Last Updated: January 28, 2020
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information systems manager positions will experience 11% growth in employment from 2018-2028. As individuals who plan, implement, and maintain computer-related activities, systems managers work closely with executives and entry-level employees alike, coordinating technology needs at all levels.
Specific duties for systems managers vary by industry and company size. The computer systems design industry employs the largest number of systems managers, while the retail and service industries offer the highest salaries. Systems managers possess critical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills, plus extensive knowledge of computer software and hardware.
What Does a Systems Manager Do?
Computer and information systems managers generally oversee the information technology departments within businesses and organizations. A systems manager's duties depend on organization size and how much technology they use on a daily basis. In smaller settings, systems managers may offer support on an as-needed basis, while larger organizations may require larger IT departments with more hands-on systems manager roles.
Generally, systems managers hold at least a bachelor's degree. Graduate education can increase earning potential and even open up paths to new and more advanced careers. Fortunately, the BLS projects careers in computer and information systems management to grow at an above-average rate of 11% in the coming years, making now a great time to kickstart a career in this rapidly growing industry.
Key Hard Skills
To thrive as computer and information systems managers, individuals must possess hard skills. These skills, acquired through formal training, include programming languages, networks, and information security proficiency. Systems managers also benefit from experience with operating systems, device drivers, firmware, and related utilities.
- Network Management: Systems managers often oversee information technology departments and help manage an organization's networks. This includes wireless networks, cloud storage, and other systems of data storage and communication.
- IT Support: Depending on their organization's size, systems managers may provide IT support to employees. This might include troubleshooting any issues that arise, training employees on new systems or software, and providing oversight for IT utilized by the organization.
- IT Management: Systems managers generally oversee their organizations' information technology departments. Depending on department size, this might entail managing daily IT operations, or it may involve working more broadly across the organization, providing necessary support where needed.
- Microsoft Office: Microsoft creates and manufactures a great deal of the software commonly used by businesses and organizations, so systems managers generally have a strong working knowledge of this software.
- Project Management: Systems managers sometimes work as project managers, overseeing IT-based projects. This might include implementing a new computer system, training employees on a new piece of software, or creating a new data storage or recordkeeping system.
Key Soft Skills
Computer and information systems managers possess strong communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills. Soft skills provide a foundation from which systems managers work well with others, guiding teams and carrying out tasks with efficiency. Transferable across disciplines, soft skills demonstrate personality, attitudes, and intuition, contributing to overall performance efficacy.
- Analytics: Analytical skills reflect the ability to collect, interpret, and make decisions based on data. Computer and information systems managers gather information from individuals across an organization to assess technological needs and requirements. They make decisions based on all available information, solving problems and improving overall productivity.
- Business-Focused: Business-focused individuals identify strategies and techniques for meeting institutional goals. They remain focused while adhering to financial and other business-related concerns. As strong decision-makers and organizational leaders, business-focused systems managers account for short- and long-term business outcomes alongside technical considerations.
- Communication: Verbal and nonverbal communication serve as the foundation for successful personal and professional relationships. Computer and information systems managers prepare reports, instruction manuals, and other written content as needed. They also relay technical information to colleagues with varying degrees of technical experience in an understandable way.
- Leadership: Computer and information systems managers work with systems analysts, information security professionals, and software developers, guiding their collective efforts. As team leaders, systems managers delegate, motivate, and communicate -- giving and receiving feedback as needed. Leadership skills also include accepting responsibility, demonstrating a positive attitude, and exhibiting trustworthiness at all times.
- Organization: Organizational skills include time management, attention to detail, and the ability to work on multiple tasks simultaneously. As supervisors of staff and resources alike, computer and information systems managers deal with their workloads and resources through efficient scheduling and prioritization.
Computer and information systems managers assess organizational computer and technology needs, installing and maintaining software and hardware. Written and verbal communication skills enable systems managers to report on technological improvements and changes while informing colleagues about upgrades, information security, and related matters.
Systems managers also work closely with fellow technology professionals, including systems analysts, support specialists, and software developers. By exchanging ideas with top executives, vendors, and colleagues, systems managers ensure efficient, effective computer-related activities throughout an organization.
How Do I Become a Systems Manager?
Systems managers generally hold bachelor's degrees in computer science or information technology. Additional field experience also prepares computer and information systems professionals for managerial roles.
What Education Do I Need to Be a Systems Manager?
Prospective systems managers need a four-year degree in a computer-related discipline. By building knowledge in computer programming, software development, and mathematics, aspiring systems managers build hard skills required for the profession.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Systems Manager?
Most bachelor's degrees include four years of coursework. Students can complete an online bachelor's degree in less than four years, depending on the program's structure. Systems managers also need at least 1-2 years of experience working in the field.
How Much Does a Systems Manager Make?
According to the BLS, systems managers earned an annual median salary of just under $153,000 in 2018. Salaries vary by geographic location and industry, with California and New York employing the most systems managers and paying the largest salaries.
