What Does a Chief Information Officer Do? (With Salary and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 16, 2022

Published December 1, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Chief information officers (CIOs) typically manage, implement, and oversee a company's information and computer technologies. A CIO also analyzes the benefits of technologies for a company and aims to improve the business's processes to integrate a more effective system. As technology reshapes industries on a global level, the role of the CIO is a growing career option. In this article, we discuss what a chief information officer does, explore their necessary skill set, review the job requirements, discover their work environment, provide average salary information, and learn how to become a CIO.

What does a chief information officer do and what are their duties?

A chief information officer oversees a company's technology needs, including staying up-to-date on emerging technologies and identifying how a company may benefit from them. They also manage computer systems in a way that supports the goals of an organization.

Chief information officers can create department budgets, control funds, develop system backup and data security protocols, and recommend updated computer systems to other organization administrators. Primarily, CIOs focus on strategy and implementation in their day-to-day responsibilities. They often delegate tasks to an IT director and other IT employees. More specific responsibilities are:

  • Analyzing technology used for efficacy and accuracy

  • Identifying if technology is supporting business goals

  • Managing employees in the IT department and potentially a development team

  • Approving negotiations with vendors

  • Strategizing and planning for architectural changes

  • Establishing strategies, policies, and standards for the IT department

  • Seeking opportunities to create value through technology

Related: CIO vs. CTO: Definition, Similarities, and Differences

Skill set for a chief information officer

CIOs use several skills to succeed in this role, such as:

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills, sometimes called people skills, include communication, flexibility, teamwork, and active listening. These are important skills for CIOs because to deliver technology that may help the company, they first develop an understanding of what the departments need by communicating to the company's staff. This job often entails translating technical jargon for non-IT employees. Strong written and verbal communication skills also allow them to work with others effectively, helping them build relationships with mid-level managers and top-level executives.

Leadership skills

Promoting team mentality is an important part of the job. As leaders, CIOs can help others feel valued by the company. They also empower colleagues and coworkers by delegating tasks in the day-to-day workflow. These positions are very strategic, so streamlining delegation helps them better manage the multiple parts of the job.

Flexibility

Because technology is always changing, companies adapt to advancements quickly to follow industry trends. The chief information officer helps companies better rely on flexibility to maintain collaboration in the work environment and facilitate effective changes. Managing others during technology shifts, helping teammates and coworkers who feel uncertain, team coaching, and trust-building are all important skills for them to have. They may also need a sense of organization and personal resilience.

Strategy and planning

Strategic planning skills, such as critical thinking, deductive reasoning, creativity, problem-solving, and prioritization, make the role of a CIO easier to manage. They use these skills to plan processes related to technology shifts and upgrades and ensure the effective integration of new systems. Because this role is strategic more than operational, it's advisable that a chief information officer possess strategic planning skills.

Related: What Is Strategic Planning? (With Benefits)

Technical expertise

Chief information officers use in-depth knowledge of computer systems and programming to assess a company's systems. They identify areas of improvement and help implement them. CIOs use their extensive knowledge of how each department contributes to the company to determine the technical needs of the organization. They're very comfortable with technology and stay up-to-date about emerging trends. If they believe new technologies might benefit the company, they create proposals detailing how the technology can improve the performance of the organization.

Job requirements for chief information officers

There are many qualifications required for a position as a CIO. They include:

Education

CIOs typically have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as programming, computer science, or information technology. They might need extensive knowledge of technology and computer systems. Coursework might include software development, math, and computer programming. Employers often prefer candidates with a master's degree. Programs for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) usually require two years of study and CIOs take them while working in an IT position.

Read more: How to List Education on Your Resume (With Examples)

Training

CIOs can get training during their higher education studies or in entry-level and mid-level positions. Computer-related bachelor's programs provide several skills that a CIO uses throughout their career. Because the position requires such immersive on-the-job experience, it can be beneficial to take an entry-level or associate's position to advance into management roles. IT businesses tend to provide opportunities for entry-level employees to prepare them and develop their leadership and management skills.

Certifications

Certifications can differentiate one candidate from another while job searching. They may show the technical abilities needed for a job position. Important certifications for information technology professionals may include:

  • Six Sigma Certification. This training and mentorship program has an emphasis on project management and leadership in the information and technology fields. The five levels focus on different aspects of leadership, like flexibility as a leader.

  • Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). The primary focus of this certification is the implementation of management strategies that improve a company's and team's efficiency. It focuses on how to improve processes within a company and is appropriate for multiple experience levels.

  • CompTIA A+ Certification. The Computing Technology Industry Association offers this certification. It validates a person's understanding of common hardware and software technologies within a business, and employers often view it as an essential certificate for IT professionals.

  • CompTIA Network+. This mid-level certificate is for professionals in the information and technology field. It tests network design competency and a professional's knowledge of hardware setup, cabling, installation, configuration, troubleshooting, and support.

  • CompTIA Security+. This certificate is for entry-level IT professionals. It builds foundational knowledge about cybersecurity.

  • CompTIA Project+. Designed for IT entry-level professionals to verify project management abilities, this certificate covers a wide spectrum of technology and project management skills.

The work environment for chief information officers

CIOs spend time at a desk or within an office environment. Their typical day includes:

  • Frequent use of office equipment such as computers, routers, fax machines, and printers

  • Constant communication with their team and the company's senior management

  • Monitoring the operation of a company's IT systems

  • Overseeing IT reports, websites, and internal communication processes

  • Meeting with IT firms and technology suppliers

  • Creating partnership agreements with hospitals, insurance companies, financing firms, big corporations, or manufacturing companies

Related: The 6 Types of Work Environments

Salary expectation for CIOs

A CIOs salary varies depending on experience, province, and the company they work for. CIOs can work as an employee for one business, or as consultants and take on several clients. The national average salary of a chief information officer is usually $21.85 per hour.

How to become a chief information officer

Typically, pursuing a career as a CIO includes the following steps:

1. Focus on higher education

The minimum expectation for a CIO is usually a bachelor's degree in information technology or a computer-related field. Many employers require the candidates to hold a master's degree in computer or business-related fields. A quick search for currently open CIO positions in the area can help you determine the appropriate education level for this role.

2. Gain on-the-job experience

Since this is an executive position, a few years of IT experience is helpful to your job searching process. Management experience can also be beneficial. While completing a degree, seek internships where you can gain hands-on experience. Many companies hire interns for permanent positions after they have completed an internship.

3. Get certified

With the variety of certifications available for IT professionals at any experience level, you can get a specialization in several ways. Consider certifications that best showcase some abilities and prove your technical knowledge to current and future employers. Certifications are also a great way to show that you want to grow and advance in a career.

4. Update your resume

After finishing higher education and getting the appropriate certifications, keeping an updated resume is the next key to a successful career. In a resume, it's important to include the highest level of education, all the certifications you have gained, and any relevant work history. Put an emphasis on leadership roles and mentorship experiences to show strategic initiative.

5. Apply for a job

Search for the open chief information officer positions in your city or area. Identify which companies have the best reputation for IT openings. Apply with your updated resume and a strong cover letter. You can customize the cover letter for each application.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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