Systems Manager

What do computer and information systems managers do?

Computer and information systems managers (or systems manager, for short) oversee and coordinate an organization’s information technology (IT) operations. Depending on the organization and the individual’s specific title, a system manager’s duties may range from running a single IT department to overseeing all decisions pertaining to a company’s use of technology.

Often, the specific responsibilities of a systems manager will depend largely on the size of the organization for which they work. In a smaller organization, the system manager’s duties will often be limited to providing support for other departments while, in larger organizations, the role begins to take on a broader focus.

Key Skills

  • Communication – Systems managers must be able to clearly report to executives the needs of the organization, the goals they should set and their plan to meet them. They must also communicate with their peers and subordinates as they work to implement the plans.
  • Leadership – This role will require leading others to work as a team to make changes, upgrades and continually stay on top of the organization’s technology needs.
  • Decision making – Top executives rely on this individual to choose the best technology and methods for the organization. The systems manager must weigh all options and come to the best decisions for the company.
  • Analyzing – In order to make the best decisions for the organization, a systems manager must be able to analyze a situation, work through a problem and choose the best way to resolve the issue.
  • Organization – To implement new technologies or solve IT problems, systems managers must coordinate with several departments. It is important they are organized to make this process as smooth and efficient as possible.


Areas of Systems Management

Systems managers can work in a variety of settings within their field. Many, if not most, industries now employ systems managers. Duties will be similar in each specialty area, but also offer their own nuances specific to the industry. A number of fields rely on computer and information systems managers, including:

Information Systems

Information systems managers are responsible for overseeing all computer systems in a given organization. They oversee computer hardware, software, networking, internet, web site and data security protection. Duties include:

  • Purchasing, installing, monitoring and maintaining all computer hardware needed for the company’s financial, informational and operational needs.
  • Managing and overseeing the company’s local area network and wide area network.
  • Purchasing, installing and training employees to use company technology and software.
  • Maintaining records and reports of all computer activities to provide documentation of all operating, backup and security functions.
  • Managing and monitoring email servers and individual and shared network drives.
  • Reviewing, researching and reporting on new software options within a given industry.
  • Installing and maintaining software and reporting programs, working with providers as necessary to ensure all systems operate efficiently and that necessary updates are completed quickly.

Healthcare Systems

Healthcare systems managers oversee the operation of all computer systems and related applications in their network. They manage all hardware and software and monitor the implementation of software systems and upgrades. Additionally, they:

  • Manage staff and direct their activities
  • Ensure technology support and software development, including user requirements analysis, system design, system enhancements and upgrades.
  • Oversee day-to-day operations of systems by defining requirements and auditing results.
  • Ensure technology support for all other enterprise software including but not limited to Kronos, QS1, Microsoft GP, Workplace and Microsoft Office.
  • Serve as project managers for new software system implementations and existing system upgrades.
  • Manage application implementations and application upgrade projects.
  • Resolve technical issues, detect patterns of occurrences and coordinate with staff regarding handling resolutions to persistent problems.

Finance and Banking

Systems analysts in this industry manage the resources necessary to run banking and finance operations. They detect and implement resolutions to problems with corporate data files and applications. As part of their job, finance and banking systems analysts:

  • Supervise the daily operation of their system, including productivity control and manpower allocation.
  • Oversee all activities related to planning, directing and monitoring information systems operations.
  • Plan and recommend machine modifications or additional equipment to increase the capacity of the host system.
  • Oversee the monitoring systems as well as on-line ATM processing system, audio response systems and core system processing.

Systems Manager Duties

The specific duties of a systems manager will very greatly depending on the organization. A company’s size and needs will determine what type of and how many systems managers it employs. Four positions are common for systems managers, each with various responsibilities.

  • Chief information officers (CIOs) – This officer oversees the overall technology needs of the company. They evaluate needs, set goals and implement the technology to meet the organization’s goals.
  • Chief technology officers (CTOs) – In an organization with both a CIO and a CTO, the CTO is the one with more technical expertise. This officer will review the goals set by the CIO and determine what technology solutions are best to meet those goals. He or she then works with the appropriate departments to implement the new technology.
  • IT directors – With direct supervision of members of the IT department, the director is in charge of determining the business requirements for IT systems and then implementing the necessary policies and systems. They coordinate IT activities, oversee budgeting and often are the ones who do the hiring for the IT department.
  • IT security managers – This is an organization’s network and data security manager. He or she plans and implements policies to ensure the security of information, educates employees about security threats and investigates security violations.

