Chief Technology Officer Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A chief technology officer's mean annual salary is around $136,280. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about the career outlook to find out if becoming a chief technology officer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Chief Technology Officer Career

Chief technology officers are the information technology (IT) specialists for organizations who work with computer programming, information systems, and data processing. Keep reading to find out more about the pros and cons of a career as a chief technology officer.

Pros
High average salary of $136,280 (for all computer and information systems managers)*
Can work in a variety of industries (position has many definitions and is needed in any organization that widely uses technology, including IT, heavy production, service providers and the government)***
Job has creative elements (making decisions about technology; creative problem-solving to fix technological issues)**
Duties are varied and include working with both people and technology*

Cons
Could have long work hours (in 2012, 33% of information systems managers worked 40+ hours per week)*
An advanced degree and many years of work necessary (usually more than 15 years of experience required)*
Job requires being able to anticipate and prevent problems**
Requires a high degree of responsibility and large decision-making (guiding technological decisions for an entire company)**

Sources: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET Online, ***Princeton University

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Chief technology officers - also known as CTOs - evaluate new technology and decide which technology is needed to best help their workplace achieve its goals. The position is relatively new in the world of business - it first arose in the 1980s - so exact job duties and position definitions can vary between individual workplaces, and can depend on what stage of development the workplace is in. Practical roles and (other similar job titles) can include administrator, director and executive. If you work alongside a chief information officer (CIO), you'll likely be the one who has more technical expertise. You may also report directly to the CIO. If you do not work with a CIO, you'll probably be the one to present your company's overarching technology strategy to other executives. You'll need to meet with leaders of other departments to determine company-wide goals and solve problems together using technology.

Other duties can include recruiting, hiring and training new staff. As a chief technology officer, you'll have a lot on your plate and you'll likely work long hours. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about one-third of information systems managers worked over 40 hours per week.

Possible Career Paths

It's possible to gain relevant work experience in a variety of industries, though it's useful to have work experience in the industry in which you're pursuing a career. It might be easier to get started earlier at a smaller company, since they might not require as much work experience as a larger company. In general, a chief technology officer needs to have more than 15 years of experience in the IT field. You'll likely start off as a lower level manager before being promoted to chief technology officer. You could also be promoted to be the chief information officer (CIO) of your company, where you would be in charge of all decisions related to IT.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, all computer and information systems managers made an average of about $136,280 in May 2014. The highest concentration of employment was found in the industry of software publishing, and the top-paying industry was motion picture and video. The highest concentration of jobs was found in the District of Columbia.

Following BLS statistics, job growth for the profession was expected to be faster than average for all jobs, at 15% from 2012-2022. Job prospects were expected to be good for individuals with the right background, since employers reported difficulty finding qualified candidates. A large amount of growth was expected specifically within the health care industry.

What Are the Requirements?

To become a chief technology officer, a bachelor's degree in computer or information science is necessary, though some positions might require a graduate degree. A master's in business is common, and it's possible to complete one part-time while working. In addition to a degree, you'll need many years of work experience to become a chief technology officer. The job requires familiarity with IT systems as well as experience leading teams of people and making large developmental decisions for a company. In general, all successful chief technology officers should have the following useful skills:

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Leadership capability
  • Highly organized
  • Able to make decisions
  • Interest in and knowledge of new technology

What Employers Are Looking for

Employers often specify that chief technology officers should have multiple years of experience and an educational background in a relevant field. Industry-specific experience is usually preferred, and most positions call for leadership and product development. The following is a selection of job postings for chief technology officers available on Careerbuilder.com in April 2012.

  • A technology and manufacturing firm advertised for a chief technology officer at a space center in Houston. Duties include leading a research team and maintaining the effectiveness and safety of all engineering processes in the department. A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or higher in engineering or a related discipline is required.
  • A staffing firm searched for a chief technology officer for a position with an electronics firm in New York City. Candidates should have at least 10 years of related experience, and 3-5 years of experience working with large LED screens and similar products is preferred, as is a master's degree. Job will involve some travel within the country, and pay is listed at $150,000-$175,000 per year.
  • A New York City television network posted for a chief technology officer with an MBA or another graduate-level degree in computer science, technology or engineering management. Candidates should be experienced in technology leadership, negotiation, vendor management and designing web systems.
  • A staffing company looked for a chief technology officer to work at a health care-related firm in Chicago. Applicants should have an extensive background in health care technology systems and should be familiar with a wide variety of technical platforms and programs. Base pay is listed at $150,000-$200,000 per year.

