Would-be executives are always searching for the path to success. Most of the advice they’re given is based on qualitative data, says LinkedIn Economist Guy Berger, so he decided to take a quantitative look at the likelihood of a worker becoming an executive.

Berger and his coauthors analyzed the career paths of LinkedIn members globally who worked at a Top 10 consultancy between 1990 and 2010 and became a VP, CXO or partner at a company with at least 200 employees.

Their analysis found that the probability of becoming an executive is merely 14 percent.

How can a would-be exec up the odds?

  • Working across job functions, like marketing or finance, provides a well-rounded understanding of business operations. Each additional job function provides a boost equal to about three years of work experience.
  • Switching industries has a slight negative impact, however, perhaps because of the learning curve or relationships lost.
  • Having an MBA from a Top 5 program can provide a net boost equivalent to 13 years of work experience. In contrast, a non-top-ranked MBA provides a net boost of only five years.
  • In the U.S., working in New York City increases the chances of becoming an executive, while Houston and Washington, D.C. decrease the chances. Internationally, Mumbai and Singapore provide the greatest boost, while Sao Paulo and Madrid have the most negative effects.
  • While all factors have the same effect regardless of gender, a woman who has the same profile as a man needs an average of 3.5 more years of work experience to reach the same probability of becoming an executive.

The study also details how strong of an effect each factor can have, showing how different choices could have increased one worker’s likelihood of becoming an executive from 15 percent to 81 percent.

For a look at the full study, see “How to Become an Executive.”