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IT Manager Career Guide

What is an IT manager?

An information technology (IT) manager is a professional who coordinates the technology operations within an organization. From computer systems and software to networking and information security, they oversee all aspects of a company’s technology infrastructure. These key decision-makers streamline processes to improve efficiency and productivity. They also play a critical role in strategic planning, ensuring their employer’s IT resources align with its business goals.

Duties and responsibilities

IT managers are responsible for establishing and implementing IT policies and systems. They maintain safe, secure network access for all staff while closely monitoring cybersecurity to prevent security breaches. These professionals are also tasked with hiring, supervising, and coordinating the activities of IT personnel, providing necessary training, and driving their development. Other duties include planning for hardware and software upgrades and working closely with upper management to determine the organization’s IT needs and budget to meet technological requirements efficiently and effectively.

Work environment

For many IT managers, most of their work occurs in an office setting. They spend a substantial amount of time on computers addressing issues, planning strategies, and overseeing operations. While much of the job involves technical tasks, they are also deeply involved in team coordination and meetings with other department heads. The role requires excellent communication and leadership skills to handle team-based projects.

Typical work hours

Most IT managers work full time, although exact working hours can depend on various factors, including the industry and specific organization. They generally work around 40 hours per week, usually during regular business hours. However, it’s also common for them to be on-call or available outside of typical office hours; given that IT issues can occur at any time, adaptability and availability for emergencies are often essential aspects of this role.

How to become an IT manager

This career guide section outlines the process for becoming an IT manager. The core steps include getting the right education, gathering the necessary experience, earning relevant certifications, and developing essential soft skills.

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

The journey typically begins with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, or a related field. These programs teach students about hardware, software, networking, and coding, providing a good foundation for a career in IT. You’ll also develop key problem-solving and analytical skills.

Step 2: Gain professional experience

After finishing your degree, it’s time to enter the workforce. Most start in entry-level IT roles to gain practical experience. These roles could be in systems analysis, programming, or network administration. Expect to spend a few years in these roles to understand the IT infrastructure and increase your expertise.

Step 3: Earn relevant certifications

Certifications validate your skills and make you more desirable to employers. Consider earning certifications like Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert or Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). Remember, the specific certifications you should pursue depend on your career goals and the needs of your potential or current employer.

Step 4: Level up with a master’s degree

While not always necessary, a master’s degree can give you an edge in the competitive job market. Pursue a master’s in business administration or a specialized technology-related master’s degree. This advanced education can prepare you for the business and strategic planning side of IT management.

Step 5: Refine your leadership skills

As you move up the ranks, developing your leadership skills will be vital. Managers need to motivate teams, delegate tasks, and make strategic decisions. Take on leadership roles in your current position, consider leadership workshops, or even look for volunteer opportunities where you can practice these skills.

Step 6: Apply for jobs

After refining your skills and gaining experience and education, you can begin applying for IT manager positions. Customize your resume and cover letter to highlight your relevant experience, education, and certifications.

How much do IT managers make?

IT manager salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size.

Highest paying industries

  • Information – $152,510
  • Finance and Insurance – $149,730
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $146,830
  • Manufacturing – $143,220
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services – $141,160

Highest paying states

  • New York – $170,410
  • California – $165,380
  • New Jersey – $163,560
  • Virginia – $159,320
  • Massachusetts – $157,740

Browse IT manager salary data by market

Types of IT managers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for IT managers.

IT project manager

IT project managers lead teams to complete different technology-related projects. Their main tasks may include project planning, budgeting, risk management, and resource allocation. Strong communication and leadership skills, knowledge of project methodologies, and broad technical expertise are crucial for this role.

Information systems manager

As an information systems manager, the main responsibility is to make sure the organization’s technology infrastructure runs smoothly. They typically oversee a team that maintains the company’s IT systems, resolves technical issues, and implements new technology. A deep understanding of information technology, along with experience in management, is central to this role.

IT security manager

In the role of an IT security manager, the main objective is to protect an organization’s data and digital information from threats. Duties often include implementing security protocols, conducting audits, and responding to security incidents. Being highly knowledgeable about cybersecurity trends and threats is a key attribute for this role.

IT operations manager

These managers oversee the daily operations of a company’s IT department. This role typically takes charge of a systems team, ensuring adequate support for network infrastructure, hardware, and software systems. Strong technical knowledge, customer service skills, and the ability to manage many tasks simultaneously are important for this position.

IT service manager

IT service managers focus on delivering high-quality technology services internally within a company. They collaborate closely with other departments to identify their IT usage and understand their technological needs. Superior problem-solving skills, an in-depth understanding of technical services, and the ability to communicate effectively with non-technical staff define success in this role.

Top skills for IT managers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as an IT manager. From small enterprises to multinational corporations, they must possess a combination of technical skills and management capabilities.

Technical proficiency

Fundamental to the role is high-level proficiency in technology, which encompasses a deep understanding of software systems, computer hardware, and networks. You also need to keep pace with the constantly evolving field of technology, being knowledgeable about trends, advancements, and the application of technological innovation.

Leadership skills

You’ll be tasked with coordinating a team and setting goals. To meet these objectives, you must be able to inspire, mentor, and encourage team members and be adept in conflict resolution and problem-solving.

Strategic planning

Planning is core to achieving operational and organizational goals – it involves understanding current tech systems, outlining areas of improvement, and designing an IT strategy that aligns with business objectives. You must also be prepared to manage change and risk during the implementation of new systems and technologies.

Communication abilities

Good communication is key in any management role, including that of an IT manager. You’ll often find yourself acting as a bridge between the technical and non-technical team members or stakeholders. Thus, the ability to explain complex technical issues in straightforward, understandable terms is important.

