What Is a CTO? (Job Duties, Salary and Requirements)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 23 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Chief technology officers, or CTOs, are executive-level professionals who help organisations develop, implement and maintain their technology systems and processes. Becoming a CTO is both challenging and rewarding, with the opportunity for high earning potential and the ability to help organisations improve their innovation capabilities. If you are passionate about technology and have a background in leadership, then you may be interested in pursuing a career as a CTO. In this article, we answer the question "what is a CTO?," explore the job duties associated with this role, share the average CTO salary and explain how to become one.

What is a CTO?

A CTO is a professional who holds a senior-level position managing a company's technology, research and development needs. CTOs are also responsible for assessing the short-term and long-term objectives of the organisation they work for to help reach its goals. They typically report to the organisation's chief information officer (CIO) or the chief executive officer (CEO). It's common for a CTO to manage an IT manager or individual members of an IT team within an organisation.

Related: What Is a CEO? Definition and Career Advice

What does a CTO do?

The chief technology officer's primary responsibility is to make all decisions related to the technological needs of a company. A CTO may be responsible for performing the following duties:

  • Creating and implementing goals for the research and development (R&D) department

  • Developing and overseeing a strategy for using technology within a company for maximum productivity and output

  • Ensuring that a company's technology is being used efficiently and profitably

  • Evaluating current technology systems and implementing new systems when necessary

  • Developing and implementing data protection and quality assurance processes

  • Monitoring and assessing IT budgets

  • Communicating technology strategies to stakeholders and employees

  • Implementing IT projects that are aimed at creating a positive customer experience and satisfaction

  • Approving the design of new IT infrastructure, communication systems and software

  • Staying abreast of current technology trends and platforms and incorporating this knowledge into the organisation's technological approach

  • Training and mentoring employees and managers on technological implementations and expectations

The exact duties of a CTO may vary depending on the company and industry they work in. Industries where CTOs typically work include information technology, computer-based industries, automotive, biotech and defence.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Average salary for a CTO

The average base salary for a CTO is ₹11,43,348 per year. The amount you earn as a CTO may vary based on your education level, work experience and skill set. Where your job is located and the cost of living in your area may also impact your salary.

How to become a CTO

The following are the typical steps that an individual may take to pursue a career as a chief technology officer:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Most CTO positions require a minimum of a bachelor's degree to be eligible for the job. Common bachelor degrees in this profession include computer science, data science, digital media or other computer science-related fields. This type of degree can set the foundation for your career and familiarise you with topics such as programming, cyber law and data integrity.

2. Get a master's degree

Individuals who have the ultimate goal of becoming a CTO may want to pursue a master's degree in addition to a bachelor's degree. A master's degree can prepare you for the business aspect of this position and further hone your technical expertise. Many future CTOs get their master's degrees in fields such as business administration, online cybersecurity or other related fields.

3. Gain on-the-job experience

To become a CTO, you first need to acquire on-the-job experience in an IT-related role. Many employers require candidates to have a minimum of five to 10 years of experience before being considered for an executive-level role. Positions such as those in security engineering, information security management and web software development can all provide useful experience for this position.

4. Apply for a promotion

Once you have gained the necessary education and experience, you can begin your search for an open chief technology officer position. You can search within your current company or apply for jobs in other organisations. Try to apply for positions in the industry you are the most familiar with to improve your chances of being hired.

CTO certifications

While earning additional certifications may not be required, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have them. Obtaining credentials related to your industry or project management can help you hone your skills and demonstrate your capabilities to potential employers. Here are some popular certifications you can explore throughout your career:

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The Project Management Institute offers the CAPM which can further your ability to manage IT teams within your organisation. This entry-level certification requires you to pass a 150 question exam to become credentialed. The CAPM certification is valid for five years before you need to renew it.

Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)

This certification demonstrates your ability to apply enterprise IT governance principles in the workplace. To qualify to take this exam and become certified, you must have five or more years of relevant work experience with at least one of these years in managing frameworks. The CGEIT exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. You can register to take this exam through ISACA.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The CISM is a certification offered by ISACA that validates your ability to develop and manage enterprise information security programs. The exam includes 200 multiple-choice questions that cover a wide range of topics related to information security management. You must have five or more years of experience in the information security field to qualify to take this exam.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

This certification is ideal for aspiring CTOs who wish to work in the cybersecurity industry. The CISSP demonstrates that you are capable of implementing and managing the most up-to-date cybersecurity programs available. You must possess a minimum of five years of experience working in technology-related security to qualify to take this exam and receive the CISSP certification.

Skills

Here are some additional skills that can help you advance in your career and become a great CTO:

Patience

Effective CTOs know that change takes time. Practising patience can help you ensure you give each new project or process enough time to produce accurate results before making significant changes. This can improve your return on investment (ROI) and help you reach your long-term goals. Being patient when having conversations with your colleagues and team members can also improve your work relationships.

Interpersonal skills

CTOs are leaders within the organisation they work for, which means it is their job to inspire their employees and colleagues to execute their tasks so the business can reach its goals. Having strong interpersonal skills can help you build relationships with your team, persuade key stakeholders and communicate more effectively. Practise active listening to make your team feel heard and use simple, concise language when delegating tasks to ensure everyone knows what they are responsible for.

Critical thinking

Successful CTOs have the ability to focus on their long-term business objectives while making sure the day-to-day tasks get done. Honing your critical thinking skills can help you develop a strategy that allows you to lead your team effectively, mitigate risks and identify potential opportunities. This skill can also help you develop informative reports to share with key stakeholders and other company leaders.

Related: Your Guide to the Strategic Management Process

Time management

CTOs are responsible for overseeing a wide variety of projects, people and tasks. Having excellent time management skills can help you prioritise your work effectively and ensure you meet important deadlines. Keep a calendar to track your schedule and use to-do lists to organise your job duties. You can also use a search engine to research different time management applications and software tools. This can help you save time by automating recurring tasks.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Example of a CTO job description

Here is an example of a CTO job description to help you prepare:

Our team is looking for a highly skilled CTO with extensive experience working in the technology industry. The candidate we hire will be responsible for making executive technology decisions on behalf of our organisation, developing and maintaining our technology and R&D budgets and implementing new technology systems as needed to help us reach our business objectives. This position reports directly to the CEO of our company.

Requirements include a minimum of 7 years working in a technology-related role, 5 years of management experience and a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Candidates with an MBA are preferred.

Please note that none of the organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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