Guide to a Career in Information Technology Management

information technology manager checks company systems with it engineer

IT management degree overview

The field of information technology management has come a long way. IT management started in the late 80s and early 90s as an offshoot of finance departments, but through the last three decades, it has become its own department and discipline entirely.

As cyber threats become more sophisticated and hybrid/remote work continues to stick around, it's more important now than ever for companies to invest in strong IT management. This is a growing field that will only continue to evolve as technology changes. 

Understanding IT management

At a high level, IT management refers to how an organization makes information systems work to their benefit

IT management has a broad scope, and encompasses any and all of the following: 

  • Business alignment: Figuring out how to best use technology to meet business goals.
  • Business intelligence: Designing intuitive ways for companies to track and pull necessary data. 
  • Cloud management: Managing a company's cloud-based computing systems. 
  • Data backup and recovery: Ensuring that a company' s data can be backed up and recovered safely.
  • Finance and budgeting: Determining the costs of new or updated systems and aligning budgets accordingly.
  • Infrastructure: Creating the web of systems that an organization uses, and communicating and managing it effectively.
  • Project management: Driving IT-related projects forward. 
  • Sourcing: Finding new technologies that will improve a company's IT.
  • Systems management: Overseeing technology systems and ensuring they perform as expected. 
  • Web and app development: Developing and maintaining company's websites and/or mobile apps. 

The main responsibilities of an IT manager are: 

  • Manage IT infrastructure and systems
  • Manage junior members of an IT team
  • Design and coordinate IT systems, policies, and procedures
  • Identify infrastructure or process weaknesses and solve them 
  • Establish data preservation methods
  • Align business and consumer needs with regards to information security

That being said, an IT manager's responsibilities may vary depending on their company and skill and experience level.

Historical evolution of IT management

As technology has changed, so has the field of IT. In previous decades, IT tasks were handled by one team, or even in some cases, one person. These teams were composed of people who didn't necessarily have a technical background. Furthermore, most companies were using enterprise software vendors with long-term contracts, meaning change management was very slow moving or virtually non-existent.

Now, with more sophisticated technologies and threats, the field of IT has evolved to encompass a number of different roles and specializations. IT professionals can now pursue formalized education in IT management, and choose to specialize in areas like governance, architecture and information security. 

Key skills and qualities of an IT manager

To be a successful IT manager, you should possess technical know-how on these areas: 

An IT manager should also have strong leadership and interpersonal skills, as you'll be expected to deal with people from all different teams within the company as well as external vendors. Strong attention to detail, the ability to work well under pressure and solid communication skills will also take you far in this type of role. 

Education and certification pathways

Most IT roles require you to have a bachelor or arts or bachelor of science degree in a relevant field. Some majors to consider are: 

  • Computer science and/or engineering
  • Information science
  • IT management

As you advance in your IT career, some roles may require you to earn a master's degree in information science, technology management or related field. You may have to graduate from a master's degree program in order to earn a higher title and higher pay.

You can also earn certifications to build deeper expertise and stand out to potential employers. Popular certifications in the field include but are not limited to: 

Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP): This is a great certification to earn if you're starting out in a support role. Apple offers a certification to show that you're proficient in troubleshooting with Apple devices. The exam is two hours long and costs $150 to take. 

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner: Many websites at major companies employ Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform on their backend. Amazon offers a few different certifications in AWS coding, cloud security, implementation and more. It's recommended you have at least six months of experience working with AWS before earning this certification. Exam prices depend on the level of exam you sit for, with the higher level exams being more expensive. 

Certified Network Associate (CCNA): Cisco offers the CCNA certification, which tests your knowledge of networks—including network fundamentals, access, IP services and programmability. There are no strict prerequisites, but one year of working with Cisco tools is recommended. The exam costs $300 to take and is two hours long. 

CompTIA A+: This certification is an excellent option for entry-level job seekers as it focuses on technical support and operational capabilities. This 90-minute exam is also a prerequisite for earning more specialized CompTIA certifications, like the Network+ and Security+ options. 

Microsoft Technology Associate: Microsoft offers several entry-level certifications to those looking to specialize in data and server infrastructure or cloud computing. The exam fees vary by exam and location taken. 

Specializations within IT management

IT management has become increasingly specialized. If a particular area of IT interests you, it's likely that you'll be able to focus on it entirely. 

You can choose to specialize in: 

  • Project management: Overseeing and driving forward the process of IT-related projects. 
  • IT governance: Creating rules and restrictions on how technology should be used within a company. 
  • Information security: Protecting data and safeguarding against potential security threats. 
  • Enterprise architecture: Piecing together networks and developing protocols for managing them effectively. 

Career progression and ladder

Entry-level positions in IT typically don't come with the word "manager" in the title. Instead, you'll find entry-level IT roles listed on jobseeker sites as any of the following: 

  • Cloud engineer
  • Help desk or support desk technician
  • Information analyst
  • Site reliability engineer
  • Systems analyst
  • Information analyst
  • IT operations associate
  • Network technician

Once you've secured an entry-level role in IT, one of the best ways to advance to management level is to gain leadership experience in any way you can. This can be through taking the lead on certain projects, or having the opportunity to manage summer interns. You will need to demonstrate leadership in order to advance to middle management. 

