IT Trends | Research

A Quarter of Higher Ed CIOs Set To Retire Within 5 Years

Nearly half of all chief information officers in higher education expect to retire within the next 10 years, and half of those expect to do so in the next five years. For the first time in a decade the percentage of CIOs expecting to retire within the next decade was higher for men (50 percent) than for women (47 percent).

These results come out of the latest "CIO Roles and Responsibility and Technology Leader Report," an annual survey done by the Center for Higher Education Chief Information Officer Studies (CHECS). The study, which has been performed every year since 2003, surveyed 361 higher education CIOs, 74 presidents and vice presidents, and 252 other technology leaders who work an organizational layer below the CIO.

Age and Gender
Age may have something to do with the retirement planning. The proportion of CIOs 51 years and older has grown from 59 percent in 2010 to 65 percent in 2013. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) stated that they're 61 years or older.

On the gender front, in 2013, 21 percent of higher ed CIOs were women, down 5 percent from 2008, the first year the gender question was asked on the survey. The survey's author reported that the decline was expected to continue; a consistently smaller number of female leaders who are part of the "technology leaders" category (which form the "supply pipeline" for future CIOs) express interest in becoming CIO — 40 percent versus 63 percent of men. At the same time the percentage of women in a technology leader role rose from 33 percent to 40 percent during the last five years. Eventually, the report stated, a future gender rebalancing of CIOs could occur if women decide they want the top IT role.

Salary and Reporting Structure
The average salary for CIOs this year is nearly $135,000, an "annual allowance" of $1,321, and institutional retirement plan contributions of $12,700.

The idea that CIOs change jobs frequently appears to be a myth; according to CHECS' research, on average, CIOs had been in their current positions for about seven and a half years. That's up from 5 years and 3 months in 2003.

A third of CIOs report to the chief executive or president on campus, a new "low point," according to the survey's author; 21 percent report to the chief financial officer; and 20 percent report to the provost or chief academic officer.

The CIO position almost always requires an advanced degree. In 2013 four out of five CIOs held either a master's degree or doctorate. However, the actual count is down from 2003, 79 percent now versus 82 percent then. Most degree majors held by CIOs are either in business or technology.

Experience and Advancement
A third of CIOs — 35 percent — previously held a CIO or senior IT position. Beyond that, seven of the remaining top 10 positions were technology leadership roles within the IT department, such as network, systems, or application development director.

The typical CIO has spent between 13 and 16 years as an "IT insider" within higher ed. However, education outsiders are hired as CIOs too; in 2013 slightly more than a quarter of CIOs came from sectors other than higher ed; 18 percent came from the commercial sector.

Although two-thirds of CIOs report responsibility solely for the IT organization, 12 percent also said they were in charge of library operations and eight percent said they were in charge of research operations.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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