Account Executive Salaries: What Account Executives Earn

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Considering moving up from account manager to account executive? Here's what you'll need to ask when making the big move: where to go both career and location wise, and what to ask for when the job offer comes in.


The term account executive is one that covers a wide variety of jobs. In general, an account executive is a point man for the company, directly interfacing with the client to provide information and support to that client. While the designation of account executive involves different responsibilities in different business settings, just about all account executives are tasked with maintaining a good working relationship with company clients. Occasionally the account executives need to act on clients’ behalf to ensure that they get the level of service and response promised to them.

The Basics

High pressure is the name of the game in an account executive career. Deadlines are tight, and the need for flexibility is paramount. Since you may be dealing with a wide variety of players — advertisers, customers, sales staff, promotions people, market researchers, government agencies, corporate managers, and the press, good management and people skills will be at the top of your agenda.

Account executive careers are neither for part-timers nor for the faint of heart. Long hours and working over the weekends are common in these positions, although comfortable offices and perks like health club facilities and club memberships help reduce the stress. Traveling may also be a large part of your job if you manage far-flung client relationships or promotional operations for your company.

Roles and compensation

There are many types of account executives; here are descriptions of the most common types, with median yearly salaries. As a rule, location and experience can affect salary greatly; obviously, account execs working in major cities such as New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles can expect higher compensations. Experience tends to increase compensation on average $10,000 per year for every 4-6 years of experience.

Account Executive: $64,000

Account executives handle the day-to-day connection with company clients. They act as the clients’ agents for the company, looking out for the customers’ interests in the relationship, and making sure the customers get the level of services promised at the time the business relationships were first established. Account executives often oversee account managers or creative teams that produce advertisements or promotional materials, although they are usually not expected to be creative themselves.

Payroll Services Account Executive: $50,000

Payroll services account executive is a very specific type of account executive. Here the executives handle payroll company clients specifically. The payroll services account executives have to make sure that the clients’ payroll needs are handled satisfactorily, and they also have to deal with any difficulty that arises between the payroll services companies and the clients who have subcontracted payroll management to them.

Account Executive Recruiter: $70,000

This position is responsible for hiring other account executives. As such, the account executive recruiters are required to have a thorough understanding of the companies’ polices and hiring practices, current job markets and industry standards, recruiting practices, and the needs of managements regarding hiring new positions.

Major Account Executive: $63,000

Major account executives handle the companies’ largest and most profitable accounts. They drive new large business accounts and handle relationships with major clients. They also manage account managers.

National Account Executive: $169,000

National account executives handle national accounts for large companies. These accounts are usually with equally large companies, such as chain stores or nationally based businesses.

Sales National Account Executive: $83,000

Sales national account executives directly oversee the sales to national level accounts such as large chains or nationally based businesses. Unlike the national account executives these executives actually deal with sales accounts and may be required to manage regional sales managers as well.

Sales Major Account Executive: $61,000

Sales major account executives handle the largest national accounts for the companies. As opposed to the sales national account executives, they handle only the most important ''anchor'' accounts for the firms.

Senior Account Executive: $78,000

Besides handling large and important clients, the senior account executives also manage account managers and more junior account executives.

Ad Account Executive: $46,000

Ad account executives specifically deal with advertising accounts and their attached clients, as opposed to direct sales to the customers. The ad account executives may oversee creative teams such as art directors, copywriters, or other similar positions, but are not expected to actually be creative.

Online Media Account Executive: $58,000

This position is similar to the account executive position, but specializes in online, Internet, and web-based clients.

IT Account Executive: $96,000

IT account executives specialize in handling information technology accounts. This area is very specialized, as it requires a great deal of knowledge about the complexities of information tech firms; oftentimes this position is best filled by someone who has previously worked in the IT field as an engineer or as any other specialist.

Sales Account Executive: $96,000

Sales account execs handle the more generalized accounts instead of the major or key accounts. As a result, they often handle far more (but smaller) accounts than a national or major account exec, requiring that they be more flexible to meet the needs of different clients.

Outside Sales Account Executive: $107,000

Outside sales account execs specialize in bringing in new business and clients. They are often the first to establish relationships with the clients, thus setting the nature of how the clients will be dealt with from then on.


Much like very similar account manager positions, entry-level account executive positions require a bachelor's degree and/or three years of experience in the field, most of which can be gained by interning in advertising, promotions, or sales position. The qualities required in these positions are the ability to, lead teams effectively and handle a wide variety of tasks at one time — time management skills are critical.

High-level account executive positions are almost never entry level; promotion comes from within (usually a successful account manager) or through executive searches (see Account Executive Recruiter above). At minimum, these positions require a bachelor's degree and/or several years of broad experience working in the field.

Employment Outlook

Jobs for account execs can be found all over the country, although major urban centers such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are the top cities for these types of positions. This makes sense in the light of the fact that these are major centers for print and media advertising. While account executives are in high demand, the competition for these slots is very high; applicants would be advised to add computer, creative, and media skills to their resume to make themselves stand out in an increasingly competitive crowd.
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