How to Become a Technology Manager
Technology managers help an organization with the oversight, direction, and maintenance of their technological systems. This role can be specialized into numerous areas: cybersecurity, industrial automation, cloud computing, the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, data warehousing, and more.
While data engineers, computer programmers, and UX designers deal with the more technical aspects of IT implementation, technology managers are responsible for macro-level decisions in strategy, operations, and governance. And with technology being an integral part of practically every sector of modern business, technology managers are in high demand.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of computer and information systems management (a form of technology management) is expected to grow 12 percent between 2016 and 2026, adding approximately 44,200 jobs nationwide. The average salary for jobs in the field is almost $140,000 per year. An increasing amount of automation and a growing need for cybersecurity professionals means the outlook for technology managers is likely to remain a positive one.
There are numerous paths to becoming a technology manager, and they can diverge as early as applying to undergraduate programs. Our step-by-step guide lays out a linear path to the top, with options for specialization along the way. Read on to get started.
Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Technology Manager
Step One: Attain a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)
After graduating from high school, aspiring technology managers typically pursue their bachelor’s degree. While there are several majors which one could pursue—computer science, business, informatics—the most linear path is to specialize in technology management. Common requirements for undergraduate programs vary from school to school, but often include some combination of the following: a competitive high school GPA (3.0 or greater), SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and/or a personal essay.
Arizona State University offers a bachelor of science in technology entrepreneurship and management that can be completed either on-campus or online. Students may choose to focus in either social entrepreneurship or innovation and operations management. As a collaboration between ASU’s engineering and business schools, the program prepares students to launch technology-based projects and provide the leadership necessary to solve business problems. The program consists of 120 credits and costs approximately $15,278 per year.
Kansas State University offers an online degree-completion program that culminates in a bachelor’s degree in technology management. Applicants need to have completed an associate’s degree in applied science that includes at least 39 credits in a technical concentration and 21 credits in general education.
Upon acceptance, students at KSU take additional general education courses, as well as 27 credits in business-related classes. Students may choose to focus in computer systems or a more nuanced technical field such as wind energy. Including the transferred credits, the program totals 121 credits and costs approximately $24,040 per year for the classes taken online at Kansas State.
Step Two: Achieve Initial Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)
Recent graduates of technology management programs can make a shrewd investment in the future by achieving initial certification through professional associations. These certifications not only add a mark of distinction to one’s resume but they can also build towards advanced certification later on (see step six). Those who have completed a bachelor’s degree in technology management should be eligible and prepared for the requirements of these initial certifications.
The Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering offers the Certified Technology Manager (CTM) designation. In order to be eligible, applicants must either hold a technology management bachelor’s degree or be in their final year of such a program. An applicant must also either be an ATMAE member or join the ATMAE as part of the certification process.
Once all eligibility requirements are met, an applicant may take the CTM exam. The exam is open book, contains 160 multiple choice questions, and covers the following areas: leadership, self-management, systems, processes, operations, people, projects, quality, and risk. CTM holders renew their certification through maintaining ATMAE membership.
Another option for initial certification is through the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). Applicants must have either 1,500 hours of project experience or 23 hours of project management education. Once determined to be eligible, applicants take a three-hour, 150-question exam that establishes one’s understanding of the fundamental knowledge, terminology, and processes of effective project management. Those who earn the CAPM designation must recertify every five years.
Step Three: Gain Work Experience (Timeline Varies)
The first job is often the hardest to get. But even an entry-level position can be a valuable learning experience, with opportunities to shadow experts and take on intermittent dollops of leadership responsibility. On-the-job experience is the best education an aspiring technology manager can get, teaching a young professional not only the ropes of the industry but also which niche areas they’d like to focus in further.
Step Four: Complete a Master’s Degree (Two Years)
A master’s degree is becoming less and less optional for professionals who want to take on leadership roles. A master’s degree in technology management can take a specialized approach, while an MBA with a focus in technology management amplifies the business and leadership skills necessary for top-level positions in the industry.
