10 Highest Paying Executive Jobs In Australia For 2023

Get paid what you're worth.


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Last updated: October 19th, 2023


Last updated: October 19th, 2023

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Within the space of just a few months, COVID-19 has inflicted a sizeable flesh wound to the Australian job search landscape. 

In the midst of rising unemployment, historically low salary growth and cost-cutting, you may be wondering whether companies still have the means or the appetite to invest in executive talent.

I’d like to offer you some reassurance: in times of crisis, what the world needs now – more than ever – are innovative, experienced and capable leaders. 

The skills shortage employers were facing pre-COVID is still very much an issue – and has only been amplified by the need to adapt rapidly to new market conditions.

While the pool of jobs has indeed shrunk, some companies are still willing to pay top-dollar for executive talent with the skills to steer an organisation safely through the COVID era.

If you’re an executive leader looking for your next big career move, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 highest paying corporate jobs (within the context of the current climate) to help steer you in the right direction.

But before I dive into the list, I want to cover off on a few things you need to do to maximise your chances of getting the role you want in a challenging market.

(Related: Best Carry On Luggage For Business Travellers).

1. Know Your Value.

Being able to articulate the immense value you bring to an organisation is critical in justifying a salary to match. 

Positioning your unique value proposition as the ‘answer’ to your potential employer’s business challenges gives you the upper hand in negotiating the remuneration you want.

However, if you, like many executive leaders, find the creating a value proposition statement daunting, we’ve produced a guide on how to write one. Otherwise, why not let us do it for you as part of our executive resume writing service?

2. Pay Attention To The World Around You.

With the onset of COVID-19, certain trends have emerged in the jobs market. There is a high demand for skills that can help businesses adapt, endure and even thrive during (and beyond) the scope of the pandemic. 

The key to tapping into these in-demand skills lies in understanding these two present-moment organisational trends:

A. Digital Transformation Is Now King.

Organisations have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation plans to deal with the spike in consumer demand for technology-powered learning, collaboration and entertainment products. 

Businesses need to navigate the mass transition to remote working while facing immense, ongoing demand to improve tech capabilities, roll out new digital products and services to accommodate changing customer needs.

Many organisations are also expediting automation and digitisation initiatives. This has resulted in a demand for technically skilled leaders with transformation experience, able to overlap automation, change and strategic insight.

Additionally, the need for more cyber-security capability is critical in managing risk as organisations transition to digital ways of working and launch digital products and services.

B. Industry Impact Is Uneven.

Be aware of how COVID has affected your target sectors. Although some industries are struggling, there are sectors that are benefitting from current market conditions, and others that have experienced minimal disruption.

(Related: Career Transition Services For C-Suite Executives).

Maximise your chances of securing a high paid role by targeting sectors such as FMCG, grocery, healthcare, digital entertainment, telecommunications, insurance and wholesalers with high e-commerce capability.

Conversely, avoid industries which have been negatively impacted, such as airlines, travel, tourism, retail, gaming and leisure, and companies with weak digital commerce offerings.

However, if you were to consider these sectors, ensure you articulate how you can help the organisation overcome current business and industry challenges and beyond. 

(Related: Best Work From Home Jobs In Australia).

3. Build Resilience And Agility.

In an environment of high uncertainty, the onus is on leaders to develop buoyant, adaptable workforces who can adjust to constant change. As a result, employers will be prioritising skills in business continuity and crisis management.

To help you put your best foot forward, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 highest paying corporate jobs in Australia within the context of the current climate.

(Related: What Are The Hardest Jobs In The World?)

10. Chief Information Officer/Chief Technology Officer.

Salary Range: $220K – $380K (Sydney and Melbourne).

As mentioned above, companies are fast-tracking their digital transformation plans, requiring smarter investment in IT infrastructure and digital tools. 

In general, IT leaders who balance technical with high-level communication skills and the ability to implement change initiatives can command the top end of the remuneration bracket. Program/project directors with digital transformation experience can also command high salaries.

Furthermore, the demand for executives with skills in big data, data analytics and experience in fintech and other emerging sectors will also remain high. 

9. Head of HR/HR Director.

Salary Range: $240K – $408K (organisations with 1000+ employees)

Larger organisations need agile HR Leaders who can react quickly to the challenges presented by the pandemic. In addition to playing a key role in facilitating the transition to remote working, manage redundancies, promote effective collaboration and ensure business continuity.

HR leaders are also required to retain business-critical talent with limited resources by creating benefits around continual learning and flexible working in lieu of pay rises.

With the added stresses on staff, HR leaders also need to focus on maintaining workforce mental health and morale. With 25-33% of the community experiencing high levels of worry and anxiety, particularly in relation to job security, employers will require HR leaders to deliver resilience training to enable the workforce to deliver in spite of disruption.

8. Chief Risk Officer.

Salary Range: $225K – $400K Sydney.

In the wake of the Royal Banking Commission and COVID-19, the role of the Chief Risk Officers continues to expand. CROs are working much more closely with boards and C-suites to respond to the challenges and change, and the need will remain high for a robust risk strategy to mitigate ongoing threats.

