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How to become an IT manager: Skills, education and opportunities

At a glance

To keep computer systems, software and hardware safe, many organizations employ an information technology manager — a professional who helps protect a company’s entire technology infrastructure. From cloud systems to servers and email access to computer upgrades, an IT manager makes decisions in the best interest of a company’s employees and the technology they use.

Today, companies across many different markets benefit from the presence of an IT manager. IT managers at retail and manufacturing companies, for example, are kept busy managing cloud systems and point-of-sale system access across all employees. IT managers employed at technology companies might even be involved in the creation of new information tech solutions, for use internally or for an existing customer base.

Even in industries like agriculture, which is sometimes misperceived as less dependent on technology, IT managers can help protect databases and the farmers who depend on them to track orders and crops, manage invoices and communicate with staff.

Since 2003, jobs in the IT industry have increased 37%, as companies adopt computers, cloud systems and other technology to help improve operations.

What does an IT manager do?

Companies hire an IT manager to lead all projects in an information technology department. Once hired, you’ll help develop and implement IT strategies that help keep a company’s data, technology and employees safe from cybersecurity threats.

Depending on the industry you’re working in, you’ll perform a wide range of tasks. Your tasks might include the following:

  • Auditing a company’s networks for potential issues
  • Allocating specific user permissions for employees using cloud platforms
  • Updating hardware and software systems whenever necessary
  • Identifying timelines for new IT projects
  • Troubleshooting systems issues across the company
  • Researching new IT solutions for implementation 
  • Reporting to company stakeholders or executives

In larger organizations, IT managers oversee one or more IT employees. These individuals might include IT coordinators, systems analysts and network administrators. Depending on the size of your company, you could also work alongside other IT managers.

If you’re hired as an IT manager at a smaller company, you might be responsible for creating and fulfilling IT strategies yourself.

As an IT manager, you’ll collaborate with other departments regularly. For example, you might assist the sales department in troubleshooting email access issues. You might support the marketing or communications department to protect any data transfer between your company and its clients.

Many IT managers work closely with their HR department, providing new software, hardware or other technology new employees need. In certain cases, the IT department also partners with HR to lead seminars that teach a company’s workers how to protect their data.

How to become an IT manager

Before you can become an IT manager, you'll need to complete several preparatory steps. You will first need to meet benchmarks in relevant IT experience and acquired skills, in addition to earning any required technology degrees.

Education requirements

To be considered for hire as an IT manager, you’ll likely need to satisfy a few educational requirements. Many future IT managers choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in information technology, one that helps build on foundational IT skills. You’ll further your understanding of information systems, systems analysis and overall operations while completing this degree.  

Alternatively, you might consider a bachelor’s degree in computer science. This program will teach you the basics in networking, cloud computing, cybersecurity and other important IT fields.

You might choose to continue your education through a master’s degree program. A master’s degree in information systems might provide the next step in your IT career, adding IT management, data analytics and cloud computing to your skill set. If you’re interested in a career as an IT manager, IT director or any other IT leadership position, a master’s degree in information systems might be essential.

Experience requirements

In addition to the education requirements, you’ll also need a certain level of experience to be considered for an IT manager position. Typically, IT managers have years of experience in a wide variety of IT fields, from cybersecurity to business leadership.

Most companies require that candidates have several years of experience in an IT setting. If you’re applying for an open IT manager position at a larger, more established company, you might need a decade of IT experience.

Hiring managers will likely seek the right combination of leadership and IT experience. You’ll probably need to demonstrate an ability to audit a company’s existing IT landscape, and create strategies that identify and eliminate all types of cybersecurity threats.

In addition, IT manager candidates must often demonstrate a leadership capacity, and the skills necessary to inspire a workforce. The interview process often includes questions about your management history, leadership type and successes in directing a team.

IT manager skills

IT managers depend on a variety of skills each day. Whether you’re communicating with team members or auditing a cloud infrastructure, your skills in leadership, management and technology will help drive a company forward.

If you’re seeking to be an IT manager, you might regularly need the following in-demand IT skills:

  • Technology proficiency
  • Financial management
  • Project management
  • Time management
  • Risk management
  • Decision-making
  • Software development
  • Programming
  • Data science
  • Leadership

Together, your skills in leadership, communication and information technology will help you successfully fulfill the role.

IT manager salary and career outlook

As an IT manager, your salary might depend on several factors. Your earnings can be influenced by your education, earned certifications, years of experience, employment location and the size of your company.

The annual salary of an IT manager can range from $90,430 to $208,000. Ultimately, your salary will depend on your industry and negotiations with your company’s HR department.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Employment for IT managers is expected to remain favorable over the next decade. From 2020 to 2030, jobs for computer and IT managers are projected to grow 11%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This predicted growth rate is well above the average forecast across all occupations (8%).

More than 42,000 computer and IT manager positions are expected to open each year for the next decade, due largely to individuals exiting the workforce. As companies continue to migrate operations online, the demand for IT managers should grow with the need for cybersecurity.

Cloud computing — the use of cloud resources to securely manage data online — may further increase the number of employed IT managers. Some companies might even choose to outsource their cloud computing needs to third-party IT providers, which could mean cloud companies will hire more IT managers directly.

Frequently asked questions

What does an IT manager do?

IT managers are responsible for leading projects within an information technology department, such as identifying network issues, troubleshooting network systems, researching IT solutions and updating hardware and software. Ultimately, this professional develops and implements IT strategies for an organization.

How much does an IT manager make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), IT managers earned a salary range of $90,430 to $208,000 in May 2020. Salary may depend on location, skills, organization, experience and other factors.

What qualifications do I need to be an IT manager?

BLS reports that employers typically require a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science, information technology, computer programming or software development, as well as related work experience. Some look for candidates with a graduate degree. However, requirements can vary by employer.  

What are the skills for IT manager?

IT manager can benefit from hard and professional soft skills. Hard skills can include programming, software development, technology proficiency and analytics. Soft skills may include leadership, communication, organization, decision-making and business.

Want to learn more about information technology degrees offered by University of Phoenix? Click here for more information!