How to Become a Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Median salary in 2012 was $120,950 per year and $58.15 per hour[v]

Salary Potential if You Become a CTO

Median salary in 2012 was $120,950 per year and $58.15 per hour[v]

Pursuing the role of CTO often requires years of experience in the IT field, sometimes 15 or more.[i]  

CTOs often oversee the technology plan for an entire organization. They may supervise other IT managers and personnel, help determine what new technology a company should implement, and make recommendations based on the Chief Information Officer’s goals and directives. When a Chief Information Officer or CIO is present, the Chief Technology Officer often takes on a more technical role. If no CIO is present, the CTO is often responsible for planning an organization’s overall technology strategy.

Interested in learning more about it takes to pursue the position of CTO or explore a potential career change in the IT field? Keep reading to learn more about chief technology officer salary potential, education requirements, typical duties, and other aspects of this important role. 

Chief Technology Officer Job Description

The role of CTO can vary widely from company to company, but one important duty typically assigned to this individual is evaluating and recommending new technology solutions to meet an organization’s needs. As new technology is developed, such as cloud computing or wireless and mobile communications, it may be possible to increase an organization’s efficiency, make employees’ jobs easier, and reduce cost, among other positive benefits. It is often the Chief Technology Officer’s responsibility to research and understand these IT solutions before presenting them to the CIO or other top executives. Below are some other typical duties that may be performed by an IT management professional such as a CTO:

  • Evaluate existing technology and recommend improvements or upgrades to networks, hardware, and software
  • Select, budget, and implement new technology solutions to support company growth and initiatives
  • Determine short-term personnel needs for projects as well as long-term personnel for ongoing technology implementation and support
  • Find outside vendors who will be providing products or services; negotiate terms and costs
  • Manage technology staff members such as software developers and computer support specialists; plan and assign tasks
  • Analyze scope, costs, and time frame of IT projects and present or defend the plan to top executives
  • Develop and implement IT security plans and procedures

Chief Technology Officer Qualities and Skill Sets

CTOs usually have both technical expertise and some knowledge of managing personnel. After all, this role often involves both planning for IT projects and implementing them with the help of internal IT staff and outside vendors or contractors. If you want to become a chief technology office here are a few skills and knowledge areas that could be useful in this career path:

  • Knowledge of business administration, customer relationship management (CRM), and project management software not limited to FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Business Contact Manager, Zoho, and Basecamp
  • Knowledge of web development and programming languages such as HTML, JavaScript, C++, Ruby, and more
  • An understanding of business management goals and challenges – in order to make recommendations to improve an organization, it may be necessary to understand how businesses run
  • Personnel management and HR knowledge – CTOs may need to recruit, hire, and train new IT staff members
  • Written and oral communication skills – Chief Technology Officers typically need to present their ideas to others, train staff, and communicate instructions to offsite vendors and contractors.
  • An ongoing interest in exploring new technology trends, tools, and innovations that could benefit business organizations

How to Become a CTO

What Education do I need to become a Chief Technology Officer?[i]

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information systems managers, such as CTOs, usually earn at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science, or a related field. Students in one of these tracks typically study computer programming, software development, math, and more. Another possible area of study might be Management Information Systems (MIS), which usually includes business courses as well as computer science courses.

typical entry level degree to become a chief technology officer (cto) is a bachelors degreeSome organizations prefer that candidates hold a graduate degree such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Keep in mind that in most cases, CTOs begin their career paths in a non-management IT role. After gaining experience and other credentials, they may opt to pursue IT management opportunities such as CTO.

Training and Career Enhancement[i]

CTOs must often have both technical knowledge and managerial experience, which could involve years of pursuing an IT management career track. In just one example, a CTO may start out in a technical role before pursuing the position of project manager, IT Director, and finally, CTO. Keep in mind that the requirements for career enhancement may vary widely, depending on the organization.

Continued learning is often important for Chief Technology Officers in order to keep up with evolving technology. Certification could be one way to demonstrate skill areas to a potential employer. Certifications are frequently offered by software vendors; here a few that may be beneficial to CTOs:

  • Cisco CCNP Collaboration Certification – This credential may allow prospective CTOs to demonstrate skills related to planning, configuring, and troubleshooting Cisco Collaboration and Unified communications applications, devices and networks. The program was designed to help you increase the effectiveness of business communications and collaboration.[ii]
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional Data Center (CCNP Data Center) – This credential could help you demonstrate your knowledge of designing, installing, and maintaining data centers for business services and other objectives.[iii]
  • MCSE: Business Intelligence – This certification, offered by Microsoft, may help you demonstrate techniques and skills related to data delivery and deployment across an organization using Microsoft SQL Server.[iv]

Chief Technology Officer Salary Potential and Job Growth[v]

Naturally, you might be interested in a CTO’s potential earnings. This can vary a great deal depending on your employer, the years of experience required for the position, and other factors. Checking job listings for CTOs can give you an idea of the wide salary variations. However, the below stats for Computer and Information Systems Managers may be helpful:

  • Median salary in 2012 was $120,950 per year and $58.15 per hour.
  • Projected job growth from 2012 to 2022 is 15%, which is faster than average for all occupations.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth in this field will increase as more businesses expand their use of wireless and mobile networks. 

The median annual wage for computer and information systems managers was $120,950 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $74,940, and the top 10 percent earned more than $187,200.

If you’re still interested in pursuing a Chief Technology Officer career, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the skills, experience, and educational opportunities recommended for this role. Check out some related degree programs that could help you further explore this career path. 

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