How to Become an IT Manager
Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep
Only a few people within a company structure need to think more about the big picture than the Information Technology (IT) manager. The decisions an IT manager takes have a meaningful and lasting impact on every facet of a company’s operations. This is because the strategy developed by an IT manager has to fall in line with the company roadmap.
Possessing strong technical skills is always important in a specialized field such as IT management, and more thought needs to be put into setting up your career pathway to become an IT Manager. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps you’ll need to take to land a role in IT management.
What Is an IT Manager?
An IT Manager is responsible for overseeing the installation and maintenance of technology infrastructure and computer systems. The IT Manager also coordinates and supervises the implementation of information technology strategies derived by a company’s strategies and solutions team.
IT Manager Salary and Job Outlook
An IT manager at the lower end of the salary scale in the United States earns about $100,000 per year, according to Salary.com. Those at the top of the industry can expect to earn around $150,000.
Those in the middle earn an average salary of $125,700. This salary is considered significantly higher when compared to the national average salary at $48,672, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The job outlook for computer and information systems managers between 2019 and 2029 is also better than most, according to BLS. The projected job growth for IT managers sits at a compelling 10 percent, much faster than the average growth across the job board.
If you have the interest and resources to pursue a career in IT management, it would be prudent to hop onto that bandwagon now.
Entry-Level IT Manager Job Requirements
To qualify for an entry-level IT manager role, you’ll need a certain set of skills. To fulfill your responsibilities as an IT manager, you must have the following requirements.
- Working knowledge of technical systems
- Strong negotiation skills (for vendors)
- Strong financial management or budgeting skills
- Capacity to communicate effectively with executives
- Ability to organize and schedule multiple tasks
How to Ace Your IT Manager Job Interview
While proven technical ability and management are prerequisites for a job as an IT manager, emphasis is also placed on your capacity to manage the finances of the projects you’ll oversee.
Even if you impress executives in other areas of your job interview, failure to inspire confidence over the management of budgets and finances will separate the strong IT manager candidates from the others.
Common IT Manager Job Interview Questions
- A part of your responsibilities will be to oversee the budget for projects within your department. Tell us about your experience in this sphere.
- Team members who perform below their potential are an inevitability in this field. What is your standard approach to coaching members who fall within this bracket?
- What is your approach to prioritizing tasks and ensuring that IT projects keep moving forward?
- Tell us about your experience in managing remote teams and collaborating with external resources while working on an IT project.
- What word do you feel best describes the role of an IT Manager and why?
What Degree Should I Get to Become an IT Manager?
Associate’s Degree in Management Studies
An Associate’s Degree in Management Studies will take you two years to obtain. While it has very little to do with the technical elements of an IT management role, it does bolster the skills that you will need to manage teams, budgets, and projects. Depending on your availability, you can earn an associate’s degree online or on campus.
Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology
Having a Bachelor’s Degree in IT will help you become a good candidate for a job as an IT manager. Whether you’re taking an in-person or online bachelor’s degree program, your studies will generally cover subjects like applied computing, business computing, computer engineering, computer science, and bioinformatics.
A bachelor’s degree will typically take you at least three years to complete.
Master’s Degree in Information Technology
Earning a Master’s Degree in IT usually requires the completion of about 180 credits over two to three years. Know that you need to have a bachelor’s degree or a post-graduate diploma in IT to qualify for this program.
While a master’s degree is not a prerequisite to becoming an IT manager, it helps further your skills and knowledge in the field and boosts your career advancement prospects. A bonus: you can take an online master’s degree, which allows you to study without quitting your day job.
Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA)
For some employers, an IT manager is a leader first and a technician second. This means that you do not have to have an extensive technical background to become an IT manager. Depending on the company, sometimes there will be greater emphasis on your management skills.
As you study, you will learn accounting, human resources, business communication, finance, entrepreneurship, and marketing, among others. You will also get to specialize in a particular area.
The completion of an MBA will take you two to five years, depending on your pace of study.
What Does an IT Manager Do?
The role of an IT manager can vary from company to company. These can range from wearing the hat of a procurement officer to acting as a staff manager. Below are the main tasks that an IT Manager is involved in.
Manages IT Operations
You are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day IT operations of a business. You provide end-user support, resolve issues, and ensure the maintenance of hardware like phones, desktops, tablets, and laptops.
