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Become a CIO: Be a Leader in Technology

By Candice Mancini
Published on December 18, 2009.

Job Duties

A Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a member of an organization's executive team, along with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The CIO is in charge of an organization's use and management of information and technology. Specifically, the CIO:

  • Proposes budgets for technology-related projects, equipment, and programs
  • Hires and supervises computer specialists, information technology employees, and support personnel
  • Assigns the above-mentioned employees to specific projects
  • Establishes administrative procedures and policies for the organization's technology department

As with other senior executive jobs, the CIO's job can be demanding, often requiring long work hours and big responsibilities. In smaller organizations, one senior executive often completes the tasks of CIO, CEO, and CFO, but in large organizations, these positions are most often separate.

Job Skills

As one of the heads of an organization, the CIO is expected to possess many exceptional skills. In essence, the CIO must be highly advanced in her knowledge of technology, business intelligence, and management skills. Other skills required of CIOs include:

  • Excellent oral & written communication skills
  • Highly organized strategic thinking skills
  • A solid understanding of technology trends and market forces
  • A thorough understanding of business processes, operations, and strategy
  • The ability to apply an understanding of technology to business
  • Leadership, managerial, and motivation skills
  • Self confidence and confidence in other professionals
  • A gift for decision-making, negotiation, and sales
  • An understanding of business finance


Incomes for CIOs vary widely, depending on size and type of employer. CIOs' incomes often includes salary, bonus, stocks or stock options. Other benefits, such as club memberships, car allowances, and possibly a company plane, could be included in compensation packages of an elite number of CIOs.

While some CIOs enjoy such lucrative packages and million dollar salaries, the 2008 average annual salary of CIOs was between $126,750 and $210,000, says the magazine CIO Insight. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this places salaries of CIOs on the same plane as CEOs, whose median income was $158,000 in 2008. The difference, though, is in the highest brackets, as the highest paid CEOs make an excess of $100 million a year. But the CIO's income is less dependent upon the company's financial performance. And according to the magazine CIO, companies with $1 billion or more in revenue pay CIOs a reported average salary of $344,400.

Training and Education

According to the BLS, many senior executives have bachelor's or graduate degrees in business administration, liberal arts, or a discipline specific to their jobs. For CIOs, a background in technology is required, as is a solid understanding of business practices. Therefore, CIOs come from diverse educational backgrounds.

Some CIOs may have earned undergraduate or graduate degrees in computer science, information technology, or related computer/technology fields. Others may have degrees in business. A good path to the job is in earning an MBA with a core focus on technology. Having obtained technical certifications, such as the CompTIA Aplus (A+) certification, is often required.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 2 million top executives, including CIOs, working in the U.S. in 2008. Their employers included private businesses and federal, state and local governments.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of all top executives is expected to grow slowly, with an anticipated growth of 2 percent between 2006 and 2016. Therefore, keen competition is expected. The BLS states that experienced managers with proven excellent leadership skills and business understanding will have the best job options.

For CIOs, those with the strongest backgrounds in technology and business leadership should be most employable. Those who gain many years of work experience in business-IT, such as network security administrator, data security analyst, and business continuity analyst, and who also display the skills above, should also stand out to employers.

About the Author
Candice Mancini is a freelance writer and a teacher of AP English literature and college writing. She has an M.A. in Education and a B.A. in English and history.
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