CIO salary: Stats and trends for 2020

What do CIOs earn in 2020? If you’re a current or aspiring CIO, consider these CIO salary statistics and trends
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IT careers 2020

It’s a good time to be an IT leader. As responsibilities and expectations for the technology function have grown, so too have CIO salaries – particularly for those IT leaders firmly entrenched within the executive leadership team.

“An increasing number of CIOs are responsible for growing their companies’ new digital businesses, a revenue-driving role that tends to push their salaries up,” says Martha Heller, CEO of Heller Search Associates, a recruiting firm specializing in IT leadership.

[ Want more about the modern CIO? Read also: CIO role: Everything you need to know about today’s Chief Information Officers. ]

CIOs with the highest salaries report to the CEO

CIOs who report to CEOs tend to earn higher salaries, commensurate to their CFO and COO peers, while CIOs who are two levels down from the CEO are considered less strategic to the company and have lower salaries as a result.”

As we head into 2020, we’ve updated surveyed the landscape for updated salary data, taking a look at how various factors, such as title tweaks, location, experience, and industry are impacting the CIO’s earning potential this year.

Average CIO salaries

$124,426: Indeed finds its average CIO salary is $124,426 annually, as of late January 2020. The figure is based on 473 salaries, either submitted anonymously by IT leaders or gathered from job listings over the previous three years. That may be a bit low, since Indeed estimates the average annual salary for vice president of IT as $179,229, based on 217 salaries. Many CIOs make a good deal more in bonuses and profit-sharing, as we’ll discuss below.

2-4 year tenure for CIOs: The typical tenure for CIOs, the Indeed data says, is two to four years, while VPs of IT tend to hold on a little longer, at three to five years.

$158,851: Payscale pegs CIO pay higher, at $158,851 a year, with some CIOs earning as much as $249,000 at the high end. The compensation software provider also notes an average bonus of $26,548 for the top IT leader, and profit-sharing of $13,495 a year.

$170,726: Glassdoor’s $170,726 average annual base pay inches even higher with a range of salaries from $105K to $259K. The average CIO earns additional cash compensation of $38,863 a year, according to the workplace transparency site.

$208,750: The Robert Half Technology Salary Guide 2020 comes in with the highest pay estimations, listing the median CIO salary at $208,750 and showing CIOs in the 95th percentile, raking in $298,750 this year.

Factors that influence CIO salary

Location, location, location: While ZipRecruiter says the national average for CIO pay is $154,936 a year, those figures change by zip code. In Boston, it’s $167,292. CIOs in New York City take in $169,542, while those in San Jose, Calif., earn $175,133. In Des Moines, it’s $145,114, while Austin, Texas companies pay their CIOs an average of $150,378.

A matter of experience: Number of years in the field has a significant multiplier effect on CIO salaries. Payscale says an entry-level CIO (less than a year of experience) can expect average total compensation of $100,760 (based on 21 salaries). Mid-career CIOs (five to nine years of experience) earn an average total compensation of $129,987 (based on 251 salaries). Experienced CIOs (10-19 years) can take home $156,131 total a year, while the veteran CIO (20 years and more) sees average total pay of $176,836.

Who’s hiring: Glassdoor gives us a glimpse of the pay being offered by big IT employers with open CIO positions, like GE (average CIO salary of $205,556), Bank of America (average salary of $191,174), and the U.S. Federal Government (average salary of $153,109). Payscale found that the U.S. Army paid the lowest, at $114,000.

Vertical industry leaders: The analysts at Robert Half predict that four industries will lead the way in IT hiring. Those sectors – financial services (both traditional institutions and fintech firms), healthcare, manufacturing and distribution, and technology companies – may offer premium pay for senior IT leaders.

A good time to be a CIO: Budget and salary increases

According to the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2019 (look for the next edition in June 2020), more technology leaders (55 percent) reported budget increases than at any time in the last 15 years.

The report’s authors wrote: “Alongside investment in technology, organizations are also investing in their leaders, with almost half (47 percent) having had a salary increase. Just under half (45 percent) of technology leaders are getting bonuses of 10 percent or more and 4 percent are more than doubling their salaries with this incentive.”

“Fewer technology leaders are feeling unfulfilled in their roles compared with last year, but their enthusiasm has only increased to a sense of feeling ‘quite’ fulfilled. Overall the absolute level of job satisfaction is very high, and coupled with increased salaries and bonuses, there has never been a better time to be a technology leader,” the report states.

[ How does your talent strategy measure up in 2020? Download the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: IT Talent Strategy: New Tactics for a New Era. ]

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.