CIO (Chief Information Officer): Job Description, Salary, Skills & Career Path

Chief information officers, otherwise known as CIOs, are the C-Suite IT executives in charge of information technology strategy and the computer systems that are required to support objectives and goals at an enterprise.

The role has evolved immensely over the last few decades; CIOs have moved from primarily only focusing on technical projects to becoming essential contributors that create and plan an organization’s goals.

This is a result of the continuously growing importance that the analysis of information has had across various fields and industries, which have made this job increasingly sought-after and in high demand.

For this reason, individuals working in this position have high average salaries with many great perks and benefits.

CIO (Chief Information Officer) Job Description: Key Roles & Responsibilities

The CIO job title emerged in the 1980’s, when companies were first introducing technological aspects into their day-to-day operations. At this time, there were very few CIO positions, as the responsibilities of those who held this role were largely limited to overseeing IT departmental resources and staff. As the technology sector has expanded, so have the roles & responsibilities of CIOs.

Today, they are expected to be business strategists, contract negotiators, information architects, systems leaders, innovative, engage in public relations, and plan the institution’s future goals with financials in mind.

For the most part, CIOs report directly to an enterprise’s chief executive officer (CEO), with some even having a seat on the organization’s executive board. This position is highly regarded and valued, working with IT staff to oversee and accomplish goals.

A CIO also works closely with the organization’s chief financial officer (CFO) and chief marketing officer (CMO). Collaborating effectively is an essential factor to a CIOs success, and it has been proven that those who are able to work closely with their enterprise’s other chief officers regularly outperform those who do not.

On top of excellent collaboration and communication skills, successful CIOs have many other hard and soft skills. Companies actively seek those with proficiency in these areas:

  • Establishing IT services and security policies
  • Recruiting and directing IT staff
  • Monetary and non-monetary management skills
  • Customer engagement analysis
  • Establishing strategic partnerships
  • Creativity and innovative ideas
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership and direction capabilities
  • Flexibility to evolving work responsibilities
  • Strong work ethic
  • Effective problem-solving skills
  • And more

Importance of CIOs

Technology and business are rapidly and continuously intertwining, so CIOs are essential in almost every business in order to effectively translate information with technology requirements throughout the decision-making process.

As time goes on, CIOs will evolve even more distant from their beginning as fundamental technology experts, rather becoming the key that allows a business to reach its highest potential through the use of innovation and technological fluency.

In order for enterprises to become world class, every aspect of their data needs to be closely managed. In a digital world, companies rely heavily on the quality of their data and information technology, so not only is there currently enough CIO roles to go around, but the position is highly stable and is growing in demand.

This position has grown so much in the last decades, that many companies have many C-suite IT executives now, all tied to the CIO, such as the CTO (Chief Technology Officer), CDO (Chief Digital Officer), CSO or CISO (Chief Information Security Officer). Check out my other article for a detailed comparison between these IT executive positions and an explanation of their dynamics within the same organization.

CIO (Chief Information Officer): Related Careers

IT Directors:

You may be wondering if there is a difference between a CIO and an IT director. The main distinguishing factors are that CIOs are in charge of managing broader, long-term strategies with other executive members of an organization, while IT directors are responsible of day-to-day operations.

Check out my article on IT Directors for more details about this job’s roles & responsibilities, skills, salary & career path.

Chief Technology Officers (CTOs):

Although these positions sound very similar, they do not share many critical responsibilities or skill-sets. Where a CIO is the top technology manager in a business, in charge of large-scale operations and goals, a CTO works to ensure that the company’s technology strategy works well with their objectives.

CTOs also typically report to CIOs, while CIOs report to CEOs. Still, both positions are high-level executive roles who may work closely together to accomplish their goals. For more information about this job, take a look at the CTO article!

Chief Digital Officers (CDOs):

A CDO is responsible for the digital transformation of traditional departments & business processes inside an organization. A CDO usually is an underling to the CIO or the CTO.

Chief Information Security Officers (CSOs or CISOs)

A CSO (or CISO) is the highest IT manager responsible for the cybersecurity of the organizations data, computers/servers and systems. He also reports to the CIO.

for more on these IT executive jobs please read this article.

Becoming a CIO – Education and Career Path

Although there is no specific education required to become a chief information officer, most employers are looking to hire executives who possess some sort of degree, preferably related to the field. Generally, this looks like obtaining a degree in computer science, software engineering, information systems, or similar subjects, and later moving on to pursuing a master’s in information technology management or business administration. CIOs greatly benefit from focusing on courses such as economics, risk management, innovation strategies, computer security, database management, and project management.

Still, career paths aren’t set in stone. CIOs can be extremely successful without a master’s degree by starting out in smaller companies and entry-level positions, moving up as more experience and skills are gained. For the most part, employers seek professional experience and capability for higher level positions at larger companies.

CIO Certifications:

There are also several certification programs that CIOs may consider to stand out from other applicants during the hiring process. These certifications help aspiring IT leaders begin to carve out their careers, however it is important to note that there is no specific certificate for CIOs.

For this reason, these certifications are likely more useful if you are just beginning your career and are moving up the ranks but shouldn’t be considered a replacement for experience. Some IT certifications you may want to consider:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
  • CompTIA Project+
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
  • Product Management from Pragmatic Institute
  • ITIL
  • Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)

CIO (Chief Information Officer) Average Salary

Lately, this position is one of the highest-paying cybersecurity jobs around the world. Here, there’s a breakdown of a CIOs salary in different regions and at different levels. Please keep in mind that the numbers displayed are averages, so many CIOs may be making considerably less, and many may be making considerably more.