How to Make Your Skills Stand out

Job prospects are predicted to be good for qualified candidates. However, you need many years of experience to become a chief technology officer and you should be well-versed in how to use and manage the technology systems that your company needs for success. Certification is something that can help you accomplish this.

Get Certified

Depending on your exact industry of work, you could earn a professional certification that shows that you're experienced and skilled. One example is the Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) certification, offered through the Consortium for School Networking. Candidates should meet particular education and experience requirements and will need to pass a structured exam.

You may also be able to participate in programs at the state or local level. For example, the California Educational Technology Professionals Association (CEPTA) offers a mentoring and certification program for leaders in educational technology.

In addition to professional leadership certifications, you could pursue technological certifications that are particularly relevant to your industry or professional focus.

Alternative Career Paths

Maybe after reading over the requirements and job description for a chief technology officer, you're pretty sure that the job isn't for you. You could still consider one of the many other related careers in information technology, such as becoming a database administrator. As a database administrator, you'd be in charge of database management for your company, devising ideal ways to store and access data and troubleshooting problems when they occur. According to the BLS, employment is expected to grow much faster than average (31% from 2010-2020), and database administrators earned a salary of around $77,000 in May 2011. You'll likely need a bachelor's degree, but some positions might require a master's degree.

If you like the idea of working hands-on with IT development, consider becoming a software developer. You'll need a bachelor's degree and strong programming skills, and in your work you could focus on creating and maintaining applications or software systems. Job growth was expected to be fast, according to BLS statistics (30% from 2010-2020). Software application developers made an average salary of around $92,000 and software systems developers made about $100,000 on average, according to information from May 2011 from the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
    Bachelor's
      • BS in IT - IT Management
      • BS in Cloud Computing and Solutions
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
      • BSIT: Network Admin
      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity
    Associate's
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Instructional Technology
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security (Bridge)
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Information Technology
      • B.S. in Computer Programming
      • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity
      • B.S. in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS: Computer Information Systems
      • BS: Computer Science
      • BS: Computer Science - Information Assurance
      • BS: Cybersecurity
      • BA: Business Administration - Technology Management
    Associate's
      • AA: Information Technology
      • AA: Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Information Technology
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project/Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Information Technology Admin and Management With No Declared Minor or Concentration
      • Bachelor: Technology Management
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
      • Associate of Science - Technology Studies
    Certificate
      • Networking Systems Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    6. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Cybersecurity - Cybersecurity Policy
      • M.A. in Law - Cybersecurity Law
      • M.A. in National Security Studies - Cybersecurity Policy
      • M.S. in Cybersecurity - Cybersecurity Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - General
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - Information Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Information Systems Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Cyber Security, M.S.
    Bachelor's
      • Computer Information Technology, B.S.
      • Computer Information Technology, B.S. - Emphasis in Database Management
      • Computer Information Technology, B.S. - Emphasis in Networking
      • Information Systems Mgmt., B.S.
    Associate's
      • Computer Information Technology, A.S.
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
      • PhD-TIM - Data Science
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Data Science
    Master's
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • MSTIM - Information Systems
      • MSTIM - Computer Science
      • MSTIM - Data Science
      • Master of Science in Data Science
      • MBA - Management Information Systems

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
  • BS in IT - IT Management
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Information Technology
  • B.S. in Computer Programming

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • BS: Computer Information Systems
  • BS: Computer Science
  • AA: Information Technology
  • AA: Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • BS - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • B.S. - Information Technology Admin and Management With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
  • Networking Systems Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • M.S. in Cybersecurity - Cybersecurity Policy
  • M.A. in Law - Cybersecurity Law
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?