In the corporate hierarchy, the senior vice president (SVP) is considered one of the members of upper management. Often, this is a person of great influence in an organization who is stationed at the corporate headquarters and is usually in charge of an entire division or department. He or she is usually appointed by the head of the organization, either a CEO or president, but could also be appointed by the board of directors or confirmed by the board of directors.
In most cases, this senior employee will often have a long form of the title, noting his or her area of direct responsibility. For example, this executive could be called the senior vice president of product development or any one of a number of other titles, depending on the business involved. While this will denote the specific area of expertise, this individual will also be responsible for contributing ideas and thoughts to meetings of senior management. The role is a very high profile one, and one that often gets the brunt of the blame when things go wrong.
A senior vice president will often have say outside his or her specific area of expertise. In senior management meetings, the overall goal is usually to come up with a cohesive and comprehensive strategy that will keep all departments or divisions moving in the same general direction. Once that direction is set, it will then be up to the vice president to implement a more specific strategy for the department.
For the most part, the training for this position can be very extensive. Most have some sort of advanced graduate degree in an area related to the business, or at least have spent many decades working their way up through the company's corporate structure. Often, at this point, performance is more important than education. In cases where there are two candidates of nearly equal experience, however, education can play a role in who gets the final nod.
Many senior vice presidents may find that such as position is the pinnacle of their career. A few may move on into the role of president of the company or of another organization. The tenure and salary that comes with this position is often attractive enough to keep individuals from wanting to stray too much, however. This is one reason, outside of a company emergency or scandal, that turnover in the position is so low.