IT at the Executive Level: What Is a Chief Information Officer?

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Chief Information Officer analyzes IT functions on his laptopThe breakneck speed of technology is a sign of the continued need for qualified, experienced professionals who can manage and implement information technology (IT) solutions. Those interested in pursuing a career that will enable them to develop computer systems and technology strategies designed to keep businesses competitive are likely to be drawn to the chief information officer (CIO) role.

The chief information officer holds the highest-ranking technology position within an organization. To be successful in this role, candidates must have an in-depth understanding of how a company works. Professionals asking what is a chief information officer and whether the title can be used interchangeably with IT director should know that the positions are not the same.

Whereas IT directors focus mostly on day-to-day operations and implementation of current tech plans, chief information officers spend their time focusing on broader strategies that are needed to support the organization’s objectives. Chief information officers not only need to be able to predict future IT trends, but also ensure that the systems they implement will provide their organization with a competitive edge. They must be open and flexible.

Education and Credential Requirements

Professionals who want to advance to the chief information officer position must have a strong foundation in computer science and an in-depth knowledge of computer information systems, database administration and IT management. Analytical, problem-solving and technological acumen are must-haves, as are strong communication and decision-making skills.

The minimum education requirement for chief information officers is typically a bachelor’s degree, although most companies prefer to hire candidates who have attained an advanced degree. Organizations often find that candidates who have a master’s degree are better able to build relationships with employees and other C-level executives, remain on top of technology trends and determine the unique technical needs of various departments.

Those who hold a master’s degree are also more likely to have success in searching for emerging or innovative technologies that can help their company achieve target growth objectives.

What Is a Chief Information Officer’s Job Outlook?

As cloud computing and other emerging technologies continue to advance, the need for qualified executives who are able to oversee and manage critical IT functions will also grow.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for computer and information systems managers will grow by 12% between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Aspiring chief information officers may be interested to know that the position is lucrative. PayScale reports that, at the time of writing, the average annual salary of a chief information officer is $142,609, with the highest earners taking home more than $269,033 annually.

Job Opportunities in the Healthcare Industry

In the 1980s, the chief information officer role was often technical in nature and involved helping companies maintain communication networks, internal computers and databases. Yet today, with the advent of big data and a fast-changing global marketplace, opportunities in this field are far-reaching and available in a myriad of industries.

Candidates who have an interest in using their technological acumen to help others may find themselves drawn to positions in the healthcare industry. Changes in system optimization along with emerging trends in how electronic health records are maintained will require hospitals to keep up with the digital transformation of the industry.

Trends in health informatics, including patient-generated health data, large-scale community data, population-wide health care, and computer-assisted doctors, suggest that job opportunities will remain vast. As such hospitals will need to hire educated, experienced chief information officers who can strategize how to use technology in ways that will enable their health care systems to thrive.

How a Master of Science in Health Informatics Can Help

Students who choose to pursue a Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) at the University of Illinois at Chicago can gain the knowledge and education necessary to improve patient care and outcomes.

The program has been designed to help students build upon their existing knowledge base while providing the necessary analytical and managerial expertise that chief information officers will need to eliminate the chance for errors and thus promote better outcomes.

The path toward a career as a chief information officer starts today. Discover more about how the MSHI program at UIC can help you toward your goals.

Recommended Readings

MSHI or Health Care MBA: Which Degree Is the Right Choice?

What Is Accreditation, and Why Does It Matter for You?

Why Choose the Post-Master’s Certificate in Health Informatics


Healthcare IT News, “Meet the Modern Healthcare CIO: A Business Leader That Is Casting Off Their Traditional IT Role”

Investopedia, Chief Information Officer

PayScale, Average Chief Information Officer (CIO) , “When Should My Small Business Hire a CIO?”

University of Illinois at Chicago, Master of Science in Health Informatics

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Computer and Information Systems Managers”

ZDNet, “What Is a CIO? Everything You Need to Know About the Chief Information Officer Explained”