Computer and information systems managers must stay current with advancing technology. This means continually researching and investigating new developments. It also means remaining flexible and open to new ideas. With more and more employees telecommuting, it can also mean supervising both on-site and off-site employees and coordinating work from multiple locations.

How much do computer & information systems managers make?

Salaries for computer and information systems managers vary based on the size of the organization, the specific role of the manager at the company and location. In 2014, the top 10 percent of systems managers earned $187,200. In the same year, the lowest 10 percent earned just under $75,000.

Average Salaries, 2004-2012

  • $136,280 2014
  • $129,130 2012
  • $123,280 2010
  • $118,710 2008
  • $107,250 2006
  • $98,260 2004

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

Top-Paying Industries

Industry Employment Avg. Annual Salary
Support Activities for Mining 140 $175,270
Other Information Services 6,970 $171,040
Motor Vehicle Manufacturing 40 $169,960
Securities and Commodity 3,360 $168,700

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

Top Paying Cities

Avg. Annual Salary

San Jose, CA $184,120
Framingham, MA $175,210
San Francisco, CA $173,060
New York-, NY $169,530
Bridgeport, CT $160,180

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

Pay by Experience

Median Salary

Entry-Level 0-5 yrs $58,560
Mid-Career 5-10 yrs $73,531
Experienced 10-20 yrs $84,346
Late Career 20+ yrs $97,003

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

How do I become a computer & information systems manager?

A career as a computer and information systems manager requires a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science. It is common to hold a graduate degree as well. Related work experience is also necessary.

Bachelor-level coursework should include computer programming, software development and mathematics. Business classes as well as computer classes are also helpful for this career path.

A Management Information Systems degree (MIS) or a Computer Information Systems degree (CIS) are the most common degrees for systems managers.

I Have Completed my Undergraduate Degree

Review your degree and coursework

  • If you have a degree in computer science, you are well on your way to a career as a systems manager.
  • Did your coursework include any business courses? If not, consider taking additional coursework to round out your education for this field.

Consider graduate school

  • A master’s degree is commonly required for systems manager positions.
  • Research schools to find which institution offers the best graduate program for the specific industry in which you have interest.

Research employers and jobs

  • Examine the job requirements for the type of position you would like.
  • Determine if you need additional coursework based on these findings.
  • Speak with employers and employees in the field to get their recommendations on additional training or schooling that will prove most helpful in the field.

I’m Currently an Undergraduate

Take Introductory courses

  • Try a computer programming class or two. See if this is a good fit for you.
  • Take a business class to introduce yourself to this part of the job.

Prepare for grad school

  • Research grad schools to determine requirements.
  • Ensure your undergrad work meets these standards.

Choose coursework wisely

  • If you know a specific industry you would like to work in, tailor your coursework to fit this field.

Get experience

  • Internships, summer jobs and other coursework-related experience will be helpful as you begin your career.
  • Getting your feet wet in a specific industry or two can help you determine where you would be the best systems manager.

Certification Options

Certification is not generally required for most systems manager positions. Often, if certification is obtained for these professionals, it is through private certification in a specific product or technology. However, more general certifications are available. These include:

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) – Requires a minimum of five years experience and an exam. Continuing professional education is also expected for one who holds this title.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) – Requires five years of work experience or a graduate degree in information security. An exam must be passed, and you must provide an endorsement of work experience and complete an audit.
  • Information Systems Analyst (ISP) – Requires a bachelor degree in CIS. Involves a core exam covering IT and professional skills.
  • Associate Computing Professional (ACP) – For those newly entering the field. Requires completion of ISP exam plus an additional specialty exam. Exam prerequisites are work experience and college credit hours.
  • Certified Computing Professional (CCP) – For those at an expert, mastery level. Requires passing the ISP core exam plus two specialty exams. Also requires work experience and college credit hours.

Career Advancement

Often, several years of experience in a lower level IT job is required for advancement to this position. IT director positions usually require five to 10 years of related experience, and CTOs usually need more than 15 years of experience. However, the size of the company often determines the requirements. Smaller companies usually require less experience than larger ones.

With additional experience, low-level systems managers can move up these ranks to directors and project managers, then CTOs, and on to top executive status within an organization. For advancement to these higher levels, a graduate degree is often needed.

Additional Resources