How to Become a Chief Information Officer (CIO)


To become a chief information officer, you should first determine if this career path is well suited to your skills and interests. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


• You have a degree in a field related to computer science and years of managerial experience

• You are confident and have exceptional leadership and communication skills

• You are knowledgeable in business process development, governance processes and budget operations

• You are able to adapt new and emerging technologies to solve business problems

• You have highly developed negotiation and conflict resolution skills

• You want to have a direct impact on the technical direction of your organization


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career in this field. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Chief Information Officer

There is not necessarily a specific educational path you should take to get into this profession. However, to qualify for such a position, you'll likely require at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer science, information technology, or information science, as well as extensive work experience.


Many employers show preference to candidates with graduate degrees in one of these areas, as well as candidates with undergraduate degree in one of these areas and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. In some cases, a greater level of education can substitute for some amount of work experience, and vice versa.


Coursework that is relevant to this career includes:


• Global information technology management

• Introduction to information security management

• Project management for information technology

• Database systems management





General Job Description of a Chief Information Officer

A chief information officer (CIO) is accountable for leading the information and data integrity, as well as the information technology of their organization. They are also typically also responsible for maintaining the integrity of all electronic records of the company.


Since chief information officers are responsible for steering the direction of their organization from a technological standpoint, they need of working understanding of information technology and information systems, although they do not need to be technical experts in these areas. However, they do need expertise in understanding how to best apply technology for the improvement of business operations. 



Typical Duties of the Job

• Define information processes, systems and operations of the organization

• Survey all computerized and manual information related systems

• Evaluate information processing equipment and software

• Evaluate revision control systems, database management systems and web server configuration

• Ensure compliance of industry standards related to consumer privacy

• Must recognize, prepare for, and combat security threats

• Oversee information technology staff



Who Employs CIOs?

CIOs are typically employed on a full-time basis by many different types of medium and large organizations in almost every industry. These organizations may include:


• Small, medium and large private companies and corporations

• Colleges and universities

• Hospitals and healthcare organizations

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government departments

• Internet and telecommunication service providers

• Information technology and management consulting firms

• Self-employment (as consultants)

• Energy companies

• Medium and large private corporations in almost every industry sector

• Medium and large public corporations in almost every industry sector

• Large IT and computer firms that provide database and computer network services





Career Experience You'll Need

It typically takes many years of work experience in information technology roles of increasing levels of responsibility to qualify for a job at this level. In some cases, a greater level of work experience can substitute for a higher level of education.


Progressive work experience will help you gain the leadership, management and communication skills needed for this career, as well as allow you to demonstrate them on a resume.


Employees that communicate their career ambitions with their supervisors can often be pointed in the right direction with regards to company-sponsored training programs, leadership events, and opportunities for promotion. With every new level of responsibility you gain, ensure that you are demonstrating initiative, ambition, accountability, and most of all, competence in your duties.


Every entry-level employee, department head, and project manager can take advantage of their position to improve efficiency or productivity in some small way, and demonstrate it on a resume. For example, if you have a position in IT department, you can use it to demonstrate how you can effectively use technology to increase the efficiency or profitability of your company.


Success Tip: Don’t be afraid to start in an entry-level position with a company if you have your sights on a career as a chief information officer; many successful top executives have built their careers form the ground up. 



Attributes Needed to Be Successful

To become a chief information officer, you'll need to posses a certain set of personality traits, soft skills and hard skills. Employers will want to see many of the hard and soft skills demonstrated on your resume through work experience with internal departments or external organizations.


Hard and Soft Skills


• Demonstrated leadership skills; the ability to lead teams and develop solutions

• The ability to manage complex technology projects from inception to completion

• A proven ability to improve efficiency within an organization

• Ability to organize resources, your own time, and the time of others

• A working understanding of information technology

• Must be able to perform CSS, HTML and JavaScript functions

• A good sense of how to improve business operations using technology

• Good working knowledge of information technology

• Able to adapt new and emerging technologies to solve real-world business problems

• Must be knowledgeable in business process development, governance processes, budget and administrative operations


Personality Traits


• A strong sense of ethics

• A strong interest in the corporate culture of the organization

• High level of confidence and assertiveness

• Willing to work long hours



Chief Information Officer Jobs - Current Postings

Although job opportunities in this field are rarely posted online, from time to time they will be. Have a look below to see if there’s anything listed in your area.



Salary Level Typical to This Profession

The salary level of chief information officers can vary, depending on their personal qualifications, the size and type of their employer, and many other factors.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Top Executives occupational group is $101,650 per year, and that of workers in the Computer and Information Systems Managers occupational group is $120,950 per year.



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to chief information officer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Data Processing Director

IT Manager

Records Manager

Systems Administrator



References for This Career Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession.



Wages & Salaries in Alberta:Senior Managers - Financial, Communications and Other Business Services.” (n.d.). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 4, 2019.

Management:Top Executives.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 4, 2019.

Advice:What Is a CIO?” (n.d.). Sage website. Retrieved November 4, 2019.

Career Categories:Chief Information Officer Career and Salary Profile.” (n.d.). Florida Tech Online website. Retrieved November 4, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Chief Information Officer

Scholarships in our database that are listed for majors that apply to becoming a chief information officer can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page. Check the 'Relevant Fields of Study' section below to see which college and university majors to filter scholarship listings by.



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university or college majors listed below is an excellent starting point for a career as a CIO. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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Chief Information Officer (CIO)