The Distinctive Duties of a VP of Engineering vs. CTO

There is an urgent need for new professionals in cybersecurity, a dynamically evolving industry that requires individuals who enjoy being at the cutting edge of technology. Two key technology positions are vice president of engineering and chief technology officer (CTO). The two overlap in some areas, including addressing cybersecurity threats, but remain separate and distinct roles. For graduates of Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity, both VP of engineering and CTO are realistic career goals. But before graduates decide to pursue one or the other, they need to understand the complexities of each.

A Comparison: VP of Engineering vs. CTO

VP of engineering and CTO are both management-level positions that address a company’s specific needs. Both deal with technology infrastructure, but while a CTO focuses on designing, researching, building, and testing systems, a VP of engineering focuses more on implementing those ideas and systems across company-wide networks.

A CTO monitoring a company network.

This is the most significant difference between the two professions. A CTO emphasizes advanced technology development, conceiving of new systems that a business may adopt. When the decision to adopt those systems is made, the VP of engineering integrates them into the business’s operations. To do this, the VP of engineering must have excellent people-management skills and technical leadership to ensure the company meets its goals through executing the CTO’s strategy.

Exploring the Office of the VP of Engineering

A VP of engineering has a variety of different roles and responsibilities:

  • Strategy development: The VP of engineering is a member of the senior staff, which plans the company’s overall product strategy. He or she may work alongside other VPs and department heads to help craft the policy that guides the business’s decisions.
  • Technical leadership: Alongside the CTO, a VP of engineering is responsible for developing and implementing the technical roadmap for the company’s hardware and software assets. A VP of engineering may serve as the company’s systems architect or may delegate the job to another capable engineer.
  • Engineering work and program management: A VP of engineering is responsible for implementing a product vision through efficient engineering practices that fall in line with the overall company ideals.
  • Personnel management: In smaller companies, the VP of engineering manages personnel for the entire department. In larger enterprises, he or she may be the final arbiter for engineering management, with other engineering directors reporting directly to the office.
  • Financial Planning: A VP of engineering is also responsible for creating and presenting the annual bottom-up budget for the company’s engineering department. For a tech-based startup, this cost can form the largest share of the company’s budget.

Job Outlook and Salary

VPs of engineering earn a median annual salary of around $167,000, according to October 2019 PayScale data, with the top 10% making as much as $232,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment in the field of engineering management to increase 3% between 2018 and 2028.

The Crucial Functions of a CTO

While the VP of engineering focuses mostly on engineering and personnel management, the CTO focuses on developing technology at or above the industry standard, filling the following roles, among others:

  • Technical leadership: The CTO partners with the VP of engineering to drive the company’s overall adoption of new technology in line with the business’s vision. He or she provides technical know-how and information on industry trends to help the VP of engineering make decisions.
  • Managing the company’s patent portfolio: For tech startups in particular, the CTO’s office files for technological patents and enforces those it already has. Patents can serve as a revenue stream to help with a company’s expenses.
  • Maintaining technological edge: Regardless of industry, companies that lose their technological edge can lose market share and even collapse. With the world becoming increasingly connected, a CTO needs to understand threat assessment and ensure the company’s technological assets are protected by implementing cybersecurity measures.

Job Outlook and Salary

CTOs are crucial assets to a company’s ability to compete, and they command high salaries, with annual median earnings of around $158,000, according to October 2019 PayScale data. The top 10% of earners make as much as $239,000 per year. The BLS notes that the field of computer and information systems managers, which includes CTOs, is projected to grow 11% between 2018 and 2028.

Skills for Professionals Entering the Industry

The Maryville University online Master of Science in Cybersecurity offers a range of skills that are useful for those considering either of these paths:

  • Mastery of offensive and defensive cybersecurity: VPs of engineering and CTOs must be aware of the technological landscape and understand the potential threats that face a business and how to confront them.
  • Legal knowledge of cybersecurity: As an emerging field, cyberlaw is continually evolving, and both CTOs and VPs of engineering must maintain current knowledge of the legislation they will likely encounter.
  • Business strategy: CTOs and VPs of engineering contribute to a business’s technical planning and need to understand business strategy.
  • Decision-making skills: CTOs and VPs of engineering make decisions that affect a company’s ability to function effectively, and Maryville students with these careers in mind will learn what effective decision-making entails.
  • Communication skills: A CTO’s presentations to the rest of management hinge on his or her ability to communicate effectively. A VP of engineering has to communicate efficiently up and down the chain of command to achieve results. These skills are invaluable in both positions.

If you’re interested in rising to the top levels of management in technology, consider the Maryville University online Master of Science in Cybersecurity, which gives graduates the tools to excel. Whether you prefer the theoretical realm of designing new systems or the material work of implementing technology to serve business, Maryville can help you on the path to an exciting career on the cutting edge. Explore the curriculum today and embark on your new career.

Recommended Readings:
The Internet of the Future Will Be Bigger, Faster, Safer, and More Private

Can We Learn from White-Hat Hackers?

To Password Manager, or Not to Password Manager

Dark Reading, “More Supply, More Demand: Cybersecurity Skills Gap Remains”

Forbes, “The Three Seats of Engineering Leadership”

TechCrunch, “Too Few Cyber Security Professionals is a Gigantic Problem for 2019”

PayScale, Average Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Salary

PayScale, Average Vice President (VP), Engineering Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Systems Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Architectural and Engineering Managers

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