What Is a Chief Operating Officer?

Chief Operating Officers are the equivalent of a Business Manager or Managing Director. Although not specifically environmentally trained, they are vital in the organizations of the environmental field.

What Does a Chief Operating Officer Do?

A Chief Operating Officer is effectively the senior manager of a private organization. He or she is second in command to the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and works with professionals on the ground and in the offices. Although such people are business leaders rather than environmental professionals, they are required in private organizations and in the charitable sector - effectively as a senior business manager running the day to day proceedings of the organization.

They are in charge of operations of a business, effectively the company President. Roles will vary by industry but they will typically be involved in day every-day management. In environmental roles, they may typically come from a background of logistics, environmental planning or law, but often from a position of economics. The fusion of business and environment is no better demonstrated than with the availability of new environment based MBA degrees. Therefore, they may be in roles of business strategy, business planning and monitoring business performance.

Where Does a Chief Operating Officer Work?

As these individuals are business leaders, they will work in the higher echelons of environment-related businesses. This can be the private sector - of which there is a large and vibrant range of employment choices, or in environmental non-profits. Charities and non-profits in particular require qualified and knowledgeable business managers to help structure their organizations, develop mission statements, monitor performance and organize their core business plan.

They may also be employed in more technical or specialized roles, particular in environmental engineering organizations and other technical and scientific services. Where they work for specialist bodies, they sometimes require deep knowledge of the industry, environmental law and the products and services in which they operate. They are not simply business managers in these cases, but also advanced decision makers on such things as sustainability compliance.

What Is the Average Chief Operating Officer Salary?

No specific data exists for the environmental sector. COOs are business leaders regardless of the industry or sector in which they work. As such, they are classed as business executives or equivalent for the purpose of BLS data. The 2015 median pay rate was $102,690 or $49.67ph. Chief Executives pay is much higher at above $175k on average, almost double the second in command roles. General and Operations roles had a median salary of around $97k in 2015. These roles, especially in private industry, are amongst the highest paid jobs in the USA. The highest paid roles are in the state of New York with $144,540. The next highest two are Texas ($128,940) and California ($128,510). California employs the largest number of COOs or equivalent.

StateTotal EmploymentBottom 25%Median SalaryTop 75%
Alabama1,300$117,790$174,690-
Alaska530$115,590$158,920-
Arizona3,960$102,000$147,650-
Arkansas2,320$87,890$120,250-
California29,320$124,120--
Colorado1,210$107,740$149,750-
Connecticut1,860$151,340--
Delaware420---
District of Columbia3,680$124,090$177,010-
Florida12,440$131,610--
Georgia10,800$116,980$177,720-
Guam750$41,750$68,510$118,020
Hawaii1,940$86,580$130,570-
Idaho570$64,470$106,980$170,120
Illinois23,630$97,610$150,720-
Indiana4,660$106,590$166,270-
Iowa2,590$94,240$144,790-
Kansas4,500$102,790$142,710-
Kentucky3,480$105,600$144,670-
Louisiana800$123,460$185,940-
Maine1,070$86,830$124,760-
Maryland2,640$114,040--
Massachusetts11,670$141,480--
Michigan10,430$103,800$154,870-
Minnesota8,960$110,190$160,750-
Mississippi790$72,670$110,320$186,750
Missouri7,470$90,330$134,150-
Montana570$58,200$96,600$151,210
Nebraska540$137,210--
Nevada1,050$114,800$174,860-
New Hampshire1,220$117,110$176,020-
New Jersey1,130$134,240--
New York18,150$132,350--
North Carolina3,730$148,280--
North Dakota1,200$98,160$142,900-
Ohio7,250$118,740--
Oklahoma5,680$82,100$123,640-
Oregon2,210$124,310$182,390-
Pennsylvania11,010$121,600$180,950-
Puerto Rico2,090$63,550$94,570$149,800
Rhode Island380$142,580--
South Carolina4,560$90,990$141,290-
South Dakota860$55,460$171,430-
Tennessee7,960$91,610$140,750-
Texas8,540$113,280$185,930-
Utah2,510$92,230$140,400-
Vermont350$94,340$141,050-
Virgin Islands60$93,180$111,140$138,720
Virginia6,000$128,560--
Washington3,490$129,840--
West Virginia1,840$70,260$96,280$180,100
Wisconsin5,230$103,970$166,990-
Wyoming200$93,910$120,310$160,330

