What is the average COO salary by company size?

by | Published on Mar 19, 2024 | Compensation

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Chief Operating Officer

Understand the average Chief Operating Officer salary by company size with our precise salary breakdowns. From startups to large enterprises, we uncover data on how compensation scales and what factors into these figures to equip you with the comprehensive insights necessary for making informed career or business decisions.

Key Takeaways

  • The role of a Chief Operating Officer varies across companies but generally focuses on turning the CEO’s vision into operational success through strategic planning, optimizing processes, and team building.
  • COO compensation is influenced by company size, with salaries in the US ranging from $381,663 at smaller companies to $636,080 at larger firms, and includes base salary, performance bonuses, and equity.
  • Significant factors that affect a COO’s salary include the company’s size, industry, geographical location, presence of venture capital, and market conditions, with startups offering equity as a significant part of compensation.

What does a COO do?

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) plays a pivotal role in orchestrating a company’s strategy, turning the Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO) vision into operational success. As the CEO’s right-hand executive, the Chief Operating Officer oversees the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of a business. Overseeing various departments like HR, IT, and Legal, the Chief Operating Officer synchronizes the company’s internal functions to meet the overarching goals set by the chief executive officer. Their role is defined by a broad spectrum of responsibilities, including:

  • Developing operational strategies
  • Optimizing processes
  • Enhancing productivity
  • Financial management
  • Team building

Given the diversity in company structures and industries, the role of a Chief Operating Officer can vary significantly. However, common threads include the execution of business strategies, supervision of daily operations, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement to streamline operations. In startups, the COO’s influence is even more pronounced, driving growth and operational excellence during the formative stages of the company’s development.

What are the qualities of a good COO

The effectiveness of a Chief Operating Officer is underpinned by a blend of skills, including:

  • Leadership
  • Strategic thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication

A good Chief Operating Officer translates visionary ideas into practical steps, ensuring their execution with integrity and honesty. They are system creators at heart, focusing on actionable metrics over vanity metrics, setting goals, and employing data-driven strategies for the company’s betterment.

Moreover, a successful COO:

  • Complements the skill set of the founder, often embodying either the “visionary” or “integrator” archetype
  • Creates a robust management team with diverse competencies, including an understanding of the founder’s limitations and a love for detail
  • Should have experience in scaling businesses, strategic vision, and the ability to connect with individuals affected by their systems and processes.

Common Pay Structure Explained

The pay structure of a Chief Operating Officer typically includes:

  • Base salary: a fixed amount negotiated at the outset and reflective of the COO’s experience, industry, and geographic location
  • Performance-based bonuses: incentivize the achievement of key organizational goals and form a significant portion of their overall compensation
  • Equity elements: such as stock options or restricted stock units, which provide ownership in the company

These components together make up the multifaceted compensation package for a Chief Operating Officer with a specific job title.

Equity compensation solidifies the COO’s financial ties with the company’s prosperity, promising considerable financial gains if the company excels. Retirement plans and healthcare benefits contribute to the COO’s long-term financial security. The complexity of the organization, industry sector, and level of education and certification also influence the compensation package, with bonuses structured to reward the executive’s direct contributions to the company’s performance.

How Much Does a COO Make in Small, Medium, and Large Companies?

Organizational size significantly influences a COO’s compensation. In the United States, Chief Operating Officer salaries range widely, with those at larger companies typically commanding a higher end of the spectrum. At the 25th percentile, COO salaries sit at $381,663, often representative of smaller organizations, while the 75th percentile sees salaries soar up to $636,080, indicative of medium to larger entities.

Reports from individual COOs provide a glimpse into the variability of COO salaries and salary ranges based on company size. In medium-sized companies with 51-200 employees, COO salaries can range from $185,000 in the city of Raleigh-Durham, NC, to $300,000 in New York City, NY.

In larger firms with 201-500 employees, COOs report earning from $308,000 to $350,000 annually, highlighting the upward trajectory of compensation with increasing company size.

Average Total Cash Compensation

The average total compensation for a Chief Operating Officer encompasses base salary, bonuses, and other cash incentives. This total package can provide a more comprehensive view of a COO’s earnings than base salary alone. For instance, a COO in a mid-sized company with 51-200 employees may earn a base salary of $330,000, with the potential for additional cash compensation.

