CIO Salary: Highest Paying Locations and Skills

by | Oct 5, 2022 | Professional Growth & Careers

As technology continues to advance, the same can be said for the salaries earned by a Chief Information Officer (CIO). How much a CIO earns depends on several factors, with the two most influential factors being the skills acquired and the location where a CIO manages a team of technology leaders.

How Much Does a CIO Earn?

CIOs assume responsibility for managing the technology issues a company faces. As the leader of an information technology department, a CIO manages technology for all facets of a business, such as applying technology to address the allocation of resources and the development of employees. From enhancing technology tools for achieving optimal profits to recruiting the most talented professionals in the information technology field, CIOs must possess a wide variety of leadership skills to help companies increase sales, while at the same time maximizing productivity.

Often mistaken as a position in which a leader focuses on developing new and improved technology, a CIO addresses technology issues by collaborating and overseeing the work performed by the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO). As one of the highest-level positions of large corporations, a CIO should have accumulated years of experience cultivating technical skills in computer science, software engineering, or any other technical field. If a company experiences a security breach, the CIO is the primary point of contact for other members of the IT team to address the potentially debilitating breach of IT security.

According to research compiled by PayScale, the average salary of a CIO working in the United States sits at a little more than $142,000 a year. The salary range, which is dependent mostly on location and acquired skills, runs between $81,718 and $269,033 on an annual basis. CIOs in Los Angeles earn the highest average yearly salaries, with Minneapolis, Boston, and Seattle falling in line as the next locations where CIOs generate the most annual compensation.

Although many factors come into play to determine CIO salary, the development of certain skills represents the most important factor that determines pay for the executive leadership position.

Planning Strategy

A CIO, especially one who works for a large corporation, must manage a large department budget that allocates resources to prevent security breaches, as well as implement the most advanced technology to achieve the company’s financial goals. Most of the strategic planning conducted by a CIO involves recruiting the brightest and most experienced talent, while remaining within the department budget approved by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). CIOs that possess superior strategic planning skills typically earn more than their counterparts.

A CIO who possesses superior strategic planning skills can command an annual salary that is around $160,000 However, working in Los Angeles commands the highest salary for CIOs with superior strategic planning skills at a level that exceeds $300,000 annually. CIOs with superior strategic planning skills in Atlanta, Chicago, and Houston sit behind Los Angeles in terms of yearly salary.

Managing a Budget

Despite the focus on technology issues, one of the primary responsibilities of a CIO is to manage expenses, which includes employee compensation. Because IT budgets claim a substantial percentage of a company’s financial recourses, the ability to manage a budget is a critical skill for a CIO to develop. Developing budget management skills often require a CIO to earn a secondary degree in business, preferably an MBA that concentrates on financial topics that include budget management. Budget management skills are based on developing the right number of IT specialists to maintain technical support for every other department of a company.

CIOs with sufficient budget management skills earn just above $156,000 per year, with Los Angeles once again coming in first place as the location where budget management savvy CIOs earn the most substantial compensation,


CIOs must maintain their technical knowledge to ensure company growth, as well as achieve the targeted level of profits. However, leadership remains an important skill to develop for the highest-paying CIOs working in the United States. Leadership skills include managing a large team of IT specialists, as well as ensuring the IT department runs as smoothly as possible. Depending on the company, it may also involve engaging with the board. CIOs with the most developed leadership skills earn an average salary of $162,188 a year.

Why is Location Important in Determining CIO Salary?

Location in conjunction with acquiring certain skills forms the foundation of a CIO’s salary. The cost of living tends to be higher in cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago, which means CIOs earn more money to cover the additional costs that are associated with living in these cities. For example, a CIO working in Los Angeles who possesses the same level of leadership, budget management, and strategic planning skills as a CIO living in Kansas City should expect to earn more in salary.

The second factor why location matters in determining the compensation for a CIO concerns the demand for filling open CIO positions. Cities like Los Angeles frequently experience a shortage of CIOs, which drives the annual salary up for filling the positions. In addition to higher salaries, CIOs working in cities such as Los Angeles and Atlanta can expect to receive more money for bonuses and other types of financial incentives.

The Future Outlook for CIO Salaries

According to estimates from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment numbers for IT managers and executives like CIOs should grow around 11 percent between 2023 and 2030. How much salaries grow for CIOs depends on where a CIO works, as well as the level of leadership, budget management, and strategic planning skills.

Additional Resources

CIO to CEO: A Growing Opportunity For IT Leaders to Rise to the Top

Top Cybersecurity Certifications to Boost Your Career

Your Path to CIO: Tips for Becoming a CIO


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