What Does a Chief Information Officer (CIO) Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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A Chief Information Officer (CIO) is an executive that oversees the information technology (IT) needs of a company. But that doesn’t mean they’re the IT director. In fact, many CIOs are starting to distance themselves from operational responsibilities. The skillset and responsibilities are very different from what they were a decade or two ago, and the role continues to adapt to the changing face of the modern business enterprise.

CIO Duties & Responsibilities

The role is sometimes referred to as Chief Technology Officer (CTO), but on paper, slight differences in the two positions exist. Here are the main functions of a CIO:

  • Create business value through technology
  • Strategic planning of business growth objectives
  • Ensure tech systems and procedures lead to outcomes in line with business goals
  • Oversee development of customer service platforms
  • Manage IT and development team personnel
  • Approve vendor negotiations and IT architecture
  • Information risk management (IRM)
  • Establish IT policies, strategies, and standards
  • Develop and approve technology futures and budgets

CIOs are a crucial part of an enterprise’s digital transformation.

Cloud computing, big data analytics, mobile computing, and collaboration platforms pose new challenges for CIOs. And AI, the Internet of Things, and digital disruption are having more influence on the direction of consumer products. With these technologies in the driver’s seat, the CIO is far less concerned with running the IT department. Focus has shifted to service analysis, data security, and market reach.

CIO Salary

A CIO's salary can vary depending on location, experience, and employer.

  • Median Annual Salary: $155,393
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $247,000
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $91,000

Source: PayScale, 2019

Education, Training, & Certification

Education: CIOs often have an IT background, with college degrees in computer science, software engineering, or information systems. Coursework may include computer programming, software development, math, and business. Many employers also prefer candidates have a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Experience: Experience is an important factor for landing a role at this level. Employers usually prefer at least 5 years’ experience in IT management. Moreover, business acumen is a must. That’s why the current tendency is for CIOs to be promoted from business departments rather than IT.

CIO Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities: 

  • Strategic planning skills: CIOs must help develop and implement strategies and plans to help a business reach its goals.
  • Leadership skills: CIOs are often responsible for managing and leading a large team.
  • Interpersonal skills: CIOs must be able to work effectively with leaders in different business units to ensure a comprehensive IT strategy that benefits the entire company.
  • Change management skills: Companies must adapt to advances in technology in order to succeed, and CIOs are at the forefront of helping them do this.

    Job Outlook

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in this field will grow 12 percent through 2026, which is faster than the overall employment growth of 7 percent for all occupations in the country.

    Work Environment

    CIOs must be comfortable working in the fast-changing technology landscape and with the responsibility and pressure that comes with leading a business to success in this environment.

    Work Schedule

    CIOs generally work full time, and about one-third of them work more than 40 hours per week, according to the BLS.

    How to Get the Job

    Sharpen Your Business Leadership Skills

    Beyond getting an MBA and going through leadership training, it can be helpful to get advice from successful business leaders.

    Write a Killer Cover Letter and Resume

    Review examples of ideal IT cover letters and IT resumes to get an idea of what you should include.

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