CIO Salary Guide: Average CIO Salaries, Regional & Industry Averages & More

CIO salary guide
Mike Marks August 27, 2020

Chief Information Officers or “CIOs” occupy an important role in any company that aims to leverage information technology to bolster its growth efforts.

As the uppermost members of the IT division, CIOs oversee and align IT development with broader company goals while reporting to other executives in the company’s hierarchy. CIOs are often champions when it comes to digital transformation and are tasked with overseeing their company’s digital transformation strategy, justifying investments to gain buy-in from key stakeholders, and ensuring that digital transformation projects are aligned with overall business objectives. As such, CIOs play a vital role in the modernization of business across every industry.

For the essential role they play in managing IT procedures and personnel, CIOs receive enviable compensation. However, Chief Information Officers do not all earn the same salaries, and several factors play into deciding what rung of the wage ladder they occupy. Read on to learn more about CIO salaries and the key variables that affect them.

CIO Salary Averages

The overall salary averages for Chief Information Officers are typically presented as a range, but as we’ll discuss below, these broad ranges don’t paint the full picture of CIO salaries.

2019

In 2019, the average yearly CIO salary was between $120,063 and $169,669 in the US.

2020

For 2020, the average salary for Chief Information Officers ranges from $162,050 to $172,145 in the US.

Contributing Factors That Influence CIO Salaries

Many factors converge in affecting the wages of Chief Information Officers. A few of the most significant determining factors are covered below:

Experience

Experience is one of the most obvious factors that influence salary in any sector. However, there are caveats to the leverage prior experience in a given role can afford candidates for CIO positions. Excessive experience could potentially count against CIO prospects by casting them into a category of applicants deemed “overqualified.”

Seniority

Although seniority applies solely to established CIOs (not applicants), it’s a substantial factor in determining a CIO’s pay rate. Senior CIOs generally earn significantly higher wages than their newly hired counterparts.

Education

Education plays an important role in determining starting pay and the potential for pay increases over time, but relevance is particularly crucial. Graduates from prestigious institutions with IT and administration-related degrees typically fare far better than those without relevant education and credentials in negotiating higher pay.

Performance

Past performance, even if not with the company in question, can also impact pay rates for CIO candidates. Reviews of past performance, including milestones reached and productivity reports can make negotiating a higher salary significantly easier for most CIO applicants.

CIO Salary Differences by Industry

The specific industry a CIO operates in can play a pivotal role in determining what their maximum pay rate will be. Here are a few examples to illustrate the differences in salary for CIOs working in different industries:

 

  • Healthcare: Chief Information Officers working in the healthcare industry often command higher wages than those working in other industries. The average base pay for CIOs in the healthcare industry is $172,145.
  • Education: In 2019, CIOs in higher education were reported to earn salaries between $100,000 and $160,000 on average.
  • Retail: Retail is also a fairly profitable niche for CIOs to specialize in. Individuals occupying such a position in major retailers such as US Foods and JCPenney have been reported to earn salaries of more than $400,000.

CIO Salary Differences by Region

Although Chief Information Officers are generally highly paid around the world, some regions pay more than others. Below are a few salient examples of the differences in pay CIOs make by location alone:

US

  • Midwest: With the exception of Nebraska and North Dakota, organizations operating out of midwestern states tend to pay their CIOs less than $150,000 in yearly cash compensation on average.
  • East Coast: States such as New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut make the East Coast a particularly profitable region for CIOs as they tend to earn upwards of $150,000 yearly in these areas.
  • West Coast: Excluding those located in Oregon, CIOs working in any of the Pacific West Coast states are among the top paid in the nation for their position. Of these, Hawaii ranks particularly high with an average pay rate for CIOs of more than $160,000.

Asia

  • Hong Kong: Many CIOs do very well for themselves in Hong Kong, with an average take-home, yearly salary of over 1.8M HKD or roughly $232,000.

Europe

  • Germany: In Germany, CIOs make €120,593 on average – around $141,922.
  • UK: In the United Kingdom, the average CIO salary is reported as being £100,375 or roughly $130,223.

CIO Salary Differences by Sector

Public and private employees cater to entirely different demands and experience vastly different wage arrangements for similar organizational positions. The key salary differences between the two are explained below:

Public Sector

Although government CIOs enjoy stability within their roles in addition to relative job security, their overall pay rate is reported as being considerably lower than that of their private-sector-residing counterparts.

Private Sector

Chief Information Officers employed by private companies tend to outperform their publicly employed counterparts on the basis of overall income. The highest paid CIOs in the world are all privately employed, with salaries of more than $300,000 – not including benefits.

CIO salaries may differ based on a wide multitude of factors, but their wage discrepancies usually match the functional differences of individual CIO positions at different companies.