Because IT is a large field, job titles can be amorphous and ambiguous. Rising to more senior positions will depend on your area of focus. For example, if you spend your career focusing on database engineering, you will eventually be able to advance to a Senior Database Engineer role. 

C-suite roles, like Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO) typically stem from information strategy and infrastructure specializations. However, every organization is different—there is no one linear or defined path for IT management. This is part of what makes it exciting and full of possibilities. 

IT Manager salary and compensation

Like any role, IT management salaries vary based on levels of experience, location and company size. The more experience you have, the higher your salary will typically be.  Here are annual salaries for information security managers by state and the lowest, median and highest tier earnings for the profession, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Computer and Information Systems Managers
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Median Hourly Wage$79

Job growth15.4%

Total Employment533,220

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $127,150 $72,940 $198,550
Alaska $127,430 $83,630 $174,130
Arizona $151,490 $89,980 $222,190
Arkansas $108,560 $66,190 $170,580
California $198,950 $111,020 N/A
Colorado $168,800 $117,380 N/A
Connecticut $149,150 $97,820 $216,170
Delaware $206,550 $123,880 $231,190
District of Columbia $175,880 $126,470 N/A
Florida $145,000 $93,690 $222,470
Georgia $165,890 $100,480 N/A
Hawaii $128,210 $79,980 $178,240
Idaho $120,650 $74,870 $186,160
Illinois $159,100 $96,510 $228,460
Indiana $126,030 $76,490 $174,150
Iowa $129,450 $83,750 $174,760
Kansas $133,290 $83,020 $202,540
Kentucky $121,170 $74,750 $178,840
Louisiana $121,760 $73,640 $185,570
Maine $133,020 $91,210 $211,810
Maryland $165,360 $101,520 $224,990
Massachusetts $167,950 $105,590 N/A
Michigan $133,740 $89,310 $212,770
Minnesota $158,280 $99,500 $214,180
Mississippi $102,710 $62,010 $167,420
Missouri $133,670 $80,600 $204,810
Montana $103,340 $78,990 $187,130
Nebraska $123,940 $79,790 $170,820
Nevada $109,430 $71,870 $182,790
New Hampshire $152,990 $98,800 $220,470
New Jersey $177,010 $130,100 N/A
New Mexico $126,740 $79,920 $180,650
New York $197,860 $122,420 N/A
North Carolina $152,400 $98,020 $221,710
North Dakota $126,930 $85,990 $176,480
Ohio $138,210 $85,500 $218,170
Oklahoma $124,430 $74,980 $186,450
Oregon $140,310 $86,630 $216,130
Pennsylvania $149,980 $97,240 $212,430
Rhode Island $156,000 $113,760 $220,590
South Carolina $131,500 $81,480 $210,820
South Dakota $154,650 $108,730 $205,500
Tennessee $128,720 $80,210 $208,550
Texas $155,590 $89,890 $215,470
Utah $137,510 $84,600 $214,660
Vermont $126,500 $77,090 $230,980
Virginia $172,760 $107,290 N/A
Washington $174,680 $121,510 N/A
West Virginia $133,920 $82,410 $203,730
Wisconsin $136,250 $98,600 $206,270
Wyoming $102,200 $76,710 $220,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Challenges faced in IT management careers

As with any role, there are certain challenges that those in IT management will likely face. The most common challenges include: 

  • Keeping up with rapid technological changes
  • Managing diverse teams and projects
  • Aligning IT strategy with business goals
  • Managing technology vendors 
  • Managing technology crises quickly and effectively,  if they arise

Technology never stops changing, making IT management an exciting field to be in. Aspiring IT professionals should always be studying and learning about both emerging and continuing trends. Here are a few to look out for:

The rise of AI

AI isn't necessarily going to take over IT management. Rather, it will be used to automate some of the low-level yet important administrative tasks that IT managers need to do. AI is also being used to detect security threats in real time, allowing IT teams to respond to emerging crises more quickly.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing is not new, but many companies are still making shifts from legacy, local platforms to cloud data storage and management. Data migration and maintenance are two areas where IT teams shine. Cloud computing is more cost-effective than local systems and it can be accessed remotely, which has become increasingly necessary with the rise of work from home.  

The evolving nature of cybersecurity

As security systems become more robust, so do hackers. Bad actors are using increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques to steal data and money—from phishing to smishing and now, even vishing (voice phishing). IT teams need to be prepared to face evolving threats and stay aware of new hacking techniques and trends in order to keep private information out of the wrong hands. 

Balancing technical and business acumen

IT management isn't just about managing technology—it's really about balancing technology needs with business needs. To be successful in an IT management role, it's important to understand technology from a business perspective, as well as a computer science perspective. Many IT degree programs include business courses for this exact reason.  

Final say

IT management is a critical field in today's world. It keeps data out of harm's way and creates data infrastructures that work effectively and efficiently for businesses and customers alike. 

Embarking on a career journey in IT is sure to be dynamic, illuminating and rewarding, as tech is ever-changing. Those who love lifelong learning will be well-suited to a successful career in IT. If you're interested in pursuing an education—and ultimate career—in IT management, why not begin researching accredited programs to help get you started? Just click the Find Schools button to begin.

Published: October 24, 2023

emily polner

Written and reported by:

Emily Polner
Contributing Writer