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Pursuing a Career as an Information Systems Security Specialist

In today's world, it is almost impossible to go more than a few minutes without relying on some form of modern technology. Many people wake up with an alarm clock on their smartphone, check a weather app for the day's forecast, read emails from colleagues and then check the traffic online to pick the best commute to work.

Quick Facts: Information Systems Industry
Median Pay:   $89,215 per year | $43 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Bachelor's degree
Work Experience:   5 years or more
Number of Jobs, 2014:   1,706,000

Information Systems Occupations:

  • Computer and information systems managers$127,640
  • Information security analysts$88,890
  • Network and computer systems administrators$75,790
  • Computer network architects$98,430
  • Computer network support specialists$61,830
  • Computer systems analysts$82,710

Banking, shopping and even education can be completed online, but that rise in technology brings with it drawbacks as well as advantages.

As an increasing part of society relies on technology and Internet-based applications, there needs to be greater security measures in place to protect the information of users. Information systems security specialists are trained to protect networks and prevent cyber crime, and the work can be the perfect fit for those interested in computers and computer science.

Discover more about this career's average salary, what kind of job growth is predicted for the future, what education is required for a career in the field, what jobs are similar and more.

How to Become a Information Systems Security Specialist

This is one career where it is nearly impossible to find a salaried, full-time position without a minimum of a bachelor's degree. These undergraduate degrees take approximately four years to complete, and they can be earned online through an accredited online college or through more typical college campus courses.

While the specific subject of the degree can be up to each individual student, the most common ways to prepare for this career might be with a degree in computer sciences, programming or information technology. Anyone who is interested in pursuing a top-level career in information systems security, and in particular a management position, might also want to earn an MBA, or Master's of Business Administration.

While this does take anywhere from an extra one to two years to pursue beyond the bachelor’s level, it might be the right choice for greater earning potential and upward mobility in the future.

What This Career Choice Entails

While it might be tempting to enroll right away in a program that prepares you for this exciting career, it is important that you fully understand what an average day might look like for an information security specialist. Generally, these specialists will have a full-time employer, which might be a large corporation, a political group or even a charitable organization.

Their primary task will be to protect the information handled by the business, which may include everything from classified financial transactions to the details of their customer base.

In order to protect this information, information systems security specialists might need to use firewalls, install data encryption software, test networks for vulnerabilities and teach employees about how to use their computers securely. Standard office hours are quite typical, but longer shifts in emergency situations might be necessary in some cases.

Typical Salaries in the Field

One of the reasons that this particular career is so appealing among college students is due to the potential for very lucrative salaries. In the field of computer security as a whole, salaries with just a bachelor's degree are above the average in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an information security analyst was $86,170 in 2012.

Those who worked in the finance industry protecting financial information, however, could expect to earn even higher average salaries. With additional experience and education, it may even be possible to secure a career like that of computer and information systems manager, which commands an average median salary of $120,950 each year.

Job Prediction Rates For Information Systems Security Specialists

Whenever possible, individuals picking their future careers should select a field where growth is highly likely. If demand grows, they will be able to enjoy a less competitive job market, which translates to higher pay potential and easier job movement.

Thankfully, information systems security is one area where substantial job growth is predicted. According to the BLS, this position will see a 37% increase in demand over the next decade. This is largely due to an increased reliance on Internet-based technology as well as the need for greater security to combat hackers and security breaches.

Top Characteristics Found Among Successful Professionals in this Field

There is little question that the best way to get your foot in the door of the information systems security industry is to have a bachelor's degree in a relevant major, have experience tackling cyber security issues and be ready to handle communication with a variety of different people.

However, there are also some attributes found repeatedly among those with the greatest successes in the field. These attributes include the ability to think outside the box, work alone or in a team as the project dictates and be very detail-oriented and organized.

Similar Careers to Consider

Although job growth in this field is incredibly strong, and those with a relevant bachelor's degree will be unlikely to have trouble securing employment, there is still the potential to pursue related careers within the same field. Just a few of the careers within the computer sciences that you might want to include in your job search include that of computer network architects, computer programmers, computer support specialists, web developers and software developers.

As society as a whole increases its reliance on Internet and technology, there will be a corresponding need for those who are trained to protect the information of users. There are opportunities for employment in the military, in finance and even in politics, but the first step toward success will be a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university either online or on campus.