What CIOs really study

A degree in IT or administration can help, but top CIOs have degrees in everything from religious studies to zoology.

Shutterstock image (by Tarchyshnik Andrei): education concept image, books with a lightbulb above them.

(Tarchyshnik Andrei / Shutterstock)

Jonathan Alboum, Agriculture Department CIO, is a University of Virginia alum; he studied systems engineering as an undergraduate and earned a masters in IT management.

Darren Ash, CIO at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, majored in international studies at American University and holds two master’s degrees: in public administration from Syracuse University and information systems from George Washington University.

Department of Health and Human Services CIO Frank Baitman studied political science and English as a State University of New York at Albany undergraduate, then went to the University of Maryland for a master’s degree in public management.

Sonny Bhagowalia, Treasury Department CIO, has both a bachelor’s and a master’s in electrical engineering from Louisiana State University and another master’s — this one in information resources management — from Syracuse University.

Interior Department CIO Sylvia Burns double-majored in geology and a special honors curriculum at Hunter's College, and has a master’s in business management and policy from Stony Brook University.

Commerce Department CIO Steve Cooper has a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Ohio Wesleyan University.

Department of Veterans Affairs CIO LaVerne Council has a trio of business degrees: a bachelor’s from Western Illinois University, an MBA in operations management from Illinois State University and a doctorate in business administration from Drexel University.

Rafael Diaz, CIO at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was a biology major at the University of Illinois, earned a master’s in human services administration from Spertus College and holds a computer career program certificate from DePaul University.

Environmental Protection Agency CIO Ann Dunkin is a two-time graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, with a bachelor’s in industrial systems engineering and a master’s in manufacturing systems engineering.

Defense Department CIO Terry Halvorsen focused on history and pre-law at Widener University, then earned a master’s degree in educational technology at the University of West Florida.

Danny Harris, the Education Department’s CIO, majored in communications at North Carolina A&T State University, then went to Howard University for both a master’s and a doctorate in organizational management.

Energy Department CIO Michael Johnson has a master’s in computer science and engineering.

Joseph Klimavicz, the Justice Department CIO, attended Virginia Tech for both a bachelor of science and a master’s degree in engineering.

Labor Department CIO Dawn Leaf did her undergraduate studies at McDaniel College and earned a master’s degree in systems engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Renee Macklin, the Small Business Administration’s CIO, majored in computer systems technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology and earned her master’s in information systems management from American University.

Jay Mahanand, CIO at the U.S. Agency for International Development, has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Maryland.

Luke McCormack, CIO at the Department of Homeland Security, has an MBA from the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business and certifications from Columbia University and National Defense University.

Transportation Department CIO Richard McKinney studied political science at Ohio State University before earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in public administration from Tennessee State University.

National Science Foundation CIO Amy Northcutt went to Smith College for her undergraduate studies, earned a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of Chicago and holds a law degree from Boston College Law School.

U.S. CIO Tony Scott majored in information systems management at the University of San Francisco and also has a J.D. in computer law from Santa Clara University.

Office of Personnel Management CIO Donna Seymour earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from George Mason University, where she has also continued graduate-level studies in operations research and management sciences.

David Shive, the General Services Administration’s CIO, majored in physics as a California State University undergraduate, earned a master’s in research meteorology at the University of Maryland and holds a post-graduate management certificate from the Carnegie Mellon Graduate School of Industrial Management.

NASA CIO Larry Sweet was a visual communications major at Texas Lutheran University.

State Department CIO Steven Taylor majored in business management as an undergraduate and holds a master’s degree in information systems; he earned both degrees at Boston University.