In the U.S., the median worker's salary for the fourth quarter of 2022 was $1,085 per week, or $56,420 per year. By contrast, the country's 12 highest paid chief executive officers (CEOs) earn several times more in one minute than the average worker earns in a week. The CEO at the top of the list, Elon Musk, earned almost $81,000 in every minute of the 40-hour workweek in 2021.

The table below highlights 12 highly compensated top CEOs in 2021, along with where they work and how much they get paid (figures for 2022 are expected to be released in August).

Data source: Bloomberg.
Rank Name Company Total Annual Compensation (2021)
1 Elon Musk Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) $10.077 billion
2 Robert Scaringe Rivian Automotive (NASDAQ:RIVN) $2.289 billion
3 Tim Cook Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) $853 million
4 Peter Rawlinson Lucid (NASDAQ:LCID) $575 million
5 Tom Siebel (NYSE:AI) $343 million
6 Sue Nabi Coty (NYSE:COTY) $283 million
7 Joe Bae (co-CEO) KKR (NYSE:KKR) $279 million
8 Tomer Weingarten SentinelOne (NYSE:S) $275 million
9 Alex Karp Palantir Technologies (NYSE:PLTR) $264 million
10 Sid Sijbrandij GitLab (NASDAQ:GTLB) $263 million

1. Elon Musk: $10 billion

Musk is the quirky CEO of electric car company Tesla. And, as if leading Tesla doesn't keep him busy, Musk also holds CEO roles at Twitter and SpaceX. Musk's 2021 compensation from Tesla totaled more than $10 billion.

Musk has been the top-earning U.S. executive for four years running even though he does not collect a salary from Tesla. Instead, he earns stock options when the company reaches certain market capitalization and growth milestones. The options allow Musk to buy Tesla stock for far less than the going rate.

Before Tesla's 3-for-1 stock split in 2022, CNN reported that Musk's options allowed him to buy Tesla shares for about $70 each. Generally, when stocks split, options contracts are adjusted so that the contract owner is unaffected by the split. A 3-for-1 adjustment on $70 would bring Musk's share price down to about $23. As of February, 2023, Tesla shares are trading for about $208.

The performance-based arrangement has been a sweet deal for Musk, whose net worth of $194 billion earns him the title of the world's second-richest man.

2. Robert Scaringe: $2 billion

Scaringe is CEO of EV maker and Tesla competitor Rivian Automotive. Rivian has two all-electric models. The R1T is a pickup truck and the R1S is an SUV.

Scaringe was the only exec besides Musk to break into the billions in 2021. He earned a healthy salary of $650,000, plus perks valued at $126,000. Options awards valued at more than $2.2 billion were the real payoff for the CEO, though.

3. Tim Cook: $853 million

Tim Cook, Apple CEO, waves in front of black background on stage.
Image source: Apple.

Cook assumed the CEO role at Apple in 2011 after Steve Jobs died. He has been a fixture on highest-paid CEO lists for several years.

Cook's total annual compensation in 2021 was about $853 million. Most people would love his $3 million CEO salary, but the amount pales next to his $12 million bonus and $837 million in stock awards.

4. Peter Rawlinson: $575 million

Rawlinson is CEO and CTO of Lucid Motors, another Tesla competitor. Lucid makes a luxury EV that first hit the road in 2021.

The company paid Rawlinson a salary of $529,000 in 2021. He also took home a $2.4 million bonus, $6.57 million in perks, and $566 million in stock awards.

5. Tom Siebel: $344 million

Tom Siebel is CEO of enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) software provider More companies are using AI-powered data analysis to find operational efficiencies, deepen their understanding of customer buying behaviors, identify market opportunities, and make better business decisions.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is the use of machines to mimic human intelligence.

Siebel's compensation package consists almost entirely of option awards. He earned a token $5,646 in salary in 2021, plus $344 million in options.

It's worth noting that the company has said it doesn't agree with this valuation of Siebel's options awards. Bloomberg calculated the $344 million value based on the stock price at the end of fiscal 2021, but the stock has dipped more than 50% since then.

6. Sue Nabi: $283 million

Nabi, the only female on our list, runs beauty company Coty, which makes and sells cosmetics, hair and body products, and fragrances.

The last time a woman appeared in the top 10 for CEO compensation was in 2016, when former IBM (IBM 0.04%) CEO Virginia Rometty earned $96 million. Rometty retired from IBM in 2020.

