S&P 500 CEO’s: Engineers Stay at the Top

Posted on August 20, 2009  Comments (12)

2008 Data from Spencer Stuart on S&P 500 CEO (link broken so it was removed, it is so sad that companies still pay people to manage web sites that don’t even understand basic web usability principles such as web pages must live forever) shows once again more have undergraduate degrees in engineering than any other field, increasing to 22% of CEO’s this year.

% of CEOs

Engineering 22 21 23 20
Economics 16 15 13 11
Business Administration 13 13 12 15
Accounting 9 8 8 7
Liberal Arts 6 6 8 9
No degree or no data 3 3

In 1990 Engineering majors accounted for 6% of the bachelor’s degrees in the USA (1970 5%, 1980 7%). Business accounted for 23% of the majors in 1990 (1970 14%, 1980 21%). Liberal arts 3% in 1980 (1970 1%, 1980 2%).

The report does not show the fields for the rest of the CEO’s. 39% of S&P CEOs have MBAs. 28% have other advanced degrees. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard tied for the most CEO’s with undergraduate degrees from their universities at 13. Princeton and the University of Texas had 9 and Stanford had 8.

While the CEO’s have engineering education backgrounds the work they have done is often in other functions. The top function that CEO’s that have worked in during their careers: Operations (42%), Finance (31%), Marketing (24%), Sales (17%), Engineering (11%).

Data for previous years is also from Spencer Stuart: S&P 500 CEOs are Engineering Graduates (2007 data) 2006 S&P 500 CEO Education StudyTop degree for S&P 500 CEOs? Engineering (2005 study)

Related: Another Survey Shows Engineering Degree Results in the Highest PayScience and Engineering Degrees lead to Career SuccessThe Future is Engineering

12 Responses to “S&P 500 CEO’s: Engineers Stay at the Top”

  1. Anonymous
    August 20th, 2009 @ 8:54 am

    i think this is interesting and good news. engineers can do lots of things, they are built to be problem solvers. and if you can learn about all the things engineers need then it should be easy to expand into other things.

  2. Henry
    August 24th, 2009 @ 4:03 am

    Engineering degrees provide a “can do” learning basis. Practically, CEOs with engineering qualifications are sought to provide not just a management trait, but also to be able to replace and properly guide subordinates. Management just for the sake of management is kind of obsolete. We not only have to know how to run a business, but also how it works and how to manage it.

  3. Kevin
    August 25th, 2009 @ 9:37 am

    This info doesn’t come to a surprise to me. I agree with Henry; most of the engineers I know have a very structured mind, are very pragmatic and have a good sense of reality.

  4. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Engineering Majors Hold 8 of Top 10 Highest Paid Majors
    February 8th, 2010 @ 8:34 am

    […] Another Survey Shows Engineering Degree Results in the Highest Pay – S&P 500 CEO’s: Engineers Stay at the Top – The Software Developer Labor Market – Mathematicians Top List of Best Occupations […]

  5. Career Prospect for Engineers Continues to Look Positive » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    August 12th, 2011 @ 7:27 am

    Many countries realize the importance of engineering and have taken steps to compete as a center of excellence for engineering. It is a smart economic policy…

  6. Engineers are the new Currency » Curious Cat Engineering Blog
    October 19th, 2011 @ 10:06 am

    “Engineers are the new currency… having the right engineers that can innovate and deliver is absolutely vital to success… It takes a great team to help the entrepreneur develop…”

  7. John Ricky
    October 21st, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    Reason why more engineers make to the top positions is that they have two kinds of skills: first, they may have natural aptitude in management, second they learn practically throughout their degree program. The fact that business schools either online schools or regular schools don’t add much to the managerial skills more than the innate potential of a person means that from managerial point of view ENGINEERS and MBAs are more or less same. Since hiring engineers give an added advantage, companies more often go after the engineers. No wonder, online engineering schools are sprouting up at every nook corner.

  8. Engineers Again Shown to Lead More Companies Than Other Disciplines » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    February 6th, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    […] have written previously about the fact that more S&P 500 CEO’s are engineering majors than any other discipline. The group putting out those studies have stopped doing so, unfortunately. There is a new study […]

  9. STEM Education Statistics to Share with Skeptics | DRPF Consults
    March 15th, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

    […] double that of the median salary of the total U.S. workforce (NSF 2010). It is also a fact that more S&P 500 CEOs have undergraduate degrees in engineering than in any other field.Demand for Technology PositionsSignificant advances in technology have […]

  10. Andrew
    January 16th, 2016 @ 2:27 am

    Actually this is quite true.. It is similar here in developing countries such as in South East Asia..

  11. Jim Rabchuk
    March 16th, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

    Hi, would you be able to provide the data referred to as coming from Spencerstuart.org? Those data are not available via the link you’ve provided. Thanks!


  12. curiouscat
    March 16th, 2016 @ 4:13 pm

    Unfortunately spencerstuart deleted the content. It is so sad that companies still don’t understand extremely basic web usability practices – such as urls must live forever.

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