The CIO is responsible for the company’s technical direction.
The CIO sets forth the technology goals of the business, then plans and oversees key IT projects – such as budgeting, personnel and equipment procurement – to achieve those goals. As technology becomes more vital to enterprise success, demand is soaring for forward-thinking CIOs who can interpret the company's business needs, then find and implement cutting-edge IT solutions to fill them.
While the experience and education requirements for the Chief Information Officer role vary, universal traits of effective CIOs include an agile strategic mind, strong leadership ability, superior communication skills, and high acumen in both technology and business. While some of these talents are innate, many can be learned and honed with proper training. Compare some of the top-reviewed CIO training programs in the U.S. and online below.
Chief Information Officers come from a range of careers – and not always from IT – so regardless of your current position you can put your name the running. Wherever you get your start, it will take years of hard work, a stellar track record, and maybe even some luck to fulfill your C-Suite aspirations.
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Skills & Responsibilities
Chief Information Officers employ a variety of business, technology, and soft skills to excel in this position. Here are some important day-to-day activities and marketable skills sets of the modern CIO:
- Purchase, deploy, and evaluate the risks of adopting new technologies and computer systems.
- Develop, champion, and enforce short-term and long-term information technology strategy.
- Find IT service vendors and negotiate favorable contracts to cut costs and boost productivity.
- Collaborate with other C-Suite officers and department heads to shape interdepartmental IT policy.
- Track, optimize and enforce short-term and long-term computer and information systems budgets.
- Keep current with emerging IT trends, competitors' tech footing, and the day's dominant technologies.
- Superior soft skills (a.k.a. interpersonal communication skills) - such as negotiation, presentation,
verbal & written communication, relationship building and team development - is central to one's success as CIO.
The path to becoming CIO is long, arduous and extremely competitive. Companies recognize the talent and commitment required to achieve this position, and reward it in kind – the average Chief Information Officer salary is $220,125, placing it squarely atop the highest paying IT careers. Including perks and bonuses, elite CIOs can take home high six-figures or even seven-figures per year in total earnings.
Average salary range for CIOs and related IT management positions:
- Chief Information Officer (CIO): $172,000 - $268,250
- Chief Technology Officer (CTO): $147,500 - $229,000
- Vice President of Technology: $141,000 - $225,000
- Chief Security Officer (CSO): $140,250 - $222,500
- Info Systems Security Manager: $129,750 - $182,000
- Technology Director: $122,750 - $185,000
- Lead Database Manager: $118,000 - $170,500
- Applications Development Manager: $105,750 - $160,500
- Information Technology Manager: $105,750 - $159,000
- Network Manager: $100,000 - $146,750
Source: 2016 IT Salary Guide by Robert Half Technology
Chief Information Officers normally have at least a bachelor’s degree, however many companies prefer CIO candidates with a graduate diploma as well. Desirable college majors for this position include Management Information Systems (MIS), Computer Information Systems (CIS), IT Management and Project Management. But keep in mind that tech chiefs come from a range of disciplines, so a degree in networking, databases, security or another relevant field, combined with the skills and experience your prospective employer is looking for, can serve you just as well.
Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees translate well to C-Suite postings like CIO, as these advanced programs are designed to simulate the business, financial and technology challenges you will face in the real world. Due to the rapid evolution and growing importance of IT in the modern enterprise, MBAs now come in a range of fascinating and sought-after IT concentrations, so make sure to choose one that reflects your passions and interests - this way you graduate prepared to do something you love, even if you don’t end up as CIO.
No matter how fancy your school or diploma, nobody will give you the keys to the kingdom without first proving yourself in the field. Like other C-Suite appointments, candidates typically need a decade or more of relevant experience to be considered for CIO. That said, with the breakneck speed of IT innovation, and a booming start-up culture that's showcasing some serious young talent, I expect the average age (and therefore the experience level) of Chief Information Officers to dip in coming years.
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CIO Job Outlook
According to the latest projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for IT managers and executives is expected to grow by 15% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, only a fraction of these 50,000+ new job openings will be for Chief Information Officer. Traditionally, CIOs are only employed in enterprises and large businesses, and with one slot per company, competition is fierce.
Here are some industry trends you can exploit to improve your chances of becoming CIO:
- In an effort to reduce overhead and boost productivity, enterprises are outsourcing a range of IT services to specialized cloud-based providers. To capitalize on this rapidly growing trend, hone your soft skills in vendor management and contract negotiation, and enhance your working knowledge of cloud computing.
- Many enterprises are making big data analysis a top priority through 2020 and beyond. Prospective CIOs (and really all corporate officers) should be well-versed in business intelligence (BI) tools, techniques and technologies, and be prepared to tell your employer how you can use their hard-earned data to spark a competitive edge.
- Information security, mobile app development and social media are other subjects at the heart of enterprise wish lists. Increase your value by becoming a subject matter expert in one (or more) of these hot IT disciplines.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook v. 2016-2017 | The Wall Street Journal
CIO Job Openings
Your IT management training and experience may qualify you for a range of lucrative roles, including CIO, CTO, Technology Manager, Vice President of IT, and more. Use our job search tool to find and apply to Chief Information Officer jobs on the nation's top job boards: