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What Is the Difference Between Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer

Business professionals with a Master of Science (M.S.) in Information Technology and Master of Business Administration (MBA) Dual Degree program are excellent candidates for either of two distinct but related careers in the C-suite. Businesses that want to flatten the senior leadership hierarchy may combine the roles, focuses and responsibilities of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Both positions are key players in organizational technology strategy, but according to Tech Target: “CIOs tend to have a more inward focus and look for ways to trim the costs of IT infrastructure while ensuring compliance and boosting productivity. CTOs tend to have a more outward focus and are looking for ways that new technologies could grow opportunities.”

Role Responsibilities: CIO vs. CTOs

In other words, CIOs set policies that: ensure information is shared efficiently, effectively and securely across the enterprise; direct the integration of digital assets with business functions; and establish metrics that identify internal opportunities for technology optimization.

Specific policies and directives of CIOs could include:

  • Developing digital infrastructure and strategies for deploying it
  • Collaboration with business partners to optimize productivity
  • Assessing workforce performance and professional development
  • Reorganizing processes to gain cost-cutting efficiencies

On the other hand, CTOs focus on technology and innovation that drive product and service development to anticipate and meet changing market conditions, set technology processes for customer-facing departments and establish metrics that assess progress toward business goals.

Specific CTO responsibilities could include:

  • Setting goals for technology processes and strategies to achieve them
  • Collaborating with vendors in order to improve the company’s products/services
  • Ensuring the outward-facing technical processes align with business goals
  • Leveraging technology to increase revenue

While each role has different responsibilities, both are critical to business success. “Both CIO and CTO roles are important, especially for big companies with distinct C-suite positions,” according to Workable. “They both contribute to the company’s proper functioning from a different scope … and participate in the company’s profit (CIO) and revenue (CTO) growth.”

The distinction in focus — CIOs look inward to maximize the efficiency of internal technology processes as different from the outward direction of CTOs using technology to gain a market advantage — can be helpful for business professionals in deciding which C-suite career path to pursue. Candidates interested in the business applications of technology would likely be more successful as CTOs, Digital Adoption advises, while people who are more inclined to designing and deploying technology processes should consider the path to CTO.

The Demand for CTOs and CIOs

The M.S. in Information Technology and MBA Dual Degree programs offered online by Emporia State University provide graduates with the expertise and insights to pursue careers at the intersection of business and technology. The programs future-proofs graduates’ careers by enabling them to bridge the gap between business and technology, pursue roles that demand technical expertise and business acumen and understand the strategic value of technology from a business perspective.

Relevant courses — such as Information Technology Project Management, Systems Analysis and Design and Information Systems for Managerial Decisions — prepare students with necessary technology and business skills to pursue CIO and CTO roles.

Moreover, the technology skills gained through the program — combined with the knowledge of market dynamics, finance and strategic development — open doors to entrepreneurial and consulting opportunities in IT fields such as data management, systems design and analysis and cloud computing.

CIOs are in high demand across the economic spectrum. Most are employed in Fortune 500 companies with the technology, government, healthcare and finance sectors, rounding out the top four industries. Similarly, the demand for CTOs exceeds supply by a wide margin, with the number of openings expected to increase by 16% through 2031. Various sources place average annual salaries for CTOs between $153,000 and $248,000 annually and for CIOs between $127,000 to $282,000 annually.

Job candidates with a dual degree “stand out from the crowd,” according to the GMAT. “While earning one master’s degree doesn’t have quite the elite reputation it used to, earning two is still a rare and impressive feat.”

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