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Salary, Wages, Pay: Top Executives




Top executives are among the highest paid workers in the U.S. economy. However, salary levels vary substantially depending on the level of managerial responsibility; length of service; and type, size, and location of the firm. For example, a top manager in a very large corporation can earn significantly more than a counterpart in a small firm.

Median annual earnings of general and operations managers in May 2004 were $77,420. The middle 50 percent earned between $52,420 and $118,310. Because the specific responsibilities of general and operations managers vary significantly within industries, earnings also tend to vary considerably. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of general and operations managers in May 2004 were:

Computer systems design and related services $117,730
Management of companies and enterprises 99,670
Building equipment contractors 83,080
Depository credit intermediation 76,060
Local government 68,590

Median annual earnings of chief executives in May 2004 were $140,350; although chief executives in some industries earned considerably more.

Salaries vary substantially by type and level of responsibilities and by industry. According to a 2005 survey by Abbott, Langer, and Associates, the median income of chief executive officers in the nonprofit sector was $88,006 in 2005, but some of the highest paid made more than $700,000.

In addition to salaries, total compensation often includes stock options, dividends, and other performance bonuses. The use of executive dining rooms and company aircraft and cars, expense allowances, and company-paid insurance premiums and physical examinations also are among benefits commonly enjoyed by top executives in private industry. A number of chief executive officers also are provided with company-paid club memberships and other amenities.