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A Degree of Difference

If you want climb the CIO ladder, you may need that advanced diploma.

While it may not be an official job requirement at many institutions, the majority of higher ed CIOs have advanced degrees, according to a new Center for Higher Education Chief Information Officer Studies (CHECS) survey of 352 higher ed CIOs. CHECS also surveyed campus technology leaders (the level below CIO) on the same topic. Here's how the data break out:

Overall Enrollment Leaps...

Over three quarters (77 percent) of CIO survey respondents reported having either a master's (59 percent) or doctoral (18 percent) degree. At the same time, the CHECS survey of 222 technology leaders (TL) found that less than two-thirds of these respondents (61 percent) reported having an advanced degree. Wayne Brown, founder of CHECS, surmises that fewer technology leaders may have an advanced degree because "TLs are typically focused on the day-to-day operations and are a lot closer to the technology than the CIO. They are working on their certifications."

Highest Degrees Held by CIOs
Highest Degrees Held by Technology Leaders

TrendspotterThe study further notes that the type of institution where the CIO works may be a strong determiner of what kind of degree he or she has: For example, only 9 percent of CIOs at research universities reported bachelor's degrees as their highest-attained degree, compared to 13 percent of CIOs at master's-granting institutions, 23 percent at baccalaureate-only institutions, and 23 percent at two-year or associate's-degree colleges. "Clearly, an advanced degree is important for an aspiring higher education CIO," posits Brown, who himself is a CIO at Excelsior College in Albany, NY, and holds both a PhD and an MBA. While an advanced degree may not show up on a job posting as a formal requirement-- a recent unscientific look at CIO-type jobs on revealed that only one out of the 11 jobs posted asked for an advanced degree-- "There is clearly a significant majority of higher education CIOs who have one," Brown says. "And if you are competing with those same people for a job-- especially at a master's- or research-level institution-- your degree will be one of the considerations."


of higher ed technology leaders are working on their next degree.

Some campus tech leaders are already on the road to an advanced diploma. Brown reports that when TLs were asked what they were doing to get ready for the CIO role, 24 percent of them said they were working on their next degree. The full version of the CIO and technology leader reports can be found at the CHECS website.

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