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What Are Some Classes in High School That Will Help You Become a Top Executive or Chief Executive?

by Laura Fletcher, studioD

CEOs have the difficult job of making sure a company functions well, follows legal regulations and delivers a profit to its investors; CEOs of major companies, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Donald Trump, are household names. Your decision to prepare to be a CEO by taking certain courses in high school is a good sign, because observers of top executives have noted that these business leaders are singularly focused on their professional goals.

Knowledge of the Industry

One consistent trait of successful CEOs is that they are able to learn and master their particular industry. This means that to become a good CEO, you should become good at learning, and learn as much as you can in high school. If you think you want to run a particular kind of business, take courses in an area that's related to that business. For example, if you want to lead a fashion company, take art. If you want to lead a software company, take computer science. A future Steve Jobs might take classes in both. Forbes magazine reports that many CEOs have finance degrees and start their careers in the financial departments of companies, so it would be a good idea to take four years of math in high school, including two algebra courses, geometry and trigonometry, all of which will prepare you for the key college finance courses of calculus and statistics.

Creativity and True Grit

Two other traits that observers frequently cite in CEOs, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Fast Company, are creativity and grit, or persistence. Creativity enables you to see business opportunities that no one else sees, as Steve Jobs saw the opportunity of the iPhone. Grit enables you to complete difficult tasks even after failing on your first few attempts: Jobs was at one point fired from his own company, but he persisted and eventually became the business hero of Apple anyway. You can prepare yourself for both the creativity and the difficult, high-level thinking that fuels many of today’s companies by taking computer science, biology, chemistry, physics and as many art, music and theater courses as you can fit in. Computer science, biology, chemistry and physics teach you grit because they're among the most difficult of high school courses, but they also reveal the creativity of modern technology, engineering and medicine. Art, drama and music courses teach creativity by helping you see the world in different ways, but they also require much practice, which instills grit.

The Human Touch

CEOs have to manage a lot of people and have great interpersonal skills. They also have to anticipate the needs of customers. Therefore, they should be sensitive to people and how people think. Four years of social science, history and an elective in psychology or sociology will help future CEOs see how human beings have developed as a group over time and what patterns in human behavior tend to repeat themselves. Four years of English will help a future CEO communicate well in both writing and speech, which is critical to maintaining a good relationship with employees and investors.

Extras to Keep in Mind

The economy is becoming global, and the United States has many strong trading partners in Asia and South America, so it’s also good to take four years of foreign language in high school, which will give you a basic conversational ability. Another thing you'll want to look into is extracurricular activities; research has shown that participation in extracurricular activities helps students to develop leadership and management skills that become critical later in life.

About the Author

Laura Holland Fletcher has graduate level training in ESL, linguistics and the teaching of writing. She taught ESL and college writing for more than 10 years in both the US and Asia. She also writes for local and national magazines that cover legal, educational and social justice issues.

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