CIO Salary in East Coast USA

The average salary in the east coast United States varies across states, and the difference between New York and North Carolina are quite significant. Still, the average salary for CIOs in this area is about US$165,519.

In the beginning of their careers, CIOs make an average of US$129,987 a year, including all tips, bonuses, and overtime pay. With more experience during the mid-career level, CIOs make US$156,131 a year, and after twenty years, the average total pay rises to US$176,836.

As aforementioned, the number varies significantly across states to adjust for the cost of living. While the average for the US east coast is about US$165,500 yearly, big cities and states like New York see a much higher average salary of about US$225,140.

CIO Salary in West Coast USA

The average salary for chief information officers residing in west-coast United States is about US$202,942, including tips, bonuses, and overtime pay.

In the first to fourth year as CIO at beginning of their career, individuals can expect to make an average of US$139,000, and this number tends to remain relatively the same until they have reached ten years’ experience.

At that point, the salary rises immensely, with the average of US$208,028. And beyond twenty years of executive experience, the average salary grows a bit more, to an average of US$215,954.

CIO Salary in South USA

The average salary for CIOs in the South of United States is about US$194,889, including tips, bonuses, and overtime pay.

In the early stages of their career, chief information officers make an average salary of US$192,208. This number remains relatively stable until individuals reach twenty years’ experience, at which point they begin to make US$202,413.

CIO Salary in Canada

The average salary for a Canadian CIO is about C$156,329, including tips, bonuses, and overtime pay. In their early careers, Canadian chief information officers with up to four years’ experience can expect to make an average of C$142,000.

After CIOs have gained about ten years’ experience in their later career, their salary increases to an average of C$150,979, and then after twenty years, the number rises to C$168,353. Still, across the nation, this number fluctuates.

Surveys have found that CIOs in Manitoba make almost 25% more than the national average, and cities like Montreal and Toronto also tend to pay higher salaries. In Vancouver, Ottawa, and Edmonton, salaries drop up to 7% less than the national average.

Canadian CIOs tend to receive high benefits at all levels of their career.

CIO Salary in India

In India, the national average base salary is ₹4,233,207. Information officers in the beginning stages of their career with one to four years of experience can expect to earn an average of ₹450,000.

Once officers reach their mid-career, their salaries begin to rise quickly, with the average for five to nine years being ₹2.500,000 annually. At ten to nineteen years, Indian CIOs make ₹4,196,226, and after twenty years, the average is close to ₹5,000,000 per year.

Across the nation, salaries can vary widely. The highest paying cities are Delhi and Kolkata, making up to 41% more than the national average. Still, lower salaries are not too different from the rest of the nation, Bangalore and Gurgaon are the lowest paying cities, but only by 5%.

CIO Salary in the UK

In the UK, the average national salary for chief information officers is £99,850, bonuses and overtime pay included. In the early stages of their career, CIOs with one to four years’ experience make £65,735 annually.

This average number grows to £77,419 after individuals hit the five-year mark. After ten years, a CIOs salary rises greatly, to an average of £101,091, however, the number only rises about £2000 after twenty years’ experience.

The highest paying regions include London, Milton Keynes, and Buckingham-shire, which earn up to 15% more than the national average. Earning a whooping 54% less than the national average though is the Cambridge region.

CIO Salary in Europe

European countries tend pay up to £40,000 more annually compared to their UK counterparts. European CIOs are also paid an average of £163,000 in pension funds, where the number is £123,000 in the UK.

Finally, while CIOs in the UK earn up to 27% of their annual wage in bonuses at the end of the year, European CIOs make almost double, at 46% of their annual wage in bonuses.

Across European countries, salaries differ. In the Netherlands, the average base salary is £125,208, beginning at about £80,000 annually for CIOs with one to five years’ experience, and increasing to £96,000 when the ten-year mark is reached. After twenty years, the average salary rises to an impressive £158,000.

On the other hand, France and Spain hold some of Europe’s lowest salaries for CIOs, with the average base salary for France being £88,449, and reaching up to an average of £126,819 after twenty years of experience. In Spain, the average base salary is £66,156 and reaches up to an average of £73,467.

Still, as a continent, Europe’s average base salary is significantly higher than that of the United Kingdom.


CIOs are an essential key for corporations worldwide, and the role is here to stay. The role is continuously evolving, from their start in the 1980’s to modern day, chief information officers have helped their companies advance, adapt, and work with technological developments.

CIOs provide a link between business needs, user needs, and the technology used in their work. For this reason, CIOs are required to have a wide range of skills and responsibilities to be successful, from communication and management skills to knowledge in IT services and practice development.

CIOs typically earn bachelor and master’s degrees in related subject areas including computer science, business administration, and software engineering. It is important to note that the university avenue is not the only path to becoming a CIO, and individuals can be successful by obtaining a bachelor’s and IT certifications as long as they put in the time and effort to develop their skills and experience.

Once CIOs are hired, they can expect to earn high salaries, enjoying the benefits of their stability and the essential nature of their jobs. Overall, chief information officers are highly satisfied with their career choice and day-to-day activities. The job is truly highly rewarding and enjoyable!


I'm a senior CS Engineer from Morocco, working as an Independent Consultant and a part-time blogger.

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