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How to Become an IT Manager

By Stephen Carrozzino

Published:

Are you ready to take your career to new heights?

In the dynamic world of technology, the role of an IT manager has emerged as a driving force behind successful businesses and organizations. IT managers do not only lead projects but also shape the future of organizations through cutting-edge innovation. This article aims to provide a step-by-step guide to becoming an IT manager, offering insights into the required education, necessary skills, and career path progression.

Career Summary

IT Manager Salary

IT Manager Salary

IT Managers’ earnings can vary greatly depending on experience, the complexity of the role, the size of the organization, and the region where the job is located.

Here is a general trajectory, according to Glassdoor:

  • Entry Salary (US$76k)
  • Median Salary (US123k)
  • Executive Salary (US$200k)

When compared to the average income of US citizens, IT Managers make significantly more. The average US salary was approximately $61,000 in 2022, making the IT management field a high-income career path.

IT Manager Job Description

An IT Manager, also known as an Information Technology Manager, plays a vital role in any organization that relies on computer systems. Their job description involves overseeing and coordinating technology-related projects, teams, and resources to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of an organization’s IT infrastructure and systems. Additionally, IT managers are responsible for strategic planning, budgeting, and implementing policies to align IT initiatives with business objectives and drive overall organizational success.

IT Manager Career Progression

The career trajectory of an IT Manager typically includes the following roles:

  • IT Support Specialist/Technician: This is often where many IT professionals begin their careers. It involves troubleshooting, performing system checks, and assisting users with technical issues.
  • IT Analyst: IT Analysts are responsible for improving computer systems for their employers. They design and implement new systems or revise existing systems to meet new demands.
  • IT Project Manager: IT Project Managers manage a wide variety of tech-related projects. They oversee the implementation of new systems and ensure projects are completed on time and within budget.
  • IT Manager: Overseeing the IT department, the IT Manager ensures that the company’s technology systems are running smoothly and efficiently. They often manage a team of IT professionals.
  • Senior IT Manager/IT Director: With increased experience and responsibility, Senior IT Managers or IT Directors oversee multiple IT departments or the entire IT operations within larger organizations.
  • Chief Information Officer (CIO): At the executive level, the CIO is responsible for setting the company’s tech strategy and ensuring all systems align with corporate goals and objectives.
IT Manager Career Progression

Pros:

  • High Income Potential: IT Managers typically earn well above the national average, offering strong financial incentives.
  • Dynamic Industry: Technology is always evolving, which can make the work exciting and engaging.
  • Opportunity to Lead: As a manager, you have the chance to lead a team and make significant contributions to the company’s overall success.
  • Broad Impact: IT touches every part of modern organizations, giving you a chance to influence a wide range of operations.

Cons:

  • Long Hours: IT Managers often have to work long hours, including nights and weekends, to address issues or implement new systems.
  • High Stress Levels: When systems go down or security breaches occur, it can be extremely stressful.
  • Continual Learning Requirement: With technology always changing, continual learning is necessary, which some may find exhausting.
  • Limited Recognition: Despite the critical nature of the role, IT departments can be overlooked or underappreciated.

Useful Skills to Have as an IT Manager

  • Technical Proficiency: A strong understanding of computer systems, networks, and software applications.
  • Leadership: The ability to motivate, mentor, and direct a team.
  • Project Management: The skills to plan and execute tech-related projects.
  • Problem-Solving: The ability to find solutions to technical and logistical problems.
  • Communication: The capacity to explain complex tech terms in a way non-tech staff can understand.

Popular IT Manager Specialties

  • IT Security Manager: Specializes in protecting the organization’s data and systems.
  • IT Service Manager: Focuses on delivering quality IT services to the organization’s staff.
  • IT Project Manager: Manages complex IT projects from inception to completion.
  • IT Infrastructure Manager: Oversees physical and virtualized hardware needs, including servers, storage, and networking hardware.
  • Data Center Manager: Manages the organization’s data center operations and strategy.

How to become an IT Manager

IT Manager 5 Steps to Career

Navigating the complex world of information technology (IT) can be challenging, but rewarding. If you’re considering stepping into the role of an IT Manager, there are certain steps you’ll need to take to ensure your success in this dynamic industry.

Education: The Key to Becoming an IT Manager

At the core of any successful IT Manager’s journey is education. While there may be exceptions, a strong educational background is generally required to manage the intricacies of IT projects and teams effectively.

Do I Need a Degree to Become an IT Manager?

While it is theoretically possible to become an IT Manager without a formal degree, it’s important to note that most employers prioritize candidates with a strong educational foundation in the field.

A bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, or a related field is typically the minimum requirement. This comprehensive education provides you with a solid understanding of essential concepts like network administration, systems analysis, and IT project management, among others.

Why is it Important to Get a Degree to Become an IT Manager?

A degree to become an IT manager holds importance for several reasons. Primarily, it equips an individual with the necessary technical skills. In the realm of Information Technology, having a deep understanding of certain areas is imperative.

Degree programs in IT or related fields often provide this in-depth knowledge, covering crucial subjects like programming, systems analysis, database management, and network architecture. An IT manager who possesses such expertise can competently understand the technical aspects of their organization’s IT infrastructure. They can manage technical teams more effectively, make better-informed decisions, and anticipate future trends or potential issues.

But a degree is not just about the technicalities. It also helps develop vital soft skills that an IT manager must possess. Among these are leadership and communication skills. The modern IT manager is more than just a tech-savvy individual; they are a leader who must guide their team, often composed of diverse roles, towards the successful completion of complex projects. A degree program, through its various team-oriented assignments and presentations, helps cultivate these leadership skills.

Similarly, effective communication is key in the role of an IT manager. They must relay complex technical information in a manner that non-technical individuals or stakeholders can understand. This ability to ‘translate’ technical language into plain English is honed during IT degree programs, through activities like presentations, group discussions, and written assignments.

Finally, strategic thinking is another crucial skill that IT degree programs help to develop. This ability allows IT managers to plan and make decisions that align with the organization’s long-term goals. They need to foresee how technology can affect their organization in the future and plan accordingly, which often requires a deep understanding of both technology and business – an understanding that a formal degree program helps to instill.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Degree to Become an IT Manager?

The duration of obtaining a degree depends on the level of education and the specific course you choose.

A bachelor’s degree in IT or a related field generally takes about four years of full-time study. Following this, some professionals opt to pursue a master’s degree or an MBA in Information Technology Management. These advanced degrees, typically requiring an additional two years, can further enhance your qualifications and make you an attractive candidate for top-tier IT Manager positions.

How Much Does it Cost to Study Information Technology at University?

The cost of an Information Technology degree can vary significantly, depending on factors such as the institution, the degree level, and the program you study.

On average, in the United States, you could expect to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 per year for a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology at a public institution. Private institutions might be considerably more expensive. Scholarships, grants, and work-study programs can help offset these costs.

Can I Become an IT Manager Through Online Education?

To become an IT manager, you can certainly leverage online education. Many well-respected universities and colleges provide online degree programs in IT or related fields, such as Computer Science, or Management Information Systems.

These degree programs are structured to impart comprehensive knowledge on a wide range of topics such as programming, database management, networking, and cybersecurity, along with a focus on project management and strategic information management which are crucial skills for an IT manager.

In addition to degree programs, you can also enhance your profile by earning relevant certifications online. These certifications can augment your learning from the degree program, providing a more specialized and industry-focused perspective.

Moreover, hands-on experience is extremely crucial in the IT field. Although it might seem challenging to gain practical experience in an online setting, many online programs offer experiential learning opportunities, such as virtual labs, internships, and capstone projects. These experiences allow students to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world or simulated environments, thereby helping them to become industry-ready.

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become an IT Manager?

Beyond formal education, there are numerous web resources available to help develop the skills needed to become an effective IT Manager.

Let’s name a few:

  • BizTech Magazine: A comprehensive online publication covering the latest trends, insights, and best practices in technology management, providing IT managers with valuable resources to stay informed and up-to-date.
  • CIO Talk Network Podcast: A thought-provoking podcast featuring discussions and interviews with IT leaders, offering valuable insights and perspectives on various challenges and opportunities faced by IT managers in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape.
  • Computer Weekly Editor’s Blog: A platform where industry experts share their thoughts and opinions on IT management, providing IT managers with valuable perspectives, analysis, and tips to navigate the ever-changing technology landscape effectively.
  • NetCom Learning Webinars: A series of interactive online webinars conducted by industry experts, covering a wide range of IT management topics and providing valuable insights, strategies, and practical knowledge to help aspiring and current IT managers enhance their skills and stay ahead in their careers.
  • Pluralsight: This  e-learning platform offers blog articles, tech guides, infographics and reports with a focus on technical skills, such as programming and infrastructure management, essential for IT managers.
  • ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library): Provides a framework for IT service management with resources and certification training.
  • TechRepublic: A valuable source for IT-related news, articles, and insights into industry trends and best practices.

