Whether you are currently a strategy manager, or thinking about becoming one, I think you would agree that it would be really interesting to see an estimate of what your lifetime career earnings might be.
You can use this information to decide whether to become a strategy manager, whether to pursue a different career path, or tactical plans around key times to push your career forward.
Basically, this post provides the ultimate answer to the question: “How much do strategy managers make?”
Not just in one year, but across an entire career.
Let’s get to it.
How to Estimate Career Earnings
Here’s the formula for lifetime career earnings:
Lifetime Career Earnings = Career Length in Years x Average Annual Salary
However, I want to get much more granular than this to see what insights I can expose. Basically, I’m going to break down a strategy manager's entire career into stages and add up the average salary for each stage. I’ll do this by answering a series of questions:
- How long does the average strategy career last?
- What is the typical career progression for a strategy manager?
- What is the average salary at each stage of the typical career progression?
I’ll be working with assumptions here and using estimates of salaries based on surveys from major cities of the United States. All in US dollars. This exercise is a thought experiment that you can take and run for yourself in your own market.
Let’s start breaking it down.
Strategy Manager Career Length
Strategy managers work for large corporations helping them to make choices around which markets to operate in and how to compete in those markets. The core skill sets are problem solving, communication and stakeholder management.
Because large corporations will always exist, there will always be demand for executives with problem solving, communication and stakeholder management skills. Not to mention the experience and industry knowledge that strategy managers pick up through their roles. So it is safe to say that strategy managers will always be able to find a job, as long as they want to.
I’m going to assume that a strategy manager's career lasts into their 60’s, broken down into 10-year segments as follows:
- 20-30 years old
- 30-40 years old
- 40-50 years old
- 50-60 years old
- 60+ years old
I have chosen ten-year windows as they neatly map to the career progressions possible for a strategy manager that I discuss in the next section.
Strategy Manager Career Progression
There are many different paths that a strategy manager can take. That’s because it's a valuable skill set that is flexible and can be applied to many different roles in many different domains. However, I strongly believe that the most common strategy manager career progression is as follows:
- 20-30: Graduate to Strategy Manager
- 30-40: Strategy Manager to Head of Strategy
- 40-50: Head of Strategy to C-Suite (CEO, COO, CSO, etc.)
- 50-60: Executive career
- 60+: Board roles and consulting
For sure, there are steps within this progression that I have glossed over. The graduate role might be completed at a consulting firm, you might start as a Strategy Associate at first, and the timings will differ from person to person. But as a generalization, it feels right to me.
Now onto what everyone’s been waiting for, salaries.
Strategy Manager Salaries
Now I have a choice to make.
Strategy manager salaries differ by year, country and industry, to name just three factors. You’re reading this so I’m going to guess that you’re the successful type. Ambitious and always pushing the envelope for more responsibility.
So let’s set our salaries at the upper bands:
- 20-30: $75,000 to $125,000
- 30-40: $125,000 to $325,000
- 40-50: $325,000 to $475,000
- 50-60: $475,000 to $725,000
- 60+: $250,000
These salaries are based on observations from online salary aggregators and a little bit of professional judgment. I’ll take the midpoint of each range as our estimate, which assumes a nice linear progression through the pay bands.
Only one thing left to do now.
Strategy Manager Total Career Earnings
That leaves us with a simple math problem, the number of years in the time segment multiplied by the midpoint salary (I’ll assume retirement at 70 years old). The totals for each age segment come out as follows:
- 20-30: $1,000,000
- 30-40: $2,250,000
- 40-50: $4,000,000
- 50-60: $6,000,000
- 60+: $2,500,000
- Total: $15,750,000
There we have it, the estimated lifetime career earnings for a strategy manager is: $15,750,000.
Remember, this is a successful strategy manager as they progress throughout their career. So it’s the upper bound estimate, which I think is interesting by itself. Maybe it’s not as much as you thought it would be. This is a successful career after all. Plus, you’ll need to pay your taxes from this income and only what you have is left for spending, saving and donating.
But what if you’re thinking about building your career at the Strategy Manager to Head of Strategy level, and not progressing into the executive ranks? Well, then you’re looking at lifetime career earnings of $10 million. That’s 10-years at a $100,000 average and 40-years at an average salary of $225,000.
I think this scenario is really interesting because pushing on to an executive role, with all the hard work and stress, only leads to a $5.75 million increase in total earnings.
- The total lifetime career earnings on a strategy manager career path is $15.75 million, before tax. If your goal is to become a billionaire, then you need to consider a different path.
- Just 6% of lifetime earnings come before the age of 30. The majority, or 63%, of salary is earned from the ages of 40 to 60. This finding gives weight to the common advice that the early years of your career are about developing yourself and building the skills and relationships that set you up for the rest of your career.
- The most important time to accelerate your salary is after the age of 30. But to justify making the effort to move into executive roles means you need to believe that there is a bigger opportunity to share in the upside, perhaps through performance bonuses or share options.