Table data taken from BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes111011.htm)

COO Jobs & Job Description

Recent COO Job Listings

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With a skillset that is transferable from role to role, the chief operating officer may find themselves moving between scientific or engineering industries because of their practical skillset. Regardless, each individual should feel capable of completing the following duties:

  • Identify and evaluate various business and project strategies
  • Contribute to annual strategy and business planning processes
  • Prepare proposals for environmental sciences jobs, personnel, and projects
  • Manage projects as necessary
  • Interpret regulatory documents and guidelines
  • Analyze state and federal regulations and determine their application
  • Lend expertise to business development staff as required
  • Present to clients, monitor sales figures and network/scope new client sources
  • Create relationships with new clients
  • Maintain client connections and grow current relationships
  • Develop strategic partnerships both in and out-industry
  • Identify and value potential acquisitions
  • Set and achieve revenue goals on a recurring basis
  • Coordinate business development activities between departments
  • Ensure that employees are involved in activities to grow their professional skillsets

Senior Chief Operating Officers may find that the scope of their job remains essentially the same, but pay and benefits increase as their leadership abilities become more honed. Additional responsibilities may include:

  • Lead development and increase of the market sector for a particular company or industry
  • Execute geographical growth planning
  • Participate as a member in approved civic and professional activities, societies and organizations
  • Act as a liaison between staff and clients to resolve issues and difficulties as required
  • Participate in trade shows and industry networking events
  • Coordinate and oversee the organization's daily operations
  • Work as part of the management team with the CEO or president to steer the organization
  • Contribute to the development and implementation of organizational strategies, policies and practices
  • Improve and manage systems, processes and policies to support the mission
  • Ensure that management reporting, information flow, business processes are on track for success
  • Manage the effectiveness of core support services like human resources, finance and information technology
  • Coordinate communications between support and business departments
  • Allocate resources and materials to meet project deadlines
  • Forecast operational trends for analysis and growth opportunities
  • Provide daily operations oversight for outside teams and stakeholders

What Is the Job Demand for Chief Operating Officers?

No specific data exists for the environmental sector. Overall, demand for CEOs and COOs is expected to grow around 6% between 2014 and 2024. This is the same percentage as the accumulated data for all industries in the country for the same period. Much is dependent on the formation of new businesses. As the environmental sector will grow in the coming decades in line with international law, it is likely that demand will increase for business leaders in this area (both charitable sector and private businesses). The rate of new businesses has slowed between 2008 and 2016, so other areas may find slower than average growth.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Chief Operating Officer?

A business related degree will be essential; environmental background and / or qualifications will be advantageous, especially when entering senior roles in technical or scientific research companies. CEOs and COOs acquire these positions through considerable business experience, rarely through qualifications. Candidates who seek roles in business leadership specifically in the environmental area should pursue environmental management, law or policy making as part of their undergraduates degrees. Masters and PhDs are not required for these roles. A Masters may help with organizations concerned with education (outreach or college / university business leaders or superintendents).

COO - Related Degrees

What Kind Of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Chief Operating Officers Have?

Chief Operating Officers are business leaders regardless of the industry in which they work. Therefore, we recommend checking out the following professional business organizations:

  • ABWA: The American Business Women's Association is the country's only professional network in the US specifically for women in leadership. They bring together professional women to help each other grow and exceed in a cut-throat world of top business
  • AMA: The American Management Association offers a range of training programs and seminars that help the business leaders of today keep up with the changing trends of tomorrow
  • DECA: Aimed at students, it is an international not for profit body that focuses on developing the core skills of business students all over the world. Regular seminars, organized locally, help students develop such skills as presentation