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Chief Information Officer Job Description, Career as a Chief Information Officer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Bachelor’s degree or higher education in information technology/business administration

Salary Median: $88,000 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Chief information officers, or CIOs, are the senior executives heading an enterprise’s information technology, or IT, division. They determine the information technology required by the organization and play a key role in the formulation of strategic goals. CIOs are involved in analyzing existing business processes, developing resources to use new technology, and restructuring the organization’s network access and infrastructure.

Chief information officers may be employed in military organizations where they report to the commanding officer. In the private sector, they report to either the chief executive officer or to the chief operations officer.

The designations of chief information officer and chief technology officer, CTO, are sometimes used interchangeably. However, in a large organization, they have clearly defined roles. While the CIO is responsible for developing practices and processes to support the flow of information, the CTO is in charge of the technology infrastructure.

Education and Training Requirements

In order to become a chief information officer, candidates need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, business administration, or some other specialized field. Educational requirements may vary from one organization to another, but it is beneficial to opt for a postgraduate education. In fact, a lot of employers prefer candidates possessing one degree in business administration and another in information technology or computer science, or a related discipline.

Since it takes a significant amount of time and experience to become a chief information officer, it is a good idea to first get a degree in information technology, and then opt for a part-time program in management while pursuing a career in IT. This allows one to gather experience and pick up the skills necessary for becoming a CIO.

Getting the Job

Getting a job as a CIO is not easy. Most organizations look for candidates with not just the academic qualifications but also considerable experience in the field. Those interested in taking up this career should be prepared to work hard for it. They should ideally have experience in IT management—in the absence of this, candidates should be able to display project management skills and the ability to make and keep commitments. Employment opportunities for chief information officers are often advertised in career sites on the Internet. Interested candidates should also attend networking events, as this is a great way of learning about possible openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

It is extremely important for CIOs to keep themselves updated with the latest developments in the area of information technology and management. Participation in company training programs, seminars, and conferences is crucial in building a knowledge base. Such exposure also proves extremely helpful when it comes to applying for positions of greater responsibility. Chief information officers can, with experience and knowledge, become directors, or even chair, on an organization’s board of directors. Some even shift to independent consulting or establish their own firms.

Employment outlook for chief information officers is expected to be average over the next few years. There likely will be no major growth in the industry. This is partly attributed to industry mergers and acquisitions that result in consolidation and streamlining of processes. However, the rate of growth is likely to be much better in scientific, professional, and technical services.

Working Conditions

Chief information officers usually have spacious, comfortable, well-lit offices. They head a fairly large team of technical experts and need to frequently interact with executives from other departments. Traveling is an integral part of this profession. CIOs need to attend seminars and conferences that may involve local, regional, national, as well as international travel. Job transfers are also very common, and CIOs may be required to shift to other offices and subsidiaries. Additionally, work hours can be long and erratic. CIOs are under considerable pressure to provide better services and earn higher profits for the organization they work in.

Where to Go for More Information

Federal Chief Information Officers Council
Office of Management & Budget
1650 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20503

National Management Association
2210 Arbor Blvd.
Dayton, OH 45439

American Management Association
1601 Broadway, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10019

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

According to data from September 2009, the median annual salary of chief information officers in the United States is $88,000. However, the earnings vary greatly depending on the candidate’s knowledge, place of employment, and expertise level. For instance, inexperienced CIOs may earn around $40,000 per year, whereas experienced candidates employed in large organizations can enjoy an annual salary of more than $130,000.

Chief information officers enjoy a wide variety of fringe benefits and perks. In addition to their salary, CIOs are entitled to performance bonuses, expense allowances, medical insurance, and stock options. They also have the use of company cars and aircrafts, executive dining rooms, and club memberships.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesComputers, IT & Telecommunications