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The Compensation Differences Between CEOs Vs. CFOs

by Eric Strauss

Top executives are among the most highly compensated employees of any business. With great pay comes great responsibility, and the "c-suite" is occupied by chief officers of various departments, or even the company itself. While the chief executive officer, or CEO, is normally the leader of the organization, the proverbial buck often stops at the desk of the chief financial officer, or CFO, who manages the company's fiscal operations.

Average CEO Pay

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that chief executive officers nationwide earned an average annual wage of $176,840, or $85.02 an hour, as of May 2012. There were 255,940 CEOs in the survey, according to the BLS, and the best-paid 25 percent earned $187,199 or more -- with the potential to earn millions in salary, bonus and other compensation. Even the lowest-paid 25 percent could reach six-figure salaries, earning $109,940 a year or less, according to the BLS.

Industry and Geography

The most common industry for CEOs was corporate management, with 21,600 top executives earning an average of $210,120 a year, according to the BLS. The best-paid CEOs were in the securities industry, where they earned an average of $232,020. California was the state with the most chief executives -- 28,820 earning an average of $197,060. The best-paid CEOs, though, were found in Connecticut, where they earned an average of $210,070.

Average CFO Pay

The BLS reported that CFOs and other top financial executives earned an average of $123,260 a year, equal to $59.26 an hour, as of May 2012. The Bureau found 484,910 of these management positions nationwide, with the top 25 percent earning $149,410 or more. The best-paid CFOs nationwide could, as with CEOs, earn millions of dollars a year or more in total compensation. The lowest-paid 25 percent of financial officers, on the other hand, earned $79,930 or less.

Industry and Geography

The most common CFOs, fittingly, worked in the banking industry, according to the BLS. In what the Bureau called depository credit intermediation, 72,240 financial managers earned an average of $104,600 a year. The best-paid financial leaders worked for a different part of the financial world, the securities and commodities exchanges, where they made $171,380 on average. California was also the state that employed the most financial executives, with 66,450 earning an average wage of $137,150. New York, though, was the best-paying state for financial managers, with an average annual salary of $170,370.

About the Author

Eric Strauss spent 12 years as a newspaper copy editor, eventually serving as a deputy business editor at "The Star-Ledger" in New Jersey before transitioning into academic communications. His byline has appeared in several newspapers and websites. Strauss holds a B.A. in creative writing/professional writing and recently earned an M.A. in English literature.

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