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How to Become a Computer and Information Systems Manager

A bachelor’s degree in computer or information science plus related work experience is typically required. Many computer and information systems managers also have a graduate degree.


Computer and information systems managers normally must have a bachelor’s degree in a computer- or information science-related field. This usually takes 4 years to complete and includes courses in computer programming, software development, and mathematics. Management information systems (MIS) programs usually include business classes as well as computer-related ones.

Many organizations require their computer and information systems managers to have a graduate degree as well. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is common and takes 2 years beyond the undergraduate level to complete. Many people pursuing an MBA take classes while working, an option that can increase the time required to complete it.

Work Experience

Most jobs for computer and information systems managers require several years of experience in a related information technology (IT) job. Lower-level management positions may require only a few years of experience. Directors are more likely to need 5 to 10 years of related work experience. A chief technology officer (CTO), who oversees the technology plan for an organization, may need more than 15 years of experience in the IT field before being considered for a job.

The number of years of experience required varies by organization. Generally, smaller companies do not require as much experience as larger, more established ones.

Computer systems are used throughout the economy, and IT employees may gain experience in a variety of industries. However, an applicant’s work experience should be related to the industry the applicant plans to manage. For example, an IT security manager should have previously worked in information security. A hospital IT director should have experience in the healthcare field.


Most computer and information systems managers start out as lower level managers and advance to higher positions within the IT department. IT directors or project managers can advance to become chief technology officers (CTOs). A CTO or other manager who is especially business-minded can advance to become a chief information officer (CIO), who is in charge of all IT-related decisions in an organization.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. IT managers must be able to analyze a problem, consider ways to solve the problem, and select the best one.

Communication skills. IT managers must be able to explain their work to top executives and give clear instructions to their subordinates.

Decision-making skills. Some IT managers must make important decisions about how to allocate their organizations’ resources in order to reach their goals.

Leadership skills. IT managers must be able to lead and motivate IT teams or departments so workers are efficient and effective.

Organizational skills. Some IT managers must coordinate the work of several different IT departments to make the organization run efficiently.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition