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How to Become a CIO

This article provides an overview of CIO careers and the requirements to become a CIO. This article will outline a CIO's job duties, salary levels, and employment prospects, as well as discuss the necessary skills, training, educational requirements, and certification requirements.

Computers Technology

CIO Job Duties

A chief information officer (CIO) may be known by many titles, such as CIO, CIO and vice president, chief technical officer (CTO), vice president or director of information technology. Whatever the title, a CIO is responsible for the direction and operations of an organization's information technology department.

Most CIOs are considered to be part of an organization's senior management team, and may be corporate officers. CIOs typically report to an organization's chief executive officer (CEO), followed closely by the chief financial officer (CFO). Where a CIO reports reflects the relative importance that an organization places upon information technology.

The job duties of a CIO can include:

  • Participating in an organization's strategic business planning processes
  • Setting overall technology direction and goals in support of business operations and strategic directions
  • Delivering technology applications and infrastructure to support business operations
  • Procuring and/or development of technology applications to support business operations
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  • Managing people
  • Managing important vendor relationships
  • Managing business operations
  • Planning and managing substantial budgets
  • Researching and staying abreast of the latest technology trends
  • Researching and staying abreast of the latest industry trends
  • Evaluating technology
  • Attending business and technology conferences

As with any senior executive job, the CIO's job can be very demanding. Long hours, including evenings and weekends, and frequent travel, can be a normal part of the job.

CIO Job Skills

As a senior executive, a CIO may be expected to have a broad and varied range of skills. These include:

  • Effective communications skills
  • Strategic thinking and planning skills
  • Understanding business processes and operations
  • Understanding business strategy
  • Understanding technology trends and market forces
  • Understanding how to apply technology to business processes, operations, and strategy
  • Leadership and motivation skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Managerial skills
  • Basic business skills and judgement
  • Ability to assimilate and evaluate large amounts of information
  • Decision making skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Financial management skills
  • Sales Skills
  • Thorough knowledge of technology operations
  • Technology proficiency
  • Political skills

CIO Income

CIO pay may vary greatly depending on the size and type of organization, the scope of their responsibility, and the importance of information technology to their organization. CIO compensation often consists of base salary, bonus, and in many cases, stock or stock options. Other benefits enjoyed by top executives may also be part of their compensation package.

Some CIOs make in excess of $1 million per year in total compensation. Average income for CIOs is, however, around $180,000, as reported in a 2004 CIO Research Report from CIO magazine. That same State of the CIO survey indicated that CIOs in the education industry made the least, while CIOs in the wholesale/retail/distribution, finance, and insurance industries were among the top paid.

CIO compensation in large organizations, can, on average, be $100,000 or more higher per year than compensation for CIOs in small organizations.

Training and Education Required to Become a CIO

The formal education for CIOs can vary greatly. No specific degree is an absolute requirement for CIOs. The vast majority of CIOs, close to seventy five percent, come from information technology backgrounds. Because of this, it is safe to assume that most CIO's have formal training in technology or technology-related fields. Other backgrounds that are common for CIOs are consulting, business operations, and finance/accounting. Most CIOs have a minimum of a bachelors degree, which is true of most top executives. Many have MBAs and other advanced degrees.

Click here for more more information on Business Schools and the programs that they offer, or on the following line for information on schools offering IT training.

Many CIOs may have obtained technical certifications during their career. By the time they have attained the CIO position, these certifications may have lapsed.

CIO Employment

Almost every organization of substantial size may have an individual at a director level or above who is responsible for the organization's information technology direction and operations.

CIO Job Outlook

Because of the high pay and prestige of top management positions, competition for top executive positions such as CIO is very keen. While numerous openings can be expected as executives transfer to other positions, start their own businesses, or retire, many people will be attracted to the available positions.

CIO employment growth can be expected to be about as fast as the average for all occupations through most of the next decade. Certain industries, such as professional services, scientific services, technical services, administrative services, and support services can expect to see faster than average employment growth. Others, such as some manufacturing industries, can expect employment declines.