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2021 Chief of Staff Compensation Report

2021 Chief of Staff Compensation Report
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As the Chief of Staff role continues to proliferate across industries and expand within organizational departments, compensation remains difficult to benchmark given the wide range of responsibilities and backgrounds of those in the profession.

Our goal for conducting this annual survey is to better inform current and future Chiefs of Staff and the organizations utilizing the role about their market value. Our research considered the specific factors that heavily impact Chief of Staff compensation, including years of experience, CoS level, company stage/size, gender, location, and more. Previous compensation data is available in our 2019 Report and 2020 Report.

This report provides one view of the survey data, but there are many alternatives ways to slice and pivot it. The raw data of this survey is available to members of the Chief of Staff Network. Apply to join!

What is a Chief of Staff?

At the Chief of Staff Network, we broadly define a Chief of Staff as the primary strategic operator reporting directly to a C-Level Executive. As the role continues to take root in organizations of different sizes, Chiefs of Staff are also emerging as key operators outside the C-suite, reporting at the VP level or below. 

The Chief of Staff has a unique relationship with their Principal as the facilitator of the Principal’s key initiatives. The role is rarely an administrative function, but often involves heavy operational, strategic,  and cross-functional execution. Chiefs of Staff will take on diverse responsibilities that are dependent on their previous career experiences, leadership capabilities, and the priorities of their Principal. These are also potential factors that impact compensation.

Chiefs of Staff by Level

As noted, Chiefs of Staff come from a variety of professional backgrounds and bring different amounts of experience and skills to the table. The “Chief” in CoS can be deceptive as not every CoS is working at the executive level. Despite sharing the same title, CoS are operating with varying amounts of influence & ownership and therefore at different levels within their companies. 

With this in mind, the Chief of Staff Network conducted independent research to establish a Leveling Framework characterizing the dimensions of growth and advancement criteria across five common CoS role archetypes. Survey participants were asked to review the Leveling Framework and self-select into one level. Additionally, we collected number of years of professional experience noting that the two (experience and level) are not always the same.

Chiefs of Cash

$142,533 — Average Base Compensation

Annual Base Salary

Survey respondents were asked to provide base salary as an exact figure, rather than as a range.

Our data shows a relatively even distribution in base compensation, with ~27% of respondents reporting a salary between $125k-$150k. Notably, 66% of Chiefs of Staff in our survey are making over $125k. 

Average Salary by CoS Level

Average salaries show step increases with changes in self-reported experience levels. It should be noted that there are fewer differences in experience, skills or responsibilities between a Level 1 & Level 2 Chief of Staff vs a Level 3, 4, or 5 Chief of Staff. 

Grouping Level 1 & 2 together, the average base salary is $120,210. Thus, we see a 10.5% average increase in salary at Level 3, a 13.6% average increase from Level 3 to Level 4, and a 4.5% average increase to Level 5.

Avg Salary by Gender

The gender wage gap exists in CoS roles as well, with Females on average earning 93% of their Male counterparts’ salaries. However, that is 10% higher than the US economy’s overall gender pay gap of 83%.  

Respondent Data

Organization Headcount

Chiefs of Staff Across the Globe

Data was collected from 260 survey participants. 59% of respondents work at companies with <200 employees, with the most common cohort being companies with 51-200 employees.

Chiefs of Staff by Industry

The most common industries with Chiefs of Staff survey respondents are general Technology, FinTech, and SaaS. 

There are plenty of additional industries which employ Chiefs of Staff, with the “Other” category comprising 18 industries that had <3 responses.

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