In smaller companies with 11-50 employees, total cash compensation can include a base salary of around $200,000, supplemented by cash bonuses that significantly enhance the overall package. On the higher end, COOs in larger companies with 201-500 employees have reported total cash compensations reaching upwards of $745,000, combining a substantial base salary with generous cash incentives.

The Impact of the Financing Environment on COO Compensation

The financing environment, particularly the presence of venture capital (VC), can have a profound impact on Chief Operating Officer compensation. VC-backed executives, including COOs, tend to have higher salaries and hold more stock options compared to their counterparts in non-VC-backed firms. The influence of VC can lead to prioritizing activities that boost short-term performance, such as initial public offerings, which can, in turn, affect executive compensation strategies.

Market conditions also play a pivotal role, with bull markets potentially leading to higher COO compensation due to increased company profitability and bear markets prompting downward adjustments to account for reduced revenues and the need for cost-cutting. Competitive labor markets and economic uncertainty may further influence Chief Operating Officer pay, driving up compensation in growth industries or shifting the focus towards short-term incentives.

What is the average salary for COOs at startups?

In the dynamic world of startups, Chief Operating Officer compensation often diverges from established corporate structures. The average salary for a startup COO in the United States is over $122,000, but this can vary significantly depending on the startup’s stage and the COO’s role within the company. For example, non-founder COOs at seed-stage startups in the UK earn around £94,500 on average, while their counterparts at Series B startups can expect closer to £135,000.

Equity stakes are a significant component of a startup COO’s compensation, with non-founder COOs receiving between 1 percent and 5 percent of business equity. This equity, which often vests over several years, can sometimes eclipse the base salary in value, especially if the company experiences substantial growth or goes public. Additional bonuses and benefits are also part of the package, aligning the COO’s rewards with the company’s performance milestones.

Different industries of COO’s and their average pay

Chief Operating Officer salaries are not uniform across industries, with sectors like Information Technology, Finance, and Healthcare typically offering the highest compensation. The variation in pay reflects the differing demands and financial health of each industry. For instance, COOs in technology-driven sectors may command premium salaries due to the competitive nature of the market and the need for specialized knowledge and skills.

In contrast, industries with lower financial turnover or those undergoing significant change may offer lower average salaries for COOs. The level of responsibility, the complexity of operations, and the impact of the COO’s role on company performance also contribute to the disparity in compensation across industries.

What is the average COO salary by company size: 2023?

Looking back to 2020, the average Chief Operating Officer salary by company size presented a varied landscape. Smaller companies with 11-50 employees offered salaries around the $200,000 mark, while larger firms with 1,000 to 10,000 employees had average COO salaries of approximately $243,000. This comparison underscores the influence of company size on executive pay, with larger organizations providing higher compensation to reflect the greater scope of responsibility and complexity of operations.

It’s worth noting that other factors, such as location, industry, and educational background, also played a role in shaping Chief Operating Officer salaries in 2020. The reported salary range that year spanned from $79,000 to $446,000, further illustrating the wide variability within the profession.

What is the average Chief Operating Officer salary: 2024?

In 2024, the average salary for a Chief Operating Officer in the United States has risen to $490,687, continuing the upward trend. The range for Chief Operating Officer salaries varied from $381,663 at the 25th percentile to a high of $636,080 at the 75th percentile, with salary ranges reflecting the diverse earning potential within the role.

As the economic landscape evolved, so too did the compensation of COOs. The 90th percentile for 2023 COO salaries was an impressive $768,452, highlighting the lucrative potential for those employees at the top of their profession.

2023 Startup Chief Operating Officer Salary Report

The 2023 Startup Chief Operating Officer Salary Report provided fresh insights into the ever-changing startup ecosystem. Here are some key findings:

  • In the United States, the average startup Chief Operating Officer salary surpassed $122,000, with the actual figure fluctuating based on experience, location, and the company’s funding stage.
  • In the UK, non-founder COOs at seed-stage startups earned £94,500 on average.
  • COOs at Series B startups in the UK could expect around £135,000.

Equity continued to be a crucial element of startup Chief Operating Officer compensation, ranging from 1 percent to 5 percent, depending on the company’s valuation and the COO’s experience. This component not only incentivizes long-term commitment but also aligns the COO’s financial interests with the success of the startup.

What is the outlook for COO pay?

The outlook for Chief Operating Officer compensation appears promising, with projected median salaries reaching $490,687 by February 2024. This forecast suggests that demand for experienced COOs remains strong, with the potential for growth in compensation, especially for those who possess additional skills in leadership, healthcare, and accounting.

