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What is a Chief Technical Officer? A CTO’s Career, Job Duties, Salary, and More

Business Academy

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If you live and breathe technology, it makes sense to find a job role where you can actively be part of the tech side of a business.

For some, this means embarking on a career as a software developer or in cybersecurity management.

Others, however, are more interested in the technology, including selecting, managing, and organizing the tech stack and overseeing relevant operations.

If that’s the case for you, working to become a Chief Technical Officer may be a good choice. 

This guide will discuss everything you need to know about the Chief Technical Officer career, including common career paths, job descriptions, salary, and more. 

What is a Chief Technical Officer? 

A Chief Technical Officer— or “CTO”— is an authoritative figure that oversees the selection, implementation, training for, and management of a company’s tech and tech-related process. 

This includes the tech side of the customer experience, cybersecurity, product development and delivery (especially for SaaS tools), and internal operational systems. 

Suppose a company chooses a new DevOps deployment system or a SaaS billing tool. In that case, the CTO will often be involved and typically make the final decision.

CTOs are often C-suite team members, putting them in high-level positions within a company. 

Chief Technical Officer vs. Chief Technology Officer: What’s the Difference? 

Good news: You can use “CTO” to refer to either a Chief Technical Officer or a Chief Technology Officer because, in many cases, they describe the exact same role. 

So, if you’re searching for a new job, you can try searching for both terms to see if it helps you find additional positions to apply for. 

Chief Technical Officer Job Description: What Does a CTO Do? 

CTO responsibilities may vary depending on the company and its operational structure. 

In many cases, a CTO’s job description typically involves the following tasks:  

  • Manages a company’s technology teams, supervising managers, setting goals for departments, and overseeing training programs
  • Outlining processes to achieve goals for the company’s research and development teams
  • Collaborating with other C-suite executives, including the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the Chief Operating Officer (COO)
  • Managing the company’s tech stack, tech processes, and tech training 
  • Evaluating existing technology and systems to determine their impact and efficiency 
  • Creating and monitoring the company’s IT budget and seeing how it fits into a company’s overall budget 
  • Supervising processes to ensure DevOps best practices and cybersecurity, potentially including maintaining security compliance regulations 
  • Evaluating the company’s existing tech infrastructure 

The position of Chief Technology Officer has similar (if not identical) responsibilities. 

How Much Do CTOs Make? 

Data from Comparably found that the salary range for CTO positions starts at 140k and can even go above 260k USD annually. 

Some CTOs in high-performing enterprise companies can make upwards of seven figures. 

They found that the average US CTO salary was $194,039 a year, with an average annual bonus of $60,654. This puts the average total income at around $254,000, though most CTOs make between $171,000 and $200,000 annually. 

A Chief Technical Officer’s salary depends on multiple factors, including their experience, the company’s industry and size, location, and bonus structure.

C-suite positions typically come with annual bonuses, but make sure that your base salary is where you want it to be since bonuses are never guaranteed. 

CTO Skills You Need to Excel in the Job 

If you want to become a CTO, it goes without saying that you’ll first need to spend time working in other information and technology positions to get the experience needed. We’ll talk a bit more about that in the next section.

You typically need the following skills and traits to excel in a CTO’s roles and responsibilities:

  • Ability to manage a budget effectively 
  • Leadership qualities
  • Strong communication skills
  • Organization and planning skills
  • Analytical, strategic, and data-driven 
  • Willing to think outside the box
  • Capable of juggling many things at once 
  • Able to see how technology fits into the business objectives 
  • Knowledge of the information and technology, including new technology, policies, regulations, and best practices 
  • Understanding of the customer journey and how tech can improve it and reduce churn rates 
  • Willing to continually learn about the ever-changing tech field 
  • Familiar with different programming languages 
  • Strong hiring skills to find suitable candidates 

How to Become a CTO: Common Career Paths 

Working as a CTO (Chief Technology Officer or Chief Technical Officer!) is not an entry-level position, so you must work up to it.

A strong background in technology is crucial, and since CTOs manage entire IT and tech teams, understanding each person’s role is essential. Starting from the ground up is a good way to go.

Many CTOs follow a similar career progression:

  • Pursue Bachelor’s and even Master’s degrees like computer science or information technology 
  • Start working in any of the following positions in entry-level roles:
    • Web software development
    • Information system management
    • Network architecture
    • Big data engineering
    • Security engineering 
  • Work your way up to higher-level roles, like senior software developer
  • Work in technology management positions 
  • Apply for a position as a CTO after working in upper management on tech teams.

Having as much diverse experience as possible (or at least experience working with as many tech departments as possible) is a huge asset, as CTOs need to be familiar with all technology roles in a company. 

What is “Chief Technology Officer As a Service?”

In some cases, Chief Technology Officers may develop their own companies. They’ll deliver “Chief Technology Officer as a service,” meaning companies can pay them as consultants. This may be more cost-effective for smaller companies that need the expertise of a CTO but don’t need someone on the payroll full-time. 

Final Thoughts 

Chief Technical Offers work in ambitious, respected, and typically well-paid roles. They play a vital part in the organizations they work for and can directly impact a business’s processes and progress toward goals. That’s an exciting role to participate in, so it’s worth working towards. 

 

Want to learn more about excelling in the SaaS world? Check out our blog for more

 

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