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Chief Information Officer Career


What is a CIO?


CIOs, or chief information officers, are company executives who oversee the technological side of carrying out their company’s goals. They combine their expertise in information technology with their business and managerial skills to drive their business forward. 

Their job is to focus on the organization itself, making sure the company’s technological infrastructure is being used efficiently and effectively. But forward-thinking CIOs should also be aware of customer needs, new technological developments, and market trends.

Some companies have a CIO and a head of IT department. In these cases, the head of IT will most likely focus on day-to-day operations while the CIO will spend more time addressing the company’s strategic and business concerns.


What Does a CIO Do?

The exact nature of a CIO’s work will vary from company to company. Here are some of the things that a typical CIO would be expected to do:

  • Manage the IT department. Nearly all companies rely on technology to run effectively, and the most competitive companies stay on the cutting edge of computing technology. So, one of the most important jobs for a CIO is ensuring a company’s technological infrastructure is meeting the company’s needs. This involves working with the IT department personnel to keep work running smoothly, analyzing company technology to increase efficiency, and adopting new technologies as required.
  • Lead IT-based projects. Any IT-based projects in the company require the expertise of a tech-savvy executive who can take charge and guarantee things are running like a well-oiled machine.
  • Executive decision-making. The CIO’s job involves working closely with the other executives to achieve their goals. A CIO uses their technological expertise and their knowledge of IT to coordinate company strategy with the CEO.


How to Become a CIO?

Becoming a CIO requires a combination of education, experience, and ambition. There are many different ways to achieve your goal, but the following steps should help you get to the top.

Step One: Earn a bachelor’s degree

You’ll want to start by getting a bachelor’s degree in a related field. A CIO needs expertise in computers and IT, so a bachelor’s degree of this kind is a prudent first step. In an IT focused bachelor’s degree program, you’ll learn important coding languages, operating systems, infrastructure, and more. This bachelor’s degree is crucial in helping you land entry-level IT jobs and move up the ladder. You’ll need lots of IT experience in order to move forward into CIO positions.

Step Two: Earn a master’s degree in IT management

Your education shouldn’t stop with a bachelor’s degree, though. After getting some experience, you’ll want to take the next step in your career by pursuing additional education.

A good CIO needs to have additional skills and experience that will help push them to the top of the organizational ladder. A master’s degree in IT management can give you crucial leadership skills that will prepare you for this career role. Similarly, a master’s degree in cybersecurity and information management can help you understand the typical programs an organization may face and will prepare you for how to handle these strategic needs. These types of programs will teach you the crucial business management skills that you’ll need to run the IT side of a company.

Step Three: Hone your leadership skills

Of course, it takes years of hard work to climb the ranks in any company. If your goal is becoming a CIO, then you’ll need to use that time to work on your management and leadership skills. CIOs will be expected to have years of leadership and managerial experience under their belts. So look for opportunities to get that wherever and whenever you can.

Step Four: Gain management experience 

You’ll also want to gain specific managerial experience in an IT department. A CIO needs to understand how to direct workflow and increase efficiency within an IT department. Plus it helps to develop the interpersonal skills required for taking up an executive position in the company.

Step Five: Stay on top of developments in IT

A good CIO is future-oriented. That means you need to stay aware of the latest developments in the field. Stay up-to-date, talk to leaders in the tech industry, and always keep learning. Top executives are often voracious leaders and avid learners; it’s what's needed to stay current in the dynamic field of IT.

Step Six: Be patient and work hard

But don’t expect to become a CIO overnight. It can take years of hard work and require years of experience before you get a shot at advancing to the rank of CIO.

Best Degrees for a CIO


Accelerated Information Technology Bachelor's and Master's Degree

Earn both your bachelor’s in IT and master’s in IT management at a faster...

Earn both your bachelor’s in IT and master’s in IT management at a faster pace with fewer courses.

  • Time: Approximately 5 years.
  • Tuition: $3,735 per 6-month term for the bachelor's degree; $3,940 per term for the master's portion.
  • Courses: 42 total courses in this program.

Certifications included in this program at no additional cost:

  • CompTIA A+ 
  • CompTIA Network+ 
  • CompTIA Security+ 
  • CompTIA IT Operations Specialist
  • CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist 
  • Amazon AWS Cloud Practitioner
  • ITIL®*^ Foundation Certification
  • LPI Linux Essentials

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Scripting and programming
  • Networking and security
  • Systems and services
  • Data management
  • Business of IT

This program allows students to earn their bachelor's degree in IT and move directly into a master's degree in IT management, cutting down on the total number of courses to complete.


Information Technology Management – M.S.

A degree for experienced IT professionals ready to lead....

A degree for experienced IT professionals ready to lead.

  • Time: 60% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $3,940 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 10 total courses in this program.

Included in your program—at no extra cost—is the opportunity to earn the valuable PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification.

  • Technology operations and integration
  • Sourcing and planning
  • Risks and influence
  • Solutions development
  • Project management

Maximize the opportunities that your IT career path has afforded you—earn your master's and keep moving up. 


Cybersecurity and Information Assurance – M.S.

Become the authority on keeping infrastructures and information safe....

Become the authority on keeping infrastructures and information safe.

  • Time: 63% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $4,555 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 9 total courses in this program.

Certifications in this program at no additional cost include:

  • CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
  • CompTIA PenTest+
  • CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) Optional Voucher
  • ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) Optional Voucher
  • (ISC)² Certified in Cybersecurity (CC)

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Cybersecurity Strategy
  • Information Assurance
  • Incident Response
  • Penetration Testing

The curriculum is closely aligned with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Workforce Framework. The program was designed in collaboration with national intelligence organizations and IT industry leaders, ensuring you'll learn emerging technologies and best practices in security governance.

How Much Does a CIO Make?


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for all Computer Information and Systems Managers was $164,070 per year in the United States area. As one of the C-suite positions—a class of executive positions that includes the Chief Executive Officer—a CIO can expect to have one of the highest salaries in a company.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


In the United States, the field of computer information and systems managers is projected to grow about 15% from 2022 to 2032. No surprise there—with companies increasingly relying on technology for day-to-day operations, they’ll need skilled executives capable of using technology to reach their goals.


What Skills Does a CIO Need?

A good CIO combines their technological expertise with sharp analytical and interpersonal skills, not to mention a strong background in computer science and IT. And as an executive-level member of the company, strong leadership and interpersonal skills are necessary tools for managing and organizing company workflow. The following skills and areas of expertise are necessary:

  • Computer science and technology expertise
  • Firm leadership
  • Excellent management skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Clear communication skills

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Interested in Becoming a CIO?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.