Application requirements will vary from school to school, but generally include some combination of the following: a competitive undergraduate GPA (3.0 or greater), GMAT or GRE scores, work experience, letters of recommendation, and/or a personal statement.
Northwestern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business offers an online MBA with a focus in high technology management. Students of this program are veteran professionals with at least five years of work experience, and the curriculum focuses on issues of leadership and governance across emerging areas of high technology such as blockchain, IoT, cognitive computing, and cybersecurity. The program consists of 50 credits, costs approximately $1,560 per credit, and may be completed in two years.
The University of Alabama Birmingham’s Collat School of Business has an online MBA with a concentration in the management of information systems. While applicants aren’t required to have work experience, preference is given to those with at least two years of it. The curriculum is split between 15 credits of business fundamentals and nine credits on the management of information systems. The program costs $1,088 per credit and may be completed in two years.
Step Five: Pursue Additional Certificates (Optional, Six to 12 Months)
For those looking to bolster their knowledge and skills in a specified area of technology management, short-term certificate programs can be an attractive option. In a short amount of time, targeted certificate programs can broaden one’s professional horizons, shore up gaps in their learning, and help carve out an area of specialty in a diverse field like technology management. And these certificates can often be pursued at a part-time or self-paced cadence, allowing one to work full-time while continuing their education.
The University of Kansas offers online certificates in technology management that fall into two categories: 1) industrial control and automation, and 2) reliability and maintenance management. Most programs are self-paced, and can be completed in under six months. Of particular interest to technology managers who wish to specialize more granularly is the certificate in cybersecurity for industrial automation and control systems. The total cost for this program is $995.
The University of California, Los Angeles has an online certificate in information technology management offered through its extension school. The curriculum consists of four core classes: the fundamentals of information technology management, information technology project management, business cases for IT projects and investments, and information technology finance. Students then choose one elective course from topics such as leadership communication strategies, Java programming, relational database management, the fundamentals of cybersecurity, or managing global outsourced projects. The total cost for the program is $8,000, and it may be completed in under a year.
Step Six: Achieve Professional Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)
Professional certification can set a technology manager apart from the pack, establishing them as an expert in their field. Often backed by professional associations, these certification options are developed by and for technology managers, and, when combined with a graduate degree and professional experience, they can push a resume to the top of the stack.
The most pertinent professional certification for technology managers is the ATMAE’s Certified Senior Technology Manager (CSTM) designation. In order to be eligible, applicants must either have three-years of post-graduate professional experience, or hold the CTM designation (see step two). Additionally, applicants will need to have completed 30 professional development units (PDUs). Once certified, CSTM holders must complete 30 PDUs every three years in order to maintain their status.
For those looking to direct and manage larger projects, the industry standard is the PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) designation. Those who are certified as PMPs earn, on average, 20 percent more than their non-certified colleagues. Eligibility requirements include 4,500 hours of experience in leading projects and at least 35 hours of project management education. Once determined to be eligible, applicants need to pass a four-hour, 200-question exam. PMP holders need to complete 60 PDUs every three years in order to maintain their status.
For technology managers primarily focused on high-level IT leadership, the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) offers the Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT) designation.
In order to be eligible for this certification, applicants must have five or more years of experience in managing IT operations. More specifically, of those five years, applicants need at least one year of experience related to establishing a framework for the governance of IT, as well as broader experience in at least two of the following areas: strategic management, benefits realization, risk optimization, and resource optimization. It’s important to note that even before all the experiential requirements are met, applicants may still sit for the 150-question CGEIT exam, which the ISACA offers study materials for on its website.
In order to maintain their certification, CGEIT holders will need to complete 20 continuing professional education (CPE) units every year, and complete a total of 120 CPEs every three years.
Helpful Resources for Technology Managers
You don’t have to do it alone. Professional societies are hubs of information for both aspiring and working technology managers. They not only offer educational resources and certifications but also provide networking opportunities in the form of conferences and meetups. If you want to get an idea of what people in technology management are dealing with today, check out some of the links below.