Chief Information Officer (CIO) Salary Trends

When it comes to anticipated salary increases for IT executives in 2016, some CIOs might feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick. With an expected 4.9 percent average salary increase, the CIO is tied at the bottom of the pile among the six top IT executive jobs.

Still, don’t shed too large a tear for the CIO. Top paid CIOs will break the quarter-million dollar barrier, with average salaries falling in the $172,000 to $268,250 range.

Those are among the findings of the 2016 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals, just published by Robert Half Technology. The study looks at expected salary ranges and pay increases for dozens of IT roles and provides context on what is happening with each in the job market.

“CIO salary growth has been consistent year over year, growing in the four to five percent range (4.1 percent in 2013 and 5.1 percent in 2014),” John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology, said. “While the role of CIO has been consistent within organizations, newer executive roles, such as chief security officers, for example, may be seeing higher growth due to the role being more prevalent in the technology organization of today. Steady growth for the CIO role seems consistent with the pace of the IT industry as a whole.”

Chief security officers are indeed doing well. With an anticipated 7 percent salary increase on average, they top the chart for pay hikes at the executive level. At the low end of the salary range, CSOs can expect to earn $140,250 in 2016. At the high end of the range, salaries will top off at $222,500.

Robert Half Technology lists four other job roles in the IT administration ranks:

*Chief technology officer, with an anticipated 5.2 percent pay hike, and salaries ranging from $147,500 to $229,000.

*Vice president of information technology, with an anticipated 5.1 percent pay increase, and salaries ranging from $141,000 to $225,000.

*Technology director, with anticipated pay increases of 5.1 percent, and salaries ranging from $122,750 to $185,000.

*Information technology manager, with 4.9 percent pay hike projections, and salaries ranging from $105,750 to $159,000.

So how does a CIO best land at the high end of the salary range? Obviously industry and geography play a major role. So does length of experience. Equally important is the CIO’s ability to demonstrate leadership in driving business innovation.

“The ‘new’ role of the CIO involves a deep breath of business knowledge,” Reed said. “Organizations are leaning on the CIO to act as an advisor to the business, making recommendations that will impact the business internally and externally.”

The impact on CIOs in the job market

So what impact does this have on CIO recruiting, CIO job searching and salary offers as we approach 2016?

“The most sought-after CIOs are those individuals with the business acumen and industry experience that will make them a true value-add for the business,” Reed said. “The most marketable CIO will be the candidate who can show that they have the business acumen and technical expertise, they will have a proven record of making impactful change to the business and building successful teams to execute.”

This last point is key, according to Steve Slutsky, a principal with the People and Organizations Practice at Pwc in Philadelphia.

“CIO pay seems to move in accordance with the common perspective around the importance of technology to the organization,” Slutsky said. “As companies have become more technology enabled, and technology is seen as a critical piece of the entire corporate value chain, senior IT pay has increased proportionately with that increase in value to the organization.

Where Slutsky does see the CIO paycheck most at risk is when other executive level roles are created in the organization, such as the chief security officer, the chief data officer or the chief digital officer.

Carl Schmitt, a senior consultant at Towers Watson who specializes in executive compensation, agrees that the key to the biggest CIO paycheck next year will be victories in the board room, not the data center.

“The key is to be involved with the executives in the business, and to understand that the CIO role is really engrained in the value that the business is creating,” Schmitt explains.

“It’s not simply a back office function, but really an enabler of the next generation of whatever products or services you might be delivering to customers. That is really where the value is created. To the sense that the CIO is driving the top line and the bottom line of the business–that is where the value to the company is created and also were the dividends for the CIO come in,” Schmitt said.

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