How To Become A CTO

Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is a relatively new position on the corporate executive ladder. For many years, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) position contained the duties now performed by the CTO, but the increasing importance and complexity of technology solutions for corporations made it necessary to give technology its own office.

The job of the Chief Technology Officer is to stay informed about up-and-coming technological innovations and evaluate their usefulness to the tech infrastructure of a company. A CTO may also be responsible for drafting and refining enterprise-wide technical standards, supervising IT managers and project leaders through the day-to-day issues they face, and planning and managing deployments of new technologies.

In addition to these duties, the Chief Technology Officer takes on the executive responsibility of cost-benefit and return-on-investment (ROI) analyses, as well as determining several possible implementation strategies for new solutions. A CTO typically works directly under the company’s CIO, compiling tech-specific strategies and presenting them to top brass for final evaluation.

The most common educational path to a Chief Technology Officer position includes a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. Employers tend to prefer candidates who have followed up their technical educations with graduate work in business, particularly towards a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) with a heavy concentration in the technological side of business administration. Qualified candidates will be well-versed in finance, accounting, and management as well as networking, information security, and systems design.

A great deal of industry experience is usually required to become a CTO. Professional certifications in technical domains can help candidates as well, and an employment background that features experience in management, sales, or consulting can also be attractive to employers. As is the case with nearly any management position, CTO candidates should have confidence in their communication and leadership skills.

Information Science Education

Information science is an academic discipline bridging the business world with computer science. There are a seemingly endless number of applications for information science in the business world, from information management to payroll activities. Management information science training prepares future information science pros to manage all aspects of these systems, including databases, networks, and security. They will learn how to manage projects, how to develop and debug systems, and even master the ethical or social implications of these technologies.

According to The College Board, management information systems degrees typically require the following types of courses:

  • Database design
  • Emerging technologies
  • Managing information systems
  • E-commerce
  • Project management
  • Networks and communications
  • Systems analysis and design

Information science training combined with an MBA makes for a well-profiled CTO candidate.

What is the job outlook for Chief Technology Officers?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job opportunities for CTOs are expected to be on the rise between 2012 and 2022. The continued expansion of business conducted over data networks is cited as the principal driver of this employment upswing. Rapid innovation across the enterprise solutions market, including growth in cloud computing and mobile device usage, has also contributed to the expected increase.

Job Title
Chief Executives-U.S.

2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

What is the salary outlook for Chief Technology Officers?

The region in which a CTO is employed can have a fairly large effect on expected earnings. A CTO’s chosen industry may also alter salary expectations, although the differences aren’t quite as pronounced as the disparity among regions. Salary also tends to increase with the level of responsibility of the position, CTOs at public universities in Oklahoma, for instance, may find themselves under less occupational stress than their counterparts at securities and commodities exchanges on Wall Street.

Job Title
Top 10% Annual Wage
Annual Median Wage
Bottom 10% Annual Wage
Chief Executives-U.S.$ 62,290$ 184,460$ 208,000

2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Most Chief Technical Officer candidates are rated on their formal education, professional experience, and personality. However, some candidates do choose to add one or more technical certifications to their resumes to offer some additional credentials. Relevant certifications for CTO candidates are offered by several technology vendors (i.e. Microsoft and Cisco), as well as vendor-neutral industry associations like CompTIA and the Project Management Institute.

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