Nabi's total comp package of $283 million consisted of a $3.55 million salary, perks valued at $42,000, and $280 million in stock. The company reports that she has not yet collected the stock awards -- they vest over three years.

Nabi stepped in as CEO in September of 2020, when Coty stock was trading for about $7.50. As of February 2023, the beauty company's stock had risen to $11.

7. Joe Bae: $279 million

Bae is co-CEO of KKR, a private equity firm. Bae shares the post with Scott Nuttall, who is also on the highest-paid list.

In 2021, Bae earned a salary of $300,000 and a bonus of $24.7 million. He also reported more than $58 million in perks and $196 million in stock awards.

8. Tomer Weingarten: $275 million

Weingarten is CEO of SentinelOne, maker of cybsecurity software.

Between salary and bonus, Weingarten earned about $1 million in cash in 2021. His compensation package also included $275 million in options. The option awards are contingent upon reaching certain performance milestones over several years, however.

9. Alex Karp: $264 million

Karp runs Palantir Technologies, which makes AI-powered data analytics software. Unconfirmed reports say the company's Gotham platform played a role in finding Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Karp was on the previous year's highest paid list with total compensation of $369 million. He took a pay cut in 2021, earning just $264 million. That included $71 million in stock awards and $189 million in options, plus a sweet $1.1 million salary.

10. Sid Sijbrandij: $263 million

Sijbrandij is CEO of GitLab. GitLab provides a software development platform its customers use to collaborate and build applications.

Sijbrandij's compensation package worth $263 million is enviable, but none of it came in the form of cold, hard cash. Sijbrandij earned $192 million in stock awards and $71 million in option awards.

11. Alex Rodrigues: $252 million

Rodrigues is CEO of Embark Technologies, maker of autonomous trucking software.

Like others on our list, Rodrigues' comp package is performance-based. He did earn a salary of $180,000 to go with $252 million in stock awards.

Rodrigues likely did not earn performance-based awards last year. In January 2022, Embark stock traded for about $135 per share. Today, it's less than $5. The numbers reflect a 1-for-20 reverse stock split in August 2022.

12. Scott Nuttall: $233 million

Nuttall shares the CEO post at KKR with Bae, No. 7 on this list. Nuttall makes the same $300,000 salary and $24.7 million bonus as Bae. His stock awards for the year, however, came in lower than Bae's at $152 million.

What about highly paid women CEOs?

Note the lack of diversity in the above list: The highly paid CEOs are mostly white men. There is only one woman, and no Black CEOs among the country's highest paid corporate leadership.

A broader view of the data reveals much of the same. Among the top 100 highest paid U.S. executives, there are seven women. That elite group includes Walgreens Boots Alliance (NYSE:WBA) CEO Rosalind Brewer, who became only the third Black woman to run a Fortune 500 company in 2021. Brewer's comp package that year was about $28 million, just a shade more than the bonuses earned by both of KKR's CEOs.

Other top women execs include UPS (UPS -0.28%) CEO Carol Tomé, General Dynamics (GD 1.11%) CEO Phebe Novakovic, and Accenture (ACN -1.43%) Chair and CEO Julie Sweet.

Other highly paid CEOs

In the nonprofit sector, well compensated CEOs don't make hundreds of millions -- but some bring home several million annually. Chris Cox, former executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, for example, earned more than $6 million in 2021. Unfortunately for Cox, more than half of that sum went for payments made directly to his attorneys in a litigation settlement.

Scott Kozin, Chief of Staff for Shriners Hospital for Children, earned $3.7 million in 2021, which included $2.8 million paid into his retirement account. City of Hope and Affiliates President and CEO Robert Stone took home $3.2 million.

There are also highly paid women CEOs in the nonprofit sector -- some earning more than their male counterparts. Viviane Tabar, chairman attending neurosurgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, had a reported 2020 compensation package of $4.8 million. American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown earned $2.2 million for the fiscal year ending in June, 2021. And Dana-Farber Cancer Institute President and CEO Laurie H. Glimcher was close behind with a comp package worth $2 million.

Catherine Brock has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Accenture Plc, Apple, GitLab, KKR, Palantir Technologies, and Tesla. The Motley Fool recommends, International Business Machines, and United Parcel Service and recommends the following options: long January 2025 $290 calls on Accenture Plc and short January 2025 $310 calls on Accenture Plc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.