Business and technology are inextricably linked – and increasing in complexity, as well. Chief information officers, who are responsible for an organization’s technology-related strategies and policies, are becoming more essential to organizations around the globe, from Fortune 500 firms to smaller companies and government agencies.

Climbing the ladder to a chief information officer (CIO) career can begin with enrolling in a Master of Science in Information Technology degree program.

Job Outlook for Chief Information Officers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of top executives such as CIOs will rise steadily in coming years, with a projected growth rate of 11% between 2012 and 2022. Growth will occur as business-technology needs become more complex in a global environment.

Competition for these high-level positions will be keen; those with specialized knowledge, experience and advanced degrees should have better job prospects.

Job Duties

By analyzing how an organization operates, a chief information officer can effectively plan for its technology needs. These executives typically oversee the IT department, and development of projects and programming to advance corporate objectives.

As a senior-level executive, a CIO sets the overall direction for technology through strategic planning and evaluation. He or she provides leadership, planning oversight and management for all areas of IT strategy, development and implementation. Depending on the industry, this could include voice and data communications, academic technology, administrative systems, financial technology, training, user support and IT security systems.

In many organizations, chief information officers also coordinate the development of information technology activities and services, and lead the IT team. In this capacity, they are often responsible for recruiting, hiring, developing and supervising staff. These executives are also often responsible for establishing and monitoring departmental budgets.

Additional activities for a CIO can include:

  • Evaluating overall information technology operations
  • Overseeing the design and implementation of new applications, and changes to existing computer systems and software
  • Evaluating and procuring new hardware and software to meet company needs

Often, the chief information officer will review and approve vendor proposals and contracts, as well.

As cyber threats become more prevalent, an increasingly important aspect of the CIO’s job is information systems security. While overseeing the development and maintenance of a company’s databases, they are also responsible for keeping them secure. Keeping up with web threats, viruses and hacker activity is becoming more vital to organizational viability, and depending on the size of the company, could require an entire department or division under the chief information officer.

Potential Salary

The average annual salary for chief information officers and other top executives nationwide was $178,400 as of May 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, a 2015 Salary Guide published by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology reported that annual starting salaries for chief information officers in the United States range from $157,700 to $262,500, an increase of almost 5% over the 2014 range.

Prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research on salary and employment potential in this field, as factors such as work experience and educational qualifications may impact opportunities.

Education and Training Requirements

Top executives come from a wide range of educational and work experiences depending on their specific industry. Chief information officer positions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree and extensive experience. Many employers show preference to candidates with advanced information technology training and education, including master’s degrees.

A Master of Science in Information Technology degree program may provide the high degree of business knowledge required to secure a career as a CIO. Coursework typically includes global information technology management, introduction to information security management, project management for information technology and database systems management.

Professionals who have earned an MS in Information Technology should be able to:

  • Develop information systems tools to help businesses succeed in a global environment
  • Adapt new and emerging technologies to solve real-world business problems
  • Demonstrate leadership skills to lead teams and develop solutions
  • Manage complex technology projects from inception to completion

Setting your Sights on a Career as a Chief Information Officer?

To join the executive suite in most firms, you’ll need to demonstrate proven leadership and managerial skills. You’ll also need the ability to communicate to all levels of stakeholders and work with all departments in an organization. Strong business skills and personal integrity, along with experience in information technology operations, can position you for success.

With these skills, plus the respected credential of a Master of Science in Information Technology degree, you could be on your way to a chief information officer career.

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