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Chief Technology Officer Career


What is a CTO?


A chief technology officer (CTO) is a top executive that oversees the entire information technology department and is responsible for integrating business needs and requirements into IT planning and operations. It’s important to distinguish their role from that of chief information officers (CIOs), whose job description focuses on the technologies that run a business internally by managing its infrastructure.

Chief technology officers have a job description that focuses on creating technology to sell to customers and growing the business externally. CTOs and CIOs often work together to combine their technical and engineering knowledge for the benefit of the whole company.


What Does a CTO Do?

At companies big and small, chief technology officers take the lead on all technological decisions and usually report directly to the CEO, CIO, or another C-level executive. Their primary responsibility is to understand and implement technologies that help the company achieve its business goals and objectives.

All CTOs are likely to have the following responsibilities in common:

  • Leading technology teams in everyday operations.
  • Creating technology strategies for the development of an organization.
  • Monitoring management of all hardware, software, databases, and licenses.
  • Determining when a company’s systems and technology need to be updated.
  • Reviewing products or systems to determine their potential value to the company. 
  • Guiding strategic business decisions and resources allocation.
  • Staying abreast of digital trends and understanding how they can impact business.
  • Ensuring technological processes follow federal guidelines for privacy and security.
  • Reporting to the CIO or CEO about engineering success, software needs, and more.


How do I Become a Chief Technology Officer?

As with any executive position, it takes a great deal of time and work experience to become a CTO. An online bachelor's degree in business or IT is a great starting point. From there, you may want to pursue an MBA in IT, an M.S. in Technology Management, or an M.S. in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance to prepare for the business responsibilities that come with the role. A master’s degree will also put you at a competitive advantage. While a bachelor’s in IT covers the basics (such as math, software design, and programming basics). Most CTOs have a master’s degree, so if you want to prepare for this position, it’s best to obtain as much education as possible.

Best Degrees for a Chief Technology Officer


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.


MBA Information Technology Management

Earn the online college degree that can move your career into IT upper...

Earn the online college degree that can move your career into IT upper management:

  • Time: Graduates can finish in 12 months
  • Tuition: $4,755 per 6-month term
  • Courses: 11 total courses in this program

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Management
  • Project Management
  • Leadership
  • Innovation
  • Communications
  • Information Systems Security

Learn to navigate emergencies, execute strategies, and optimize systems with the competencies within this specialty MBA.


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. 

How Much Does a CTO Make?


According to PayScale, the average annual base salary for a CTO in 2021 is over $173,227. The same source shows the top 10% of chief technology officers can make over $256,000. CTO salaries obviously depend on an organization’s revenue but are also determined by an individual’s degree of knowledge in the following key areas: software architecture, IT management, strategic business management, project management. The more experience a CTO has in these areas, the bigger the paycheck. 

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the number of top executive positions, including CTO positions, to increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030 which means there will be more than 209,500 projected new jobs with this title over that period.


What Skills Does a CTO Need?

Chief technology officers should be skilled in a number of different areas. When you read a job description for a CTO, it’s not uncommon for it to mention these different skills and competencies. 

  • Infrastructure command. A chief technology officer should be skilled at managing the company’s overall technology roadmap, overseeing the process of implementing new technologies, maintaining networks, and securing data. 

  • Technology planning. Technology changes almost overnight, meaning businesses must be proactive to stay ahead of the curve. A chief technology officer's job responsibility is to cull through the new technologies and decide which of them best align with company goals. 

  • Consumer-focused strategy. The chief technology officer's job is often to understand the company’s target demographics and set technical projects in motion that best support a positive customer experience. 

  • Critical thinking  A CTO should be engaged in thought leadership where possible. A CTO who has a specialized understanding of technology trends and target markets and harnesses this knowledge to inform the development of corporate strategy is set up for success.

  • Business fluency. Fluency in finance, business modeling, and project management is crucial to the success of CTOs. Since they lead organizations by developing and implementing strategies, they must have a solid understanding of their company’s business needs to support them in these efforts. 

  • Communication. Successful CTOs communicate clearly with all members of the organization and are open to feedback on how products and processes can be improved. IT employees and executives alike look to them for their guidance on technology strategy and direction. 

  • Decision-making. CTOs make decisions on multiple factors that support the company’s business goals—from purchasing new technologies to implementing cost-cutting measures to changing vendors or outsourcing services. 

  • Leadership. The best CTOs have the confidence to lead multiple teams and motivate them toward a shared goal. They know that this helps drive efficiency. Successful CTOs also know how to delegate responsibilities and serve as a mentor when needed.  

  • Organization. CTOs typically manage several departments, ranging from network infrastructure to help desk support to security, ensuring that each department is staffed with the right expertise and works cohesively with one another.

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No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

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Interested in Becoming a CTO?

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