Home / Career Guides / How to Become a Chief Information Officer

How to Become a Chief Information Officer

As a chief information officer (CIO), you work in conjunction with the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer to continually assess, evaluate, and improve the company’s position. You will typically oversee all IT, computer, and networking functions and should possess excellent technical ability and keep up to date on new and emerging technologies. 

If you have supervisory experience in data administration and you’re looking for career advancement, a chief information officer is a great way to put your experience to work.  You will need advanced analytical and organizational skills and be highly skilled in data administration to be successful as a CIO. A CIO helps an organization store, evaluate, and apply data strategies to improve company development.

Sample job description

Do you have the ability to adapt quickly? Are you great at anticipating and satisfying needs? If so, you might be the perfect fit as a Chief Information Officer.

Chief Information Officers use a combination of excellent business acumen, technical prowess, strategic thinking, and project management to manage a company’s IT and computer systems.

This invaluable position must respond quickly to trends and anticipate the technological needs of their company. They have to have great business sense, excellent people skills, and a good understanding of the limitations of the technology available.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Plan, purchase, coordinate, and manage a firm’s technology infrastructure
  • Monitor related project metrics
  • Directly manage IT staff
  • Oversee IT operations, network administration, service desk, IT security, telephony, and related applications
  • A key advisor to the President and CEO
  • Liaison with external technology vendors

Education and experience

The career path for a Chief Information Officer (CIO) entails obtaining a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, IT management, or a related field; an MBA is a plus. To become a CIO, a candidate must have multiple years of experience in technology management in a strategic leadership role, preferably at a law firm.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Deep and up-to-date knowledge and understanding of IT and related topics
  • Strong organizational and project management skills
  • Experience leading and managing people
  • Highly organized, and able to multitask
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Expertise in time management
  • Keen attention to detail

Preferred qualifications

  • 10+ years managing a team
  • Strong knowledge of system infrastructure and implementation
  • Understanding of budgets and business-planning
  • Ability to conduct technological analyses and research
  • Excellent communication, strong leadership skills, and organizational abilities

Typical work environment

CIOs will spend a great deal of time seated at a computer. Long hours of meetings with executive management, staff, colleagues, stakeholders, and vendors are expected, as well as the potential for long commutes for meetings and conferences. 

Typical hours

The work hours for a Chief Information Officer are usually from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in an office setting. However, many CIOs work longer hours, depending on the needs of an individual firm.

Available certifications

As Chief Information Officers work in a variety of industries, there are many institutions that offer certifications, including:

  • Project Manager Professional. One of the key areas that define the success or failure of a manager, especially at the executive level, is their ability to manage a project. By obtaining this certification you demonstrate your ability to apply the best practices and methods of project management from start to finish. You’ll obtain a thorough understanding of the six domains: Initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, controlling, and finally closing. 
  • Certified Information Security Manager. One of the largest threats to companies is the breach and theft of data by malicious actors. Being able to provide confidence to your employer by demonstrating your knowledge and experience with internationally recognized best practices and elite designation by obtaining this certification is as much assurance as can be provided. 
  • PMI Risk Management Professional. CIOs arguably guide and make the most vital and long-term decisions for companies in the 21st century. Every year businesses put a million or billion-dollar bet on their CIOs to get their job done correctly, and that understandably comes with a bit of anxiety. By obtaining this certification, you can demonstrate your excellence in managing and mitigating risk in project management. A future employer will know you are more than capable of minimizing risk and capitalizing on opportunities.

Career path

To become a Chief Information Officer, first earn a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, IT management, or a related field. Beyond that, most companies and law firms prefer candidates who possess an MBA in one of those fields. Additionally, earning certification as a Chief Information Officer can help advance a career in this field.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-1011

2020 Employment2,704,400
Projected Employment in 20302,913,900
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 8% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift209,500 increase

According to IT Career Finder, several trends affect the Chief Information Officer occupation. With the ongoing evolution of businesses outsourcing IT services, CIOs must develop their soft skills in vendor management and negotiations. They must also have top-notch technical ability and know-how, plus knowledge of cloud computing. CIOs should also be well-versed in business intelligence and data analysis tools and procedures, and cybersecurity and mobile development.