Do You Have What it Takes to Become a CIO?
March 18, 2021
If you've found yourself wondering "how do I become a CIO?" you're not alone. The highly-coveted executive position has become increasingly important in today's tech-centric and competitive business world.
In an industry that embodies the nature of the ever-changing world we live in, CIOs and their roles continue to adapt to the changing face of modern business and technology.
But just what does it take to become the Chief Information Officer of a company?
What is a Chief Information Officer?
CIO’s are a big part of strategic planning and execution for a company. CIO’s need to be comfortable with having a high level of responsibility in an organization. Meredith Ruble, CFO at The Noodle Companies
Chief Information Officers are responsible for maintaining high levels of technical and business knowledge while serving as the leader of a company's IT staff and projects. They strive to achieve and exceed the goals defined by executives in relation to the IT team as a whole through the use of technology and computer systems.
CIOs are required to manage IT resources, as well as work to develop technology-related plans that enhance the overall goals and mission of the company. This requires them to possess a deep working knowledge of technology trends and advancements in order to maintain a competitive edge.
Skills & Experience Required to Thrive as a CIO
The career path to becoming a CIO usually involves an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related field. Graduates then gain experience through entry-level IT or management jobs before working their way up the chain towards the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO). This is usually when people choose to pursue an MBA to become more attractive for a position in IT management. On average, businesses usually require about 15 years of experience, along with an MBA, for the position of a CIO.
To competently operate as a CIO, it is important to possess a well-balanced mix of business and technology-related skills. To be a competitive candidate, you should have strong skills in areas such as leadership, strategic planning, software development management, project management, mobile computing, big data analytics, and business and financial acumen.
To maintain a competitive edge whether you're looking to be a CIO one day or already are, it is suggested that you refresh your skills often by engaging in training and development programs. This will help you earn more credibility and stay ahead of your competitors in a rapidly-changing industry.
A CIO in the Making - Education & Training
The educational pathway and training requirements needed to become a CIO can vary from organization to organization. However, it is often preferred that a CIO possess an advanced degree, usually an MBA, due to the nature of the role requiring complex work with IT budgets and processes.
Many CIOs have an MBA with a concentration in a subject like Information Systems & Technology or Information Technology Management. Courses in these degrees are often business-related, as well as tech-focused, and will feature courses on computer security and data management systems.
A Masters in Information Systems & Technology (MSIS) can help prepare you for the role of a CIO by increasing your mastery of technical and managerial skills. A good program should allow you to gain hands-on experience in information technology and systems, as well as IT management systems and strategies, while offering cutting-edge technology courses.
A CIO often works their way up the traditional IT hierarchy of a company before becoming an executive. Along with experience and hard work, most CIOs have demonstrated a high level of technical competency, industry knowledge and communication skills.
Overall, any great CIO should possess the ability to lead a team of IT professionals while having a deep understanding of the internal intricacies of IT and the function of the team within an organization. Which Companies Look for CIOs?
CIO.com notes that finding a candidate for Chief Information Officer with the perfect mixture of tech skills and problem-solving abilities is one of the biggest difficulties companies face in 2018. While cybersecurity skills are in high demand, so are high-value, proactive leaders.
Harley Lippman, founder and CEO of IT staffing firm Genesis10, noted that "the challenge is not only finding individuals with the skills but people who can connect the dots to create business impact." This means that CIOs are currently being hired to connect the gap between business and technology, and positions will go to those who can demonstrate a mastery of emerging tech with business sense. An extensive review of Glassdoor yields the idea that healthcare-related industries are currently hiring the highest percentage of CIOs in today's market, followed by government agencies such as the Navy, Department of Defense and state Commonwealth organizations.
Chief Information Officer Salary, Earnings & Job Growth
The average salary for a Chief Information Officer is currently about $150,000 a year, according to PayScale, with the lower end sitting at about $88,000 before bonuses and profit-sharing benefits. Payscale noted higher earners for CIOs in cities such as Miami, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, with the highest paid CIOs residing in Los Angeles (receiving an average yearly salary of about $220,000). Minneapolis, Boston and Seattle follow closely with average yearly salaries of $207,000, $199,000 and $198,000, respectively.
Due to the fact that organizations are relying more heavily on computer systems and information technology, the demand for skilled workers in IT, as well as managers, to lead IT teams has increased dramatically in recent years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the market for computer and information systems management will grow 15% by 2024, signaling an increasing demand for highly-qualified and skilled executives who can lead a team in both business and technology.