 The remit of the CRO is expanding beyond that of financial risk into new areas such as cybersecurity and safety, as workers return from working from home to offices and public transport. It is likely the role will continue to evolve and become much more prominent within the organisation, working closely with legal and compliance teams.

The number of CROs in the US have already grown by 5% since 2019, with expertise in business continuity one of the most in demand skills. Skills relating to crisis management are also highly sought after.

7. Head of Operations (Mining).

Salary Range: $300K – $450K.

Operational leaders are critical in the mining sector to maintaining delivery of critical services with a focus on safety. In order to manage risks associated with global shutdowns and fluctuations in commodity prices, leaders who can build resilience in global supply chains are in high demand.

Leaders capable of converting opportunities presented by automation and digitisation will also command higher salaries. Additionally, experience in M&As can provide an edge, offering the opportunity to drive greater consolidation and integration across operations centres to maximise margins and efficiencies.

(Related: 14 Best Side Hustle Ideas In Australia).

6. GM Construction. 

Salary Range: $300K – $500K.

Jobs in the construction sector, particularly infrastructure, are a key focus for governments as they move to the economic recovery phase. 

With nearly $300BN already committed to various infrastructure projects before the COVID crisis, and a further $15BN allocated since, investment in construction of large-scale projects is likely to be fast-tracked to offset the economic impacts of COVID-19.

The role of GM Construction is critically important in ensuring delivery within budgets and timeframes. Skills relating to risk management will be highly sought after to manage supply chain disruption, project delays, travel restrictions and workplace safety. Experience using digital and mobile capabilities is also in high demand.

Furthermore, the ability to engage with stakeholders across government, contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers and employees will also be highly prized.

5. CFO/Finance Director 

Salary Range: $250K – $500K.

The role of the CFO is now more important than ever. By providing boards and management teams with robust decision-making support and assurance, the CFO is critical to developing strategies addressing both short-term issues and long-term recovery. 

By balancing risk and opportunity, the CFO ensures a business can make sound decisions that ensures a sustainable future for all stakeholders. 

CFOs/Finance Directors in general command higher salaries in the Sydney and Melbourne markets, and demand is particularly high for senior finance leaders who possess both strategic and analytical capability to drive growth through a data-led strategy

In addition, as CFOs become more involved in digital transformations and IT initiatives, skills in business partnering, big data & analytics and automation will also be in high demand.

4. Head of Treasury.

Salary Range: $286K – $510K

Whilst not an overly common role in the Australian market, the Head of Treasury role came to prominence in the US after the GFC to provide impartial oversight over cash risks. 

With the Royal Banking Commission and COVID-19, the role is coming becoming even more important at a board level to monitor and manage cashflow risks and ensure business continuity, manage liquidity and financial risks, banking relationships and working capital.

With many large organisations experiencing financial hits as a result of the pandemic, the demand for strong management of liquidity and financial risks, banking relationships and working capital is essential. 

For global businesses, the Head of Treasury ensures multijurisdictional entities are financially compliant with local requirements and remain viable. With economic activity moving from established to emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa, the Head of Treasury plays a key role in using data analytics and insights to enhance the performance of overseas entities.

3. General Counsel.

Salary Range: $325K – $550K

General Counsels for ASX 100 organisations with 7+ years’ experience can expect to earn up to $550K, with in-house roles at smaller organisations averaging $200K, even with only 3 years’ experience.

General Counsels have a key role to play across all organisations in the current climate, ensuring governance models adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Key to mitigating risk, GCs ensure board compliance with regulatory and statutory requirements, even with challenges presented by remote working. 

GCs with strong stakeholder engagement skills, a strategic mindset, strong problem-solving skills and an agile mindset will be critical to ensuring communication lines remain open and ensure a business meets its legal obligations.

2. Chief Operating Officer/EGM.

Salary Range: $250K – $600K

COOs/EGMs in large commercial organisations can earn up to $600K+, whilst median salaries in smaller organisations range from $220K to $355K.

More recently, the COO’s remit has broadened from a focus on building scaled, highly efficient operations to enhancing customer experience. With the pandemic, the COO skill set must now include implementing operational resilience to ensure business continuity and safeguard the organisation from hits to revenue, margin and customer delivery.

COOs with agile and lean qualifications and the ability to use data to make decisions in high ambiguity will have the edge in negotiating higher salaries.

1. Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director.

  Salary Range: $400K – $700K+

CEO/MD salaries reached $700K+ mark in the commercial sector for organisations with $500M+ turnover. For large NFP organisations, salaries sat more within the $500K range.

For smaller commercial businesses with $50M-$500M turnover, the salary bracket ranged from $220K to $700K, and $190K to $530K in the NFP space.

According to the KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook, 79% of CEOs are re-evaluating what good business leadership is in light of COVID-19, shifting to a perspective that balances profits with the needs of stakeholders, namely employees and communities.

With the increased focus on digital innovation and social responsibility, CEOs who can incorporate digital collaboration into standard work practice will be critical in keeping workforces engaged and productive. In addition, CEOs with experience optimising consumer engagement will also be in demand to help businesses adapt to changing customer demands.

CEOs with a track record in building resilience and risk into strategies will also be in high demand. By incorporating strong risk management into strategic planning, companies will be able to manage future disruptions to create businesses robust enough to adapt to future change.
– Irene

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