What Do Entry-Level Systems Managers Do?
Entry-level systems managers oversee an organization's computer activities. This includes data processing, information systems support, computer programming, and communication software. Systems managers supervise network and data security operations.
Systems Manager Salary Information
Top industries for systems managers include computer systems design services, management companies, and software publishers. Around the country, software managers earned a mean annual wage of $152,860 as of 2018. Systems managers in the United States earned the highest median wages in the retail and service industries, topping $193,500 annually.
Computer and information systems managers enjoy the highest levels of employment in California and New York. The former employs more than double the number of systems managers than the latter, exceeding 63,600. Still, New York City is the metropolitan area with the largest number of systems management professionals.
Factors contributing to salary growth include experience and location. Systems managers with 10 or more years of experience in the role boost their earning potential by nearly $30,000 annually. Similarly, systems managers earn higher wages in urban locations than their counterparts in nonmetropolitan areas.
Systems Managers by Job Level
|Early Career (1-4 Years)||$63,495|
|Mid-Career (5-9 Years)||$80,366|
|Experienced (10-19 Years)||$92,462|
|Late Career (20+ Years)||$103,527|
How to Become a Systems Manager
Earn Your Degree
Generally, systems managers in IT hold at least a bachelor's degree in systems management or a related field, such as computer science, software development, or network administration. Some systems managers pursue graduate degrees in the field, but most seek continuing education of some kind to keep up with technology changes and developments. Fortunately, online systems management degrees and continuing education courses abound.
The benefits to earning an advanced degree in systems management include higher earning potential and more advanced job opportunities. Earning a degree also provides opportunities to learn and practice with new technologies in the field and earn valuable certifications in systems management.
According to the BLS, most computer and information systems managers hold a bachelor's degree and at least five years of work experience in the field. Sometimes, students can earn this experience during the course of a degree by participating in internships and practicums. A degree in systems management provides a great way to earn academic credentials and professional experience.
Generally, computer and information systems manager degrees do not require internship experience, but students can often find internship placements through their schools. Learners can gain valuable experience within their academic programs by learning and practicing with software and technology used by systems managers. In addition to a degree and a certain amount of field experience, systems managers may also need specific credentials and certifications.
Students can earn additional credentials alongside their computer and information systems manager degrees. Many online and in-person certification courses help working professionals earn additional qualifications while on-the-job.
In addition to earning a bachelor's or advanced degree, many systems managers also pursue certifications and specialized credentials. These may include the certified associate in project management, CompTIA Project+, and the certified information systems security professional credential. Some employers and careers may require systems managers to hold certain certifications. These certifications can also boost earnings, demonstrating extensive qualifications, education, and value to an organization's IT department.
Types of Careers in Systems Management
With skills applicable to positions in technology, retail, manufacturing, and financial industries, systems managers enjoy employment options across economic sectors. Education and experience factor heavily into the types of careers systems managers enter, with higher degrees boosting job opportunities.
Systems managers need a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or a related discipline. Individuals with master's degrees can advance into administrative and director roles, even excelling to executive positions. Many systems managers focus on an aspect of information technology such as network architecture, security, or data analysis.
Careers for Systems Management Graduates
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers supervise organizations' computer-related activities. They plan, install, and monitor software and hardware to meet overall information technology needs. They oversee budgets and information security and implement new technology as needed.
Median Annual Salary: $142,530
Computer Hardware Engineer
Computer hardware engineers focus on the research, design, development, and testing of computer systems. They create devices used in manufacturing or computer processing, and they modify designs and testing for efficiency and efficacy as needed. They work closely with software developers to ensure design compatibility.
Median Annual Salary: $114,600
Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects design and build data networks for communication and information exchange. They may create local area networks, wide area networks, or Intranets, depending on their organization's size and structure.
Median Annual Salary: $109,020
Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts study computer operating systems to find ways to increase efficiency and efficacy. They unite business interests with technological capabilities, researching and suggesting new technologies to meet organizational goals. They may specialize in finance, engineering, or communication computer systems.
Median Annual Salary: $88,740
Database administrators ensure storage, organization, and safety of data. They create, support, and repair databases, often performing updates and upgrades. They also train colleagues to use databases, control user permissions, and troubleshoot problems as they arise.
Median Annual Salary: $90,070
Where Can I Work as a Computer Hardware Engineer?
Employment options for systems managers vary by state and industry. With knowledge and skills applicable to careers with large organizations and small startups alike, systems managers can find the best fit for their needs. Additional freelance and consultant work gives systems managers the chance to manage their own schedules.
California ranks No. 1 in employment opportunities for systems managers, with New York and Texas listed No. 2 and 3, respectively. California's strong technology sector accounts for its 63,640 systems manager positions in 2018.
When it comes to salaries for systems managers, New York and California switch positions. New York provides the highest annual mean wage for systems engineers, largely due to high-paying positions in the New York metropolitan area.
|States With the Highest Employment Level of Systems Managers (Applications)||Number of Systems Managers (Applications) Employed|
|Top Paying States for Systems Managers||Annual Mean Wage|
Systems managers work in organizations and companies of all sizes. Most find positions in computer systems design, enterprise management, and software publishing. The finance and insurance industry also employs large numbers of systems managers.
