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 for top executives to consider
  • Plan and direct the installation and maintenance of computer hardware and software
  • Ensure the security of an organization’s network and electronic documents
  • Assess the costs and benefits of new projects and justify funding on projects 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 the 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 examples of types of computer and information systems managers:

Chief information officers (CIOs) determine the technology or information goals of an organization and then oversee implementation of technology to meet those goals.

CIOs may focus on a specific area, such as electronic data processing or information systems, but CIOs tend to focus more on long-term or big picture issues. At small organizations a CIO has more direct control over the IT department, and at larger organizations other managers 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 a company’s business aspects are included in 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 usually reports directly to the CIO and is responsible for designing and recommending the appropriate technology solutions to support the CIO’s policies and directives. CTOs also work with different departments to implement the organization’s technology plans.

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 414,400 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of computer and information systems managers were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services                     22%
Information 11
Finance and insurance 11
Management of companies and enterprises 10
Manufacturing 7

Work Schedules

Most computer and information systems managers work full time. If problems arise, managers may need to work more than 40 hours a week to come up with solutions.

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. These degrees include 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 or newer companies do not require as much experience as larger or 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 in the same industry they are applying to work in. 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 $146,360 in May 2019. 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 $87,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for computer and information systems managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Information $161,930
Computer systems design and related services                     152,840
Finance and insurance 150,810
Management of companies and enterprises 148,290
Manufacturing 146,720

Most computer and information systems managers work full time. If problems arise, managers may need to work more than 40 hours a week to come up with solutions.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer and information systems managers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for computer and information systems managers will grow as firms increasingly expand their operations to digital platforms. Computer and information systems managers will be responsible for implementing these goals.

Employment growth will result from the need to bolster cybersecurity in computer and information systems used by businesses. Industries such as retail trade will need to implement more robust security policies as cyber threats increase.

An increase in the popularity of cloud computing may result in firms outsourcing services from in-house IT departments to cloud-computing companies. This will shift IT services from IT departments in noncomputer industries, such as financial firms or schools, to firms engaged in computer systems design and related services and those in data processing, hosting, and related services.

For More Information

For more information about computer careers, visit:

Association for Computing Machinery

CompTIA

Computing Research Association

IEEE Computer Society

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

National Center for Women & Information Technology

CareerOneStop

For a career video on computer and information systems managers, visit

Computer and information systems managers

 

FAQ

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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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