THE CAREER PATH
A career in information security can be approached with any background in the computer sciences. For most employers, a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the computer sciences is sufficient when accompanied by a certificate in information security.
Typically, the information security profession is one that requires hands-on work experience in order to gain the trust of employers and continue to move up in the field. Most employers will prefer candidates with previous experience in an information technology (IT) department. Some information security professionals also work as network or database administrators.
Oftentimes the goal for these professionals, or for professionals with a degree in information security, is to work as information security analysts. Information security analysts are the individuals who establish and implement security measures within an organization’s networks and systems. You'll be responsible for developing disaster plans and knowing what compliance laws must be followed.
Information security analysts usually provide the following services to their organizations:
- Researching IT security trends
- Developing security standards for an organization’s IT department
- Monitoring an organization’s networks for security and investigating breaches
- Preparing security and damage reports
- Installing software to protect sensitive materials
According to the United States Department of Labor, Information Security Analysts make an average salary of $92,120 and opportunities for employment are expected to increase much faster than other occupations over the next few years.
Alternatively, for those who obtain an information security degree in order to work in a different area of the computer sciences, most professionals make between $70,000 and $100,000. In addition, careers in the computer sciences are incredibly stable across the spectrum—almost all computer science professions are expecting steady growth that is on par with, or slightly above, the national rate in the near future.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Information security analysis is for the types of individuals who don’t miss a single detail. Professionals in this line of work must be carefully analytical, observant, and ingenuitive when responding to new security techniques or threats.
If you are interested in staying one step ahead of cyber-attacks by researching and implementing new techniques, or if you’re interested in working behind the scenes to develop security strategies for organizations, then this is a good career for you.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Since a plethora of backgrounds can lead to a profession in information security, competitive candidates tend to have a well-rounded education in the computer sciences, with a focus in information security.
Information security education is offered at many different levels, from a certificate to doctoral degree. With a certificate, you'll receive training in a specific information security topic. Options include e-security, programming and network protection. If you already have a computer science degree, a certificate may help you transition and find work in information security.
A bachelor's degree is usually necessary for many entry level positions. If you're a professional currently working in the computer industry, earning a master's degree may help you advance. Some master's programs offer more management and human resources training while others give advanced technological training. Choose the track that fits your goals. Doctoral programs are geared for educators and academics who want to research specific topics in information security.
Online bachelor's programs in information security will cover:
- IT Fundamentals
- Cyber Security
- Probability & Statistics
- Interconnecting Network Devices
- Designing Customized Security
There are a number of such programs available, from broad information security certificates to specialized certificates in subjects such as systems auditing. Some certificates may be required by certain employers, others give professionals additional credibility and merit when applying for positions.
This major is also sometimes called information assurance by computer science departments. Information assurance specialists are the watchdogs of the computer world. Accordingly, an online information security degree is also sometimes known as a computer security degree or a cyber security degree.
Finally, a number of colleges may provide opportunities to pursue a certificate in tandem with a degree, and some programs provide the opportunity to embellish your resume with internships or work experience through the university. It would be wise to consider these types of options when entering a field that involves the type of hands-on experience required by information security careers.
GetEducated's Best Buy rankings reveal that an online bachelor’s degree in information security costs just under $50,000, on average, but the most affordable programs cost under $20,000. If information security interests you, it is especially important to research the various programs and what they have to offer, as higher cost does not always equal higher quality or prestige.