Practical Experience: The Bedrock of an IT Manager’s Career

Beyond formal education and continuous learning, practical experience is a crucial aspect of becoming a successful IT Manager. Theoretical knowledge alone may not be enough to navigate the dynamic, fast-paced world of IT management.

Internship Opportunities for an IT Manager

Internships are a great way to gain industry-specific experience and provide a hands-on understanding of the roles and responsibilities of an IT Manager.

Numerous companies offer IT management internships. These opportunities allow you to work closely with experienced IT professionals and get a real feel for the job’s day-to-day tasks.

Some popular internship avenues include:

  • Tech Companies: Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many other tech giants offer internships in IT management, where you’ll be exposed to the latest technologies and best practices.
  • Non-Tech Firms: IT is a critical part of any industry today. Companies in finance, healthcare, retail, and other sectors also offer internships in their IT departments.
  • Start-ups: Start-ups offer a unique opportunity where you might handle multiple roles, giving you a broader understanding of IT management.

What Skills Will I Learn as an IT Manager?

Becoming an IT Manager requires a blend of technical knowledge and soft skills.

Here are some of the essential skills you’ll acquire:

  • Technical Knowledge: An in-depth understanding of various IT frameworks, systems, and tools is crucial. This includes software development, network infrastructure, cybersecurity, and data management.
  • Leadership and Communication: IT managers need strong leadership skills to guide and inspire their teams, as well as excellent communication abilities to interact with stakeholders, convey technical information clearly, and foster collaboration.
  • Project Management: You’ll learn how to plan, execute, and oversee IT projects from start to finish, ensuring they are delivered on time, within budget, and meet the desired objectives.
  • Risk Management: Understanding and mitigating potential risks related to technology, security, and data privacy is vital for IT managers.
  • Business Acumen: You’ll develop a keen understanding of the industry and the organization’s needs, enabling you to align IT strategies with business objectives.
  • Ethics and Compliance: IT managers need to be aware of ethical considerations and compliance requirements related to data security and privacy.

What is the Work-Life Balance of an IT Manager?

The work-life balance of an IT Manager can vary based on several factors such as the nature of the company, the specific role, and the manager’s personal efficiency.

Many companies are recognizing the importance of work-life balance for employee productivity and morale and offering flexible working hours and remote work options. The nature of IT manager’s job allows them to enjoy this flexibility.

IT Managers play a pivotal role in businesses. This responsibility, while rewarding, also comes with its challenges. It’s crucial to understand that IT Managers often work under pressure, dealing with critical issues like system crashes, data breaches, or project deadlines. While many thrive in this high-pressure environment, others may find it stressful.

IT management roles often demand long hours, especially during critical projects or system upgrades. Additionally, IT Managers may need to be on-call to respond to IT emergencies or system failures.

On the flip side, being an IT Manager can be highly rewarding. There’s the satisfaction of resolving complex issues, leading projects to completion, and playing a key role in an organization’s success.

Finally, it’s important for aspiring IT Managers to develop strong time management and delegation skills. These skills can help maintain a healthier work-life balance by ensuring tasks are completed efficiently and responsibilities are shared fairly among the team.

Continued Learning: Staying Relevant in the IT Field

In the ever-evolving world of IT, staying updated with the latest trends and technologies is crucial. This is where the role of continued learning comes in. Continued learning can take the form of professional certifications, online courses, workshops, or seminars.

Why is Continued learning essential in IT management?

Continued learning in IT management is crucial for several reasons:

  • Adapting to Technological Advancement: Information Technology is a dynamic field characterized by constant innovation and advancement. New programming languages, software, hardware, systems, and platforms emerge regularly. As an IT manager, you must stay abreast of these developments to ensure that your organization leverages the most appropriate, effective, and innovative solutions. For instance, cloud technologies, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity measures are areas where significant evolution is happening rapidly. With continuous learning, an IT manager can make informed decisions about the adoption and implementation of these technologies.
  • Career Progression: In the competitive IT industry, professionals who keep updating their knowledge and skills tend to have better career opportunities. An IT manager who continually learns is more likely to progress in their career, potentially moving into roles with greater responsibility and influence, like a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
  • Regulatory Compliance and Security: The regulatory landscape for IT is also continuously changing, especially concerning data privacy and cybersecurity. IT managers must stay informed about these changes to ensure that their organizations remain compliant and can effectively manage security threats.

Professional Certifications for IT Managers

Professional certifications can provide a significant boost to your career. They validate your skills and demonstrate your commitment to the profession.

Here are a few certifications you might consider:

What’s the Career Outlook for IT Managers?

