. The CAO is responsible for the administrative functions of the company, while the CEO is responsible for the overall direction and strategy. In this article, we compare and contrast the two roles, and provide information on the skills and experience needed for each position.

What is a Chief Administrative Officer?

A Chief Administrative Officer, or CAO, is a top executive who is responsible for the overall management and operation of a company or organization. The CAO typically reports to the Chief Executive Officer, or CEO, and works closely with other members of the executive team to ensure that the company is running smoothly and efficiently. The CAO is responsible for developing and implementing strategies to improve operational efficiency and productivity, as well as overseeing the daily operations of the company. In addition, the CAO is often responsible for developing and managing the company’s budget.

What is a CEO?

A CEO, or Chief Executive Officer, is the highest-ranking executive in a company. They’re responsible for making major corporate decisions, implementing company strategy and managing day-to-day operations. CEOs typically report to a company’s board of directors. They may also be responsible for hiring and firing upper-level managers, such as a company’s Chief Financial Officer or Chief Operating Officer. CEOs must have strong leadership skills and be able to make difficult decisions under pressure. They must also be able to articulate their vision for the company and inspire others to achieve it.

Chief Administrative Officer vs. CEO

Here are the main differences between a chief administrative officer and a CEO.

Job Duties

CEOs and CAOs share some of their job duties, but there are also major differences between the two roles. The primary responsibility of a CEO is to set the overall vision for the company and devise strategies to help it achieve its goals. They’re in charge of formulating the strategic direction of the organization and making sure that all departments work toward the same goal. In comparison, chief administrative officers oversee the daily operations of a company. Their job is to ensure that each department operates efficiently and that employees are performing at their best.

Job Requirements

Chief administrative officers (CAOs) and chief executive officers (CEOs) are both high-level executives who oversee the operations of a company. CAOs typically report to the CEO, but in some organizations, they may have equal footing. To become a CAO or CEO, you need extensive experience in business administration and management. Many professionals in these roles start out as lower-level managers before being promoted to more senior positions. Some also earn a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) to help them stand out from other candidates.

Work Environment

Chief administrative officers typically work in an office environment. They may travel to visit different locations and meet with employees, but they usually spend most of their time at the company’s headquarters. Chief administrative officers often have a lot of responsibilities that require them to be available during regular business hours.

CEOs also work in an office environment, although they may travel more than chief administrative officers do. CEOs are responsible for making decisions about the direction of the company, so they need to be able to access information from all areas of the organization. This means that CEOs may work long hours and weekends.


Both chief administrative officers (CAOs) and CEOs use a variety of skills in their jobs. Both roles require excellent interpersonal and communication skills to interact with employees, clients and other business partners. A CAO typically has strong attention to detail to ensure they consider all aspects of business when they evaluate a department’s performance and needs. A CEO usually needs highly developed strategic and decision-making skills, as much of their job involves choosing improvements to make to a company’s technical operations, like manufacturing and production. They also can benefit from having an in-depth knowledge of business and marketing concepts that can inform how they design and guide the implementation of new marketing and advertising initiatives.


The average salary for a chief administrative officer is $145,173 per year, while the average salary for a CEO is $283,371 per year. The salary for a chief administrative officer may vary depending on the size of the company, the industry in which they work and their level of experience.


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