Computer and information systems managers, often called information technology (IT) managers, or IT project managers, plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization. They help determine the information technology goals of an organization and are responsible for implementing computer systems to meet those goals.

Duties

Computer and information systems managers typically do the following:

  • Analyze their organization’s computer needs and recommend possible upgrades to top executives
  • Plan and direct installing and upgrading computer hardware and software
  • Ensure the security of an organization’s network and electronic documents
  • Assess the costs and benefits of a new project and justify spending on the project to top executives
  • Learn about new technology and look for ways to upgrade their organization’s computer systems
  • Determine short- and long-term personnel needs for their department
  • Plan and direct the work of other IT professionals, including computer systems analysts, software developers, information security analysts, and computer support specialists
  • Negotiate with vendors to get the highest level of service for their organization’s technology

Few managers carry out all of these duties. There are various types of computer and information systems managers, and the specific duties of each are determined by the size and structure of the firm. Smaller firms may not employ every type of manager.

The following are types of computer and information systems managers:

Chief information officers (CIOs) are responsible for the overall technology strategy of their organizations. They help determine the technology or information goals of an organization and then oversee planning to implement technology to meet those goals.

CIOs may focus on a specific area, such as electronic data processing or information systems, but they differ from chief technology officers (CTOs; see next) in that the CIO is more focused on long-term, or “big picture,” issues. At small organizations a CIO has more direct control over the IT department, while at larger organizations other mangers under the CIO may handle the day-to-day activities of the IT department.

CIOs who do not have technical expertise and who focus solely on the business aspects of creating an overall company vision are included in a separate profile on top executives.

Chief technology officers (CTOs) evaluate new technology and determine how it can help their organization. When both CIOs and CTOs are present, the CTO usually has more technical expertise.

The CTO is responsible for designing and recommending the appropriate technology solutions to support the policies and directives issued by the CIO. CTOs also work with different departments to implement the organization’s technology plans.

The CTO usually reports directly to the CIO and also may be responsible for overseeing the development of new technologies or other research-and-development activities. When a company does not have a CIO, the CTO determines the overall technology strategy for the firm and presents it to top executives.

IT directors, including management information systems (MIS) directors, are in charge of their organizations’ information technology (IT) departments, and they directly supervise other employees. IT directors help to determine the business requirements for IT systems, and they implement the policies that have been chosen by top executives. IT directors often have a direct role in hiring members of the IT department. It is their job to ensure the availability of data and network services by coordinating IT activities. IT directors also oversee the financial aspects of their department, such as budgeting.  

IT security managers oversee their organizations’ network and data security. They work with top executives to plan security policies and promote a culture of information security throughout the organization. They develop programs to keep employees aware of security threats. These managers must keep up to date on IT security measures. They also supervise investigations if there is a security violation.

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Work Environment

Computer and information systems managers held about 332,700 jobs in 2012.

The industries that employed the most computer and information systems managers in 2012 were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 19%
Finance and insurance 12
Information 11
Management of companies and enterprises 9
Government 7

As network speeds increase, telecommuting is becoming more common. Although few managers can work remotely, many have to supervise employees who work from home.

Work Schedules

Most computer and information systems managers work full time. Many of them must work overtime to solve problems. In 2012, about one third worked more than 40 hours per week.

Education and Training

Typically, a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science, plus related work experience, is required. Many computer and information systems managers also have a graduate degree.

Education

Computer and information systems managers normally must have a bachelor’s degree in a computer- or information science–related field. Such a degree usually takes 4 years to complete and includes courses in computer programming, software development, and mathematics. Management information systems (MIS) programs usually include business classes as well as computer-related ones.

Many organizations require their computer and information systems managers to have a graduate degree as well. A master of business administration (MBA) is common and takes 2 years beyond the undergraduate level to complete. Many people pursuing an MBA take classes while working, an option that can increase the time required to complete that degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most jobs for computer and information systems managers require several years of experience in a related information technology (IT) job. Lower level management positions may require only a few years of experience. Directors are more likely to need 5 to 10 years of related work experience. A chief technology officer (CTO), who oversees the technology plan for a large organization, may need more than 15 years of experience in the IT field before being considered for a job.

The number of years of experience required varies with the organization. Generally, smaller companies do not require as much experience as larger, more established ones.

Computer systems are used throughout the economy, and IT employees may gain experience in a variety of industries. However, an applicant’s work experience should be related to the industry the applicant plans to manage. For example, an IT security manager should have previously worked in information security. A hospital IT director should have experience in the healthcare field.

Advancement

Most computer and information systems managers start out as lower level managers and advance to higher positions within the IT department. IT directors or project managers can advance to become CTOs. A CTO or other manager who is especially business minded can advance to become a chief information officer (CIO),  the person in charge of all IT-related decisions in an organization. CIOs can advance to become top executives in an organization.

Personality and Interests

Computer and information systems managers typically have an interest in the Thinking, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a computer and information systems manager, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Computer and information systems managers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. IT managers must be able to analyze a problem, consider ways to solve the problem, and select the best way.

Communication skills. IT managers must be able to explain their work to top executives and give clear instructions to their subordinates.

Decision-making skills. Some IT managers must make important decisions about how to allocate their organizations’ resources in order to reach their goals.

Leadership skills. IT managers must be able to lead and motivate IT teams or departments so that workers are efficient and effective.

Organizational skills. Some IT managers must coordinate the work of several different IT departments to make the organization run efficiently.

Pay

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.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for computer and information systems managers in the five industries in which most of these managers worked were as follows:

Information  $133,120
Computer systems design and related services 128,830
Finance and insurance 126,680
Management of companies and enterprises 124,260
Government 101,690

Most computer and information systems managers work full time. Many of them must work overtime to solve problems. In 2012, about one third worked more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer and information systems managers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for computer and information systems managers will increase as firms continue to expand their use of wireless and mobile networks. A rapid increase in demand for computer software will also increase the need for employees at all levels of management.

Additional employment growth will likely result from the need to bolster cybersecurity  in information technology (IT) departments. More attention is being directed at cyber threats, a trend that is expected to increase over the next decade.

A number of jobs in this occupation are expected to be created in the healthcare industry, which is aggressively implementing information technology. This industry is expected to increase IT use greatly, resulting in job growth. In general medical and surgical hospitals, employment of IT managers is projected to grow 42 percent.

An increase in cloud computing may shift some IT services from non-computer industries, such as financial firms or schools, to firms engaged in computer systems design and related services, resulting in a concentration of jobs in the latter industry. The reason is that firms will increasingly be outsourcing services from on-premise IT departments to cloud- computing companies.

A number of IT jobs are at risk of being sent to other countries with lower wages, dampening some employment growth. However, this risk may be reduced by a recent trend of firms moving jobs to lower cost regions of the United States instead of to other countries.

Job Prospects

Prospects should be favorable for this occupation. Many companies note that it is difficult to find qualified applicants for positions.

Because innovation is fast paced in IT, opportunities should be best for those who have extensive work experience and knowledge of the newest technology.

For More Information

For more information about computer careers, visit

Association for Computing Machinery

IEEE

Computing Research Association

Tech America

For more information about opportunities for women pursuing information technology careers, visit

National Center for Women and Information Technology

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).