As the world continues to embrace technological advancements, the demand for IT Managers is expected to rise, resulting in an optimistic career outlook. The role of an IT Manager is crucial across industries as they manage an organization’s IT infrastructure, lead digital transformation initiatives, and ensure robust cybersecurity measures.

Career Outlook of an IT Manager in the USA

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that the employment of computer and information systems managers, including IT Managers, will experience a 16% growth from 2021 to 2031. This growth rate is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

Factors driving this expansion include the increasing reliance on cloud computing, big data collection and storage, and the urgent need for information security.

Future advancements in technology, such as the rise of AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other emerging technologies will further increase the complexity of managing IT systems. As a result, the demand for IT Managers with a thorough understanding of these technologies and their applications in a business context is set to increase.

Additionally, with the advent of big data and predictive analytics, there’s a growing need for IT Managers who can understand and navigate these complex systems, ensuring that businesses can harness the power of their data effectively and ethically.

As businesses become more digitally connected, they also become more vulnerable to cyber threats. From data breaches to ransomware attacks, businesses of all sizes are at risk. This heightened risk underscores the importance of robust cybersecurity measures and the role of IT Managers in implementing them. As cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, the demand for IT Managers with strong cybersecurity skills will continue to rise.

IT Manager Popular Career Specialties

Job Opportunities for IT Managers

IT Managers have a wide range of job opportunities at their disposal.

These professionals are needed across virtually every industry.

  • IT Project Managers: Coordinate and oversee technology projects, such as implementing new software systems, upgrading hardware, or migrating data to cloud-based systems.
  • IT Security Managers: Ensure an organization’s cybersecurity by creating security protocols, managing a team of security professionals, and protecting the company’s digital assets.
  • IT Operations Managers: Manage the day-to-day operations of an organization’s IT infrastructure, including networks, servers, and system administration, to ensure smooth functioning and high availability.
  • Chief Information Officers (CIOs): Shape and implement all technology and IT policies, creating the overall technology strategy, and leading teams of IT professionals.
  • IT Service Managers: Ensure all IT services cater to the company’s needs, which could involve managing relationships with external IT service providers or overseeing an internal team that supports the company’s IT systems.
  • IT Infrastructure Managers: Responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining the organization’s IT infrastructure, including networks, hardware, and data centers.
  • IT Compliance Managers: Ensure that the organization adheres to relevant industry regulations, data privacy laws, and security standards.

What Type of Companies Hire IT Managers?

The need for an IT Manager cuts across industries and sectors, making the job market for this role extremely diverse.

  • Tech Firms: Such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft, have multiple roles for IT Managers. These roles could involve managing network operations or implementing cybersecurity measures.
  • Financial Institutions: Like banks need IT Managers to handle vast amounts of data and highly sensitive information.
  • Telecommunication Companies: Need IT managers to handle network infrastructure, telecommunications software, and customer support systems.
  • Media and Entertainment Companies: Rely on IT managers to manage their digital content platforms, broadcasting systems, and multimedia software.
  • Healthcare Organizations: Including hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies, also require IT Managers to manage electronic health records systems, telehealth platforms, and other medical technology.
  • Educational Institutions: Like universities, colleges, and schools, employ IT Managers to manage online learning systems, student databases, and other educational technologies.
  • Government Agencies: Rely on IT Managers to manage their complex information systems, including data management, network infrastructure, and security measures.

These are just a few examples, and the demand for IT managers continues to grow as technology plays an increasingly critical role in the operations and success of almost every industry.

Should I become an IT Manager?

Choosing a career is an important decision that requires careful thought, evaluation, and a deep understanding of oneself and the professional landscape. The job of an IT Manager can be challenging, fulfilling, and dynamic, offering substantial monetary rewards and vast opportunities for growth. However, is this the right career for you? Let’s delve into a more in-depth discussion to help you decide.

The first step in this decision-making process is to assess your personal interests and skills. Do you enjoy solving complex problems? Are you interested in the evolving world of technology? Are you motivated by the idea of leading a team and being responsible for critical IT decisions in an organization?

Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, and consider if your current skills align with these requirements. Also, think about whether you would enjoy continuous learning and upskilling, as the IT field is continually evolving, requiring professionals to stay ahead of the curve.

Think about your long-term career goals. Do you aspire to be in a leadership position? Do you envisage yourself spearheading technological change in an organization?

Deciding whether to become an IT Manager is a personal decision that involves evaluating your interests, skills, aspirations, and readiness to adapt to the dynamic field of technology. It’s about finding the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and where you see yourself in the future.

Research, reflect, and seek advice if needed. After all, choosing a career is not just about the destination, it’s also about enjoying the journey that leads you there.

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Stephen Carrozzino

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