Route to the Top: MBAs and Accountants lead the FTSE 100

Master of Business Administration (MBA) and accountancy are the top qualifications among the UK’s CEOs, according to the annual Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker.

  • 25% of FTSE 100 CEOs hold MBAs, and 20% are Chartered Accountants
  • Number of CEOs with PHDs and MAs on the decline
  • Company experience and longevity on the rise

London, 11 July – Master of Business Administration (MBA) and accountancy are the top qualifications among the UK’s CEOs, according to the annual Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker.

MBA graduates are leading more of Britain’s top businesses than any other qualification, accounting for 25% of FTSE 100 CEOs, the highest proportion since 2016.  This was followed by Chartered Accountants, who made up 20% of FTSE 100 CEOs, up from 19% in both 2017 and 2018.

The findings demonstrate that despite businesses undergoing periods of intense technological change including digitisation and automation, traditional business and finance-focused qualifications are still valued, carrying substantial weight at the UK’s leading businesses.

Other postgraduate qualifications were significantly less common. Only 5% of current FTSE 100 CEOs hold a PHD, half the number compared to 2014 (10%). Meanwhile, MAs were held by just 8% of CEOs, a small increase compared to last year. 

Regarding individual universities, alumni of the UK’s leading institutions continue to occupy a disproportionate number of the top roles. Nearly two in five (18%) of the FTSE 100 CEOs graduated from either Oxford or Cambridge universities, a figure which is unchanged from previous years.

Outside of qualifications, the analysis suggests that company experience is also becoming increasingly important. Internal promotions are on the rise, representing 70% of new appointments in the last year, and nearly half (46%) of CEOs overall. Furthermore, 15% of current FTSE 100 CEOs have spent their entire careers with the same company, a figure that has risen every year since 2015 when the number stood at only 7%.

The research shows that industry experience is similarly prized, with 71% of FTSE 100 CEOs having held a senior role in the same industry – the highest level since 2015.

Charlie Grubb, UK Managing Director, Robert Half Executive Search commented: “While traditional qualifications still carry significant weight when it comes to executive positions, it is undeniable that the future of work is changing, and with it, the make up of the traditional CEO. 

“Digitalisation, regulatory changes and the continuously changing nature of businesses means that CEOs must continue to evolve at a rapid pace, alongside their companies. Successfully adapting and keeping up with the changing face of businesses will require CEOs with strong leadership skills such as effective communication, as well as a right blend of soft and hard skills. This will allow them to succeed in a more digitally enhanced future. 

“Traditional qualifications, experience in relevant sectors and expertise will continue to remain important factors going forward, however adaptability to change and willingness to evolve alongside the marketplace will distinguish between those businesses that succeed and those that do not.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

About the Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker
Robert Half conducted annual research on CEOs of the FTSE 100 Index by analysing publicly available sources of information including company websites, financial and company announcements, bios and press releases about FTSE 100 CEOs to track trends including their professional career backgrounds, age, gender, nationality and length of tenure. The research was analysed from the period 1 April 2018 – 31 March 2019, and all results are correct to the best of our knowledge.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. We have once again been named to FORTUNE’s “World’s Most Admired Companies®” list and remains the top-ranked staffing firm (February 2020). Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and jobseeker resources at and