How to Become a CIO

A chief information officer (CIO) is the senior executive who uses technology and computer systems to support the organization’s mission and goals. Though CIOs work specifically with technology, they must have excellent business knowledge and skills as well.

CIOs also help to manage existing IT resources and to develop further technology-related plans. Therefore, they must be aware of trends and advances in technology and how they can help their organization progress and gain competitive advantage. CIOs who work in larger organizations focus on a specific area like electronic data processing or information systems. A CIO in a smaller organization directly oversees the IT department and handles its day-to-day activities.


There is no specific education required for a chief information officer. However, most companies prefer their executives to have graduate degrees. Many CIOs have earned an MBA with a focus in a subject like information technology management. An MBA with a concentration in IT management includes courses like computer security and database management systems. Business-related courses that can benefit CIOs include project management, managerial economics, risk management and innovation strategies.

Career Path

The career path to becoming a CIO generally involves earning an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related subject. Individuals gain experience in entry-level positions and move up to management positions in an organization. The position of chief technology officer (CTO) is considered slightly below CIO. After reaching the CTO position, an individual can pursue a Master of Business Administration in order to be more attractive for positions in IT management. Many businesses require 15 years or more of professional experience as well as an MBA for the position of CIO. Smaller companies may require less experience.

Salary and Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the occupational field of computer and information systems management will grow 15 percent by 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Because organizations and companies are relying more heavily on computer systems and information technology, there is more demand for IT managers who can excel in both business and technology. The median salary for a chief information officer is $149,730 a year, according to PayScale.