Working in a large organization may offer higher salaries, upward mobility, and job security for systems managers. Smaller companies can create a more family-like environment, often with greater flexibility than corporate entities offer. This environment also facilitates job security as professionals build closer personal bonds with their colleagues.
Bigger companies have more bureaucracy, but they also provide opportunities for highly specialized positions. In contrast, small businesses may need a generalist rather than someone focused on a niche area.
|Industries With the Highest Level of Employment for Systems Managers||Annual Mean Wage|
|Computer Systems Design and Related Services||$159,790|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||$155,460|
|Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services||$161,070|
Continuing Education for Systems Managers
Continuing education programs keep systems managers current, enhance job performance, and facilitate innovative thinking. Systems managers can learn about new operating systems, network management innovations, and database software tools through continuing education coursework. Certifications in cloud computing, information technology security, and industrial networking technologies provide opportunities for systems managers to expand their knowledge.
Systems managers enjoy opportunities to complete training through technology companies like Cisco and Microsoft. Many colleges and universities offer certificate programs, as do professional organizations like the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation.
- CompTIA Training CompTIA offers certifications, training, and testing through partnerships with organizations around the world. Systems management professionals can access self-study tools, exam preparation materials, and instructor-led programs.
- Cisco Learning Cisco Learning offers comprehensive career, technical, and specialty courses and certifications. Computer and information systems managers can explore Cisco's worldwide offerings through the Cisco Learning Locator.
- CompTIA Continuing Education CompTIA's continuing education program facilitates certification renewal. Learners can renew through single or multiple activities. CompTIA provides detailed processes for renewal to meet computer and IT professionals' personal and professional needs.
- Microsoft Learning Microsoft Learning offers instructor-led and online certification programs for technology and office professionals. Systems managers can earn fundamental, associate, expert, or specialty certificates in Microsoft applications, platforms, and server technologies.
How Do I Find a Job in Systems Management?
Computer and information systems managers can explore employment opportunities through college and university career services, job fairs, and mentors and instructors. Professional organization membership also provides access to job boards and career guidance. Annual conferences bring together systems managers from around the world, as well.
Additional resources for systems managers include online communities like Hire Tech Ladies and Dice. Hire Tech Ladies' 50,000 members help women in technology thrive in the field. Dice, self-described as the leading career site for technology experts, offers job listings with salary predictors, a skill center, and advice for computing professionals.
IBM Think, a five-day conference, gathers computer technology professionals together for training and networking. Individuals participate in sessions on topics including code, human resources and talent, and industry platforms. Additional options for attendees include laboratory access and campus sessions.
Gartner IT Symposium
Designed to unite business, technology, strategy, and inspiration, the Gartner IT Symposium includes four days of presentations and networking opportunities. Topics include business intelligence and data analytics, emerging and disruptive technologies, and security and compliance.
As an annual, comprehensive technology conference, Microsoft Ignite includes more than 1,000 sessions. Participants enjoy opportunities to gain hands-on experience with innovative technologies.
Oracle Open World
Oracle Open World includes technical and nontechnical presentations and keynote presentations by Oracle executives and company partners. The conference, held each September, attracts millions of IT management and business leaders.
Professional Resources for Systems Managers
Professional resources for systems managers provide valuable avenues to network, gain additional knowledge, and stay current in the field. Organizations and associations offer annual conferences for communities of like-minded professionals. They also provide online resources including blogs, webinars, databases, and industry discounts.
By joining a professional organization for computer and information systems workers, systems managers gain access to advocacy and collaboration opportunities. Career advice, job listings, and mentorship programs provide essential information to systems managers at any state of their careers.
- Association for Information Systems AIS promotes the study and practice of information systems technologies, bringing together industry researchers, teachers, and professionals. Members receive career information, field updates, and networking opportunities. AIS publishes journals, holds conferences, and offers webinars while building communities through membership.
- International Association for Computer Information Systems Founded in 1960, the IACIS seeks to improve information systems education and research by uniting industry professionals and scholars. Members receive publications and event access with additional opportunities to apply to IACIS awards programs.
- Network Professional Association The NPA is the leading organization for networking professionals around the world. It establishes standards and best practices for the profession while providing advocacy, networking, and publishing opportunities. Members can join at the professional, community, or executive levels.
- Information Systems Security Association International ISSA promotes a secure digital world by offering educational forums, publications, and peer interactions for information systems security professionals. Members gain access to events and publications with networking opportunities at local, national, and international levels. ISSA also offers continuing education, awards, and fellowship programs.
- Association for Information Science and Technology ASIS&T works to promote public awareness of the information science and technology field and its importance in political, economic, and social spheres. ASIS&T offers its members career information, field updates, networking opportunities, awards programs, national and regional events, and discipline-related publications.