Information Systems Security as a Profession

Computer hackers and cyber-terrorists can wreak havoc on information systems (IS). Because of this looming threat, the demand for cyber-security specialists – and information security training – is on the rise.

Trained and certified IS security professionals are needed to combat these threats and vulnerabilities, which can be incredibly costly to organizations. In fact, a Reuters special report noted that the market that the IS security market is estimated to be between $80 billion and $140 billion a year worldwide.

IS Security Opportunities

Industry experts suggest that that there is a tremendous need for IS security specialists in both the commercial sector and government. National Public Radio (NPR) recently interviewed James Gosler, a veteran cyber-security specialist who has worked at the CIA, National Security Agency and Energy Department.

Gosler estimated that there are only about 1,000 people in the United States that have the necessary skills to tackle the most challenging IS security tasks – but noted that some 20,000 to 30,000 highly trained security professionals are needed to meet the needs of corporations and government agencies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in this field will grow much faster than the average for all occupations, with an increase of 20% or more between 2008 and 2018.

Career Options, Salaries and Job Duties

If you’re considering a career in IS security, you’ll find job openings in a variety of related areas. Security specialists may be found in each of the following BLS occupational groups, and often enjoy salaries in excess of $100,000 per year:*

  • Computer Specialists: $41,680 – $115,050
  • Database Administrators: $40,780 – $114,200
  • Computer Systems Analysts: $47,130 – $119,170
  • Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts: $42,880 – $116,120
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers: $69,900 – $166,400

IS security specialists with industry certification typically earn salaries at the higher end of the range. For example, a 2009 salary survey Certification Magazine found that professionals with the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®) credential earned an average annual salary of $108,630.

As an IS security professional, your work might involve encrypting data transmissions, implementing firewalls and developing a formal strategy to protect computer files from unauthorized access. You may also be charged with policing violations of security procedures, and taking corrective or punitive measures.

Other duties include controlling, granting or restricting access to files as required by user; tracking and proactively addressing potential computer virus threats; and performing risk assessments and tests to ensure that security protocols are functioning as intended.

Education and Training

Most IS security jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as computer information systems, information technology or engineering. Experience in software or computer hardware design is also beneficial. Candidates with specialized information security training will enjoy the best prospects.

To help meet the demand for government IS security personnel, the Department of Justice sponsors the Federal Cyber Corps Program. College juniors or first-year graduate students who are pursuing a relevant degree and planning on a career in the IS security field are eligible to apply.

Participants receive a monthly stipend of about $1,000 plus tuition, room and board, and travel to conferences. In return, students are expected to complete a summer internship with a federal agency.

Working professionals can pursue information security training through continuing education programs. Online security training is a great way to develop the knowledge and skills required to practice in this specialized field.

Some online security training programs even prepare participants to earn salary-boosting certifications, such as the CISSP®, SSCP® and CAP® designations from (ISC)2® and the CompTIA Security+™ certification.

Do you think you have what it takes to succeed in this challenging field? Employers and government agencies are actively seeking cyber warriors to safeguard critical information infrastructures against security threats. With a computer-related degree and relevant information systems security training, you’ll find yourself in high demand for rewarding, high-paying IS security jobs.

This is a guest post by Claudia Vandermilt. Claudia works in conjunction with Villanova University and University Alliance to promote professional training materials. She’s currently taking Advanced Information Assurance and Security and looks for exciting security news in her daily RSS.

Talkback and comments are most welcome

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