C-Level Executive

What Does C-Level Executive Mean?

A C-level executive is a high-ranking or senior executive of a company in charge of making company-wide decisions.


The "C" stands for "chief" since a C-level executive (also called C-level exec or C-suite executive) is in charge of a business unit or department (e.g. Human Resources, Security, Marketing, etc).

Some best-known C-level executives in U.S. companies include:

  • Chief executive officer (CEO)
  • Chief operating officer (COO)
  • Chief marketing officer (CMO)
  • Chief financial officer (CFO)
  • And chief information officer (CIO)

Other C-level titles related to IT include:

  • Chief security officer (CSO)
  • Chief technology officer (CTO)
  • And the chief green officer (CGO)

Techopedia Explains C-Level Executive

C-level executives are essential to any modern business to provide leadership and make decisions that are the best for the company.

Since they must deal with heavier workload and higher responsibilities, and require years of experience in the field to achieve this position, C-level execs enjoy a privileged position within the company and higher salaries.

Different companies may have a different number of C-suites as well as a certain number of positions depending on their unique needs, size, workload, etc.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The CEO is the highest-ranking manager of a business who oversees most operations.

Often the founder or owner of a company, the CEO has the responsibility of having the last word on most decisions since all other C-level execs report to him or her.

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

The CIO in American companies is the highest-level IT employee, reporting to the CEO, COO and CFO. Of all the C-level executives, the CIO has the most bearing in IT, as the CIO is responsible for all of the company's computer systems.

The CIO is responsible for selecting hardware and software for an entire company as well as directing the workforce of an organization. Therefore, a CIO requires strong leadership skills as well as technical skills. Since all modern companies depend an IT, the CIO's role is extremely important.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Sometimes, the term CTO is used to define a C-level exec whose roles overlaps with those of a CIO. However, when a company has both roles in it, the CTO creates technology to sell to customers whereas a CIO focuses on managing infrastructure for the business operations. Traditionally the CTO would report to the CIO, but this depends entirely on the company.

The CTO oversees the development of new technologies, products and features within the company rather than merely integrating existing technologies.

Chief Security Officer (CSO)

The CSO is responsible for company-wide security policy, including computer security policies.

If a chief information security officer (CISO) is also present within the company, the latter will be responsible for ensuring the security of all digital data and IT infrastructure (cybersecurity) while the CSO will be in charge of physical security.

Chief Green Officer (CGO)

The CGO is tasked with reducing a company's carbon footprint, which includes building energy-efficient data centers, meeting OSHA standards and mitigating e-waste.

The CGO is becoming a more important role as the need to establish environmentally friendly policies is a priority for many organizations.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…