An IT manager working in procurement deals with the purchase of hardware equipment when necessary. The equipment must be properly set up, licensed correctly, and maintained and replaced at the end of its lifespan. You’ll need to ensure that all warranties are tracked and updated.
Know that budget management is an important element in this job. How much you know about budget management could make or break a job interview.
Oversees IT Infrastructure
You are responsible for managing top aspects of the business, including assuming responsibility for data centers, servers, and networks. You are also in charge of physical and virtual servers, along with all of the services they offer like active directory, DHCP, DNS, email, and database.
Companies tend to run their own websites, and they need to be developed and maintained. The person that takes care of this side of the business is the IT Manager.
IT Managers involved in infrastructure must also consider data storage requirements. Businesses that accumulate tons of data must constantly upgrade their storage space. There is also the small matter of network infrastructure within the company, like routers, switches, firewalls, and proxies. These features help protect company data.
Manages Security for IT Systems in a Business
You need to make sure the cyber security measures in your organization are properly implemented, adequately updated, and regularly monitored to ensure there is no risk exposure.
Supervises IT Staff
You need to oversee the work of support staff, systems engineers, network engineers, database staff, and developers. Some of them may need to be mentored, while others may need assistance.
Essential IT Manager Skills
Working Knowledge of Information Technology Systems
Having a working knowledge of IT systems falls under the bracket of technical skill. You are expected to implement enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and exhibit a sound knowledge of computer networks, network administration, and network installation.
Strong Interpersonal and Leadership Skills
To succeed as an IT manager, you must have strong written and verbal communication, the capacity to manage a team, and the ability to think critically and make sound decisions.
The most important soft skill for an IT manager is problem-solving because of the sheer scale of the work that you are likely to encounter even while working in a small firm.
How to Become an IT
Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide
There are two pathways to becoming an IT manager. You can rise to the role of IT manager without having an extensive background in IT. Likewise, you can land the same role after accumulating significant technical experience. People emerging from either of those two backgrounds are capable of producing equally outstanding results.
Build Up Years of Experience in Tech
Building up experience involves developing your understanding of how computers and information systems work. It has to do with developing your information technology management skills.
Become a Project Manager and Develop Your Tech Skills
Exhibiting the skills required to manage teams, workflows, and deadlines is more likely to carry you across the line than being a technical genius when applying for an IT manager job.
You do not have to be in a technical department to develop those project management skills. This is something that could be done in the marketing department. It can be achieved in the accounting department, and it can certainly be achieved in the administrative department.
As an example, American businesswoman Carly Fiorina famously worked her way up from being an office secretary to becoming the head of Hewlett-Packard, one of the biggest tech companies in the world.
Pursue Formal Education in IT or Management
If you have a technical background and have already been tasked with managing small projects, consider pursuing a Master of Business Administration. That invariably involves some form of external or additional training online or in college or university.
Apply for the Role of an IT Manager
When you feel you are prepared to assume greater responsibility and take on the stress that comes with the territory, you should actively pursue a role in IT management.
How Long Does It Take to Become an IT Manager?
It will take you anywhere between one to five years of experience in the field to become an IT manager. However, if you aspire to hold the same position at an executive level, you will need between five and 10 years of experience.
Should You Become an IT Manager in 2021?
If you’re interested in becoming proficient in both the technical and management side of things, then you should become an IT manager. There are currently few other professions that offer a better job outlook and multiple opportunities for growth for the next decade than an IT manager.
IT Manager FAQs
Do I need a master’s degree to become an IT manager?
No, you don’t need a master’s degree to become an IT manager. However, having one will give you a competitive edge in what is now a highly competitive environment.
What is the most important skill that I need to become an IT manager?
Beyond having technical skills, an IT manager role requires leadership that inspires confidence and great performance. It’s safe to say that having the latter takes precedence over any technical knowledge that you might have.
What are the biggest threats that an IT manager encounters?
Cyber attacks are one of the biggest challenges that an IT manager might face. The best IT managers can protect their networks and businesses from all forms of unwanted attacks.
Are IT managers in demand?
As companies transition to remote setup, the demand for IT managers is expected to soar. IT managers with great leadership skills are especially crucial in these uncertain times. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market is projected to expect the addition of nearly 50,000 jobs for IT managers.