Project management

The ability to manage projects effectively is another vital skill. It usually involves planning, setting deadlines, assigning tasks, and monitoring the project’s progress. A certification in project management can also be an added advantage in this role.

IT manager career path options

Navigating your way up from the role of an IT manager, a wide variety of opportunities and paths are available. A great thing about IT is its fluidity and constant evolution, offering numerous promising avenues for growth and specialization.

Generally, the next step is to an IT director position, where you oversee all technology operations within your organization. The expanded role includes strategic planning for current and future tech needs and managing a more significant team of managers and staff. In the long run, an IT executive role such as chief information officer (CIO) or chief technology officer (CTO) can be the pinnacle of your career path in this sector.

If climbing the managerial ladder doesn’t appeal to you, specialization within a specific area of the IT sector is also a common career path. Options include cybersecurity, data analysis, network architecture, or cloud computing. Such roles often involve obtaining further certifications and possibly a master’s degree in a relevant area.

Another popular route for these professionals is to strike out on their own as independent contractors or consultants, which allows them to leverage their experience and skills to provide strategic technology advice to businesses and organizations. This path affords more personal and professional flexibility than can be found in a traditional corporate setting but requires an extra level of discipline and self-motivation

The IT manager role has experienced a shift toward increased complexity and responsibility. Digital transformation has been driving change across all sectors, significantly impacting the role. This position now demands a balance of technical skills and strategic business acumen, as the success of business operations often depends heavily on the seamless integration of technology.

With the ever-increasing growth in data and its importance in business operations, their job is no longer just about overseeing and maintaining day-to-day IT operations. It now involves harnessing the power of data to drive business insights and decisions. This trend of data-driven decision-making is affecting many industries and professions, but it’s particularly true for IT.

Employment projections

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer and information systems managers is projected to grow 16 percent through 2031 – much faster than the average for all occupations. The employment growth will stem from organizations upgrading their digital platforms and investing in new technologies.

IT manager career tips

Embrace new technologies

It’s vital to keep your knowledge current and stay informed about emerging technologies in the market – including changes to software, hardware, cybersecurity, or other aspects of IT. By staying ahead, understanding new advancements, and implementing effective technology strategies, you can contribute to your organization’s overall success and performance.

Understand the business

Besides technical expertise, having a deep understanding of the organization’s industry, culture, and goals is important. This comprehension enables you to align technology strategies with the business’s overall objectives, making your role pivotal in the organization’s growth and improvement.

Develop leadership skills

In addition to being technically savvy, you’re also a team leader. This role involves mentoring and developing your team members, delegating tasks, and making strategic decisions. Understanding how to communicate effectively and motivate your team can greatly contribute to the successful delivery of IT projects.

Build a professional network

Networking can be a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. Connecting with like-minded professionals lets you stay current with industry changes, learn about new opportunities, and update your technical skills. Here are some organizations you might consider:

  • Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP)
  • Information Systems Security Association (ISSA)
  • CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association)

Continue learning

Continuous learning is indispensable for career advancement and longevity in the IT field. Consider obtaining advanced certifications, attending industry conferences, or taking courses to broaden your technical skills. Here are some recommendations:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) certification
  • MIT’s Sloan School of Management Executive Education program in IT management

Where the IT manager jobs are

Top employers

  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Oracle
  • Cisco Systems

Top states

  • California
  • Washington
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • SimplyHired


What are some daily responsibilities of an IT manager?

An IT manager typically oversees an organization’s technology infrastructure, making sure it’s reliable, secure, and up-to-date. Daily tasks may involve devising strategic plans for the IT department, solving technical issues, supervising a team of IT professionals, liaising with vendors, and enforcing technology policies.

What qualifications do IT managers need?

Most employers require a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, or similar fields. Real-world experience in IT is also a must, as it demonstrates problem-solving skills and an understanding of IT systems. Many companies also prefer candidates who hold relevant certifications, such as CISSP or ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) certifications.

What is the average work schedule like for IT managers?

As an IT manager, you should generally expect a full-time work schedule, typically a 40-hour week. However, because problems with the IT infrastructure can occur at any time, these professionals may need to be on-call for emergencies or work overtime to address pressing issues.

Are there physical demands for IT managers?

In general, the role of an IT manager is not physically demanding. It’s predominantly office-based and involves sitting for long periods at a computer. However, there can be occasions where physical actions like lifting or moving equipment may be necessary.

What are some challenges that IT managers might face?

Some common challenges in this role include keeping up with rapidly changing technology, managing tight budgets, ensuring the IT systems are secure from cyber threats, and maintaining system availability. Additionally, this occupation requires excellent people skills, as managing a team and communicating with different departments or external vendors are part of everyday tasks.

What skills are most important for success as an IT manager?

Technical expertise is fundamental. In addition, organizational, project management, and leadership skills are also crucial as you’ll need to direct a team, maintain infrastructure, and guide the strategic direction of the IT department. Communication and problem-solving skills are also highly valued as they help troubleshoot issues and explain complex technical information to non-technical staff.

What are the most common industries for IT managers to work in?

IT managers are prevalent in a wide range of industries as virtually all modern businesses rely on technology for their operations.

What is the outlook for IT managers?

The job growth for IT managers is predicted to be strong in the upcoming years, driven by the constant technological innovation and the need for organizations to stay current with IT trends and cybersecurity measures. Job prospects should be favorable, especially for those with solid technical and management skills.

What are the possibilities for advancement as an IT manager?

IT managers typically advance by taking on more responsibilities, such as managing larger and more complex IT systems, leading a bigger team, or overseeing multiple departments. Some may move into upper management roles such as IT director, CTO, or even CIO, particularly in larger organizations where these roles exist.