Geographical variations will continue to play a role, with cities like San Francisco offering salaries significantly above the national average. The total cash compensation for COOs, which includes base salary and annual incentives, could vary widely, further emphasizing the importance of location, experience, and industry-specific knowledge in determining pay scales.

COO Salary: Men vs Women

The gender pay gap in Chief Operating Officer salaries is a significant issue, with women making 77 cents for each dollar earned by White men, the highest-paid group across various occupations. Since 1996, the gender pay gap has narrowed marginally, from 75 cents to a White man’s dollar, indicating slow progress in achieving equitable pay.

Women of color, such as Latinas and Black women, face even wider gaps, often occupying the lowest-paid jobs within sectors like hospitality and healthcare. Discrimination, occupational segregation, and penalties to pay following motherhood are contributing factors to this persistent inequality.

Legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act has been proposed to address these issues, though it has yet to be enacted.

The country with the Highest Chief Operating Officer is…

Leading globally in Chief Operating Officer compensation, the United States boasts an average monthly net salary exceeding $3,700, ranking it fourth worldwide. This high compensation level is reflective of the U.S.’s strong corporate culture and the significant responsibilities shouldered by COOs.

Switzerland, with the world’s highest average monthly net salary, could potentially offer competitive Chief Operating Officer salaries, although specific salary figures for COOs are not readily available. Other countries with high average salaries, such as Singapore, Australia, and Canada, may also provide lucrative compensation for COOs.

What are the US states with the highest COO pay

Within the United States, certain states stand out for their high Chief Operating Officer salaries. Here are the top states and their average salaries:

  1. New Jersey: $170,805
  2. New York: $169,647
  3. Connecticut: $167,924
  4. California: $165,381
  5. Massachusetts: $163,463

The cost of living is a significant factor in these states, with California, including cities like San Jose, and Massachusetts also ranking among the top due to their respective high living expenses.

Notably, states with higher costs of living, such as Hawaii and Washington, D.C., necessitate higher COO salaries to compensate for the increased living expenses. This regional variation in pay reflects the economic diversity within the U.S. and the need for COOs to be compensated accordingly.

Who Are the Famous COOs?

Prominent COOs, as well as chief executives, with their strategic visions and operational acumen have significantly influenced the corporate world. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Tim Cook of Apple, before he ascended to CEO, are prime examples of COOs who have made indelible marks on their companies and industries. Their leadership has not only driven their companies to achieve new heights but also set standards for operational excellence worldwide.

In addition to these household names, there are COOs like Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX, whose contributions to the aerospace industry are nothing short of revolutionary. These executives exemplify the impact a COO can have, not just within their organizations but also as influential figures in business and innovation. Their stories serve as inspiration for aspiring COOs and highlight the potential for significant achievements in this role.


In summary, the role of the Chief Operating Officer is both diverse and demanding, with compensation reflecting a combination of company size, industry, and market conditions. From the essential qualities of effective COOs to the impact of venture capital and economic climate on their pay, this blog post has traversed the landscape of COO compensation. Whether in startups or established corporations, COOs play a critical role in steering companies toward success, and their remuneration packages are structured to reward their pivotal contributions. As we look to the future, COO pay is poised to remain robust, paralleling the evolving needs and complexities of businesses worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do private equity COO make?

Private equity COOs can make anywhere from $69,000 to $120,000 per year, with the 25th percentile at $69,000 and the 75th percentile at $120,000. These figures represent the lower and upper ends of the median salary range.

How much less should a COO make than a CEO?

A COO should make less than a CEO salary, with the average salary for a COO in the US being $137,876 per year compared to the average CEO salary of $128,843 per year. This difference may vary based on industry, experience, company size, and location.

What is the average bonus for a COO?

The average bonus for a Chief Operating Officer is $38,000, representing approximately 16% of their annual salary. However, the specific bonus amount may vary depending on the location and company performance.

What should a COO of a small company make?

A Chief Operating Officer of a small company can expect to make an average salary ranging from $69,000 to $122,000 per year, with factors such as location, education level, and experience influencing the final amount. In New Jersey, a Chief Operating Officer may earn the highest average salary.

What does a COO’s compensation package typically include?

A COO’s compensation package typically includes a base salary, performance-based bonuses, equity like stock options or restricted stock units, retirement plans, and healthcare benefits. These components aim to attract and retain top executive talent.