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CIO vs CTO – Which role is right for you?

A Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) are generally tasked with keeping a business’s technological systems and processes operating at maximum capacity. Requiring advanced knowledge and skills, these executive-level positions are responsible for an organisation’s overarching technology infrastructure. They’re among the highest-ranking roles in the corporate hierarchy, representing the ultimate career ambition for many IT professionals.  

Despite having several similarities, the role of CIO and CTO are distinct from one another. Read on to explore the parallels and distinctions between CTOs and CIOs and how these play out in the business world.  

What is a CTO? 

A CTO is a person in charge of ensuring an organisation’s technology and processes support primary business objectives. Requiring both technical skills and business acumen, this position holds a high level of authority. Indeed describes CTOs as “being in charge of coordinating various technology-related activities as well as overseeing the function and efficiency of a company’s systems.”  

What is a CIO? 

A CIO is the most senior executive in a company tasked with managing information technology. Business News Daily defines the role of CIO as “responsible for managing an organisation’s IT staff, as well as its IT related assets like software and hardware, and for strategic planning as it relates to computer systems and the organisation’s network”.  

Which is the right role for you? 

Learn more about the differences between CIOs and CTOs to decide which career path caters to your professional goals.   

How to become a CTO 

Considering the complexity involved with managing a company’s IT systems, you’ll need a combination of education and experience to become a CTO.  

According to members of the Forbes Technology Council (which is comprised of senior-level technology executives), these are some of the essential skills you’ll need as a CTO: 

  • Constant education  
  • Diplomacy and patience  
  • Effective hiring  
  • People skills 
  • Strategic thinking  
  • Communication  
  • Listening 
  • Coding 
  • Vision setting 
  • Time management  
  • Security and privacy management 
  • Mentoring.  

This may sound like a long list of competencies, but CTOs need a diverse skill set to successfully navigate the various challenges associated with managing IT systems.   

How much does a CTO make?  

CTOs are often among the highest-paid individuals in business given their high level of accountability, although wages can vary depending on factors like experience, location, and employer. According to PayScale, the average wage for CTOs in Australia ranges from $100,000 to $260,000.  

How to become a CIO  

Having a relevant bachelor’s degree is essential for aspiring CIOs, while a postgraduate qualification can further enhance your employability. In a survey undertaken by human resources provider Hays, 25% of respondents held an MBA, and 21% had a Master’s degree.  

In addition to tertiary education, Tech Republic highlights the following skills as essential for CIOs: 

  • Agile project management  
  • Enterprise software development  
  • Budgeting  
  • Recruiting 
  • Business intelligence  
  • SAP software  
  • VMware software 
  • Data warehouse architecture  
  • Microsoft SharePoint.  

Having such a varied blend of managerial, business, and technology skills will ensure you have what it takes to spearhead digital transformation for your organisation.  

How much does a CIO make?  

PayScale estimates that, on average, CIOs in Australia make between $120,000 and $350,000 annually (the higher end of this scale represents the top percentage of CIOs wages, and it’s important to keep in mind that wages can vary significantly based on experience, industry and other factors).  

The main difference between CTOs and CIOs is the nature of the work they do on a day-to-day basis. While CIOs tend to focus on the relationship between IT infrastructure and internal processes, CTOs are often more outwardly focused, taking on the task of developing technology that makes the business more competitive.  

If you’re more interested in managing relationships within teams and finding ways to improve the efficiency of internal IT systems, you may be more suited to the role of CIO. One the other hand, if you’re passionate about exploring new technologies and maintaining competitiveness with business rivals, you could have what it takes to thrive as a CTO.   

No matter which role you’re interested in, furthering your education will greatly improve your chances of one day becoming a CIO or CTO. As both positions need highly advanced business management abilities alongside technical skills, an MBA specialising in IT can be extremely valuable for those aspiring to reach such a high-level role.  

The University of Adelaide’s online Master of Business Administration (Information Technology) is designed to prepare you for the challenges that IT leaders face now and in the future. To learn more about this online MBA program, make an appointment to speak with an advisor today.