What is the Career Path for a Chief of Staff?

Since our mission involves providing chief of staff support to leverage the time of busy executives, we’ve covered a lot of ground in regards to the chief of staff role specifically: what a chief of staff does, how to write their job description, and even the different archetypes within the role. But how does a chief of staff acquire their role in the first place — what experiences and education are ideal for candidates pursuing this position? And once a chief of staff has established themselves in their role, what is the next step on their career trajectory? While every single person’s career path is as individualized as a fingerprint, here are some typical roadmaps for people interested in the chief of staff role.

New to the Chief of Staff Role

If you are looking to start out in your very first chief of staff role, we’ve found a few key attributes that will lend well to the position:


In regards to education, candidates applying for a chief of staff position usually have a bachelor’s degree, and many come to the table with advanced degrees (e.g., MBA, JD, MA/MS or MPA/MPP). There is no requirement for any sort of specialization in a particular field or degree. Rather, the role tends to promote diversity of experience and bringing a cross-functional background is one of the best tools you can have.


While there are some situations where hiring a junior-level chief of staff may fulfill the needs of an organization, most executives will be looking for a chief with 8–10 years of professional experience. Again, this experience can be in a variety of fields and organizations — often the resume of an ideal candidate for the chief of staff role will look more like a jungle gym than a ladder — but having sound knowledge of overall business operations and processes will prove key to being an ideal candidate for the role.


Since a chief of staff usually takes on a myriad of responsibilities, there is an equal myriad of skills that they should possess to be efficient in their role:

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Madeleine Niebauer is the Founder & CEO of vChief Virtual Chief of Staff service, which offers part-time and interim chief of staff support to start-ups, nonprofit organizations, and businesses of all sizes.



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