Becoming a Security Specialist: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a security specialist career? See real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a security specialist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Security Specialist Career

Security specialists help companies and individuals find security risks in their daily lives. Read the following pros and cons to determine if this career is right for you.

Pros of Being a Security Specialist
The satisfaction of preventing harm to individuals and companies*
Independent, authoritative position*
Significant education not required**
Projected employment growth from 2012-2022 (12% for security guards, 37% for information security analysts)**

Cons of Being a Security Specialist
Some job-related stress from the responsibilities*
Maintaining accuracy and attention to detail is essential*
Pay for security guards is lower than average (annual mean wage of about $28,000)**
Information security analysts typically need a bachelor's degree**

Sources: *O*NET, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Security specialists help companies and people find security risks in their daily lives or occupational operations. These individuals identify security threats through background checks and other forms of research. Should a security breach take place, security specialists must react quickly to mitigate a potential threat, whether physical or digital. This may include placing themselves in dangerous situations. Management positions typically require work experience.

Job Description and Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), security guards protect people from a variety of physical dangers, such as theft, property damage, fire and even terrorism (www.bls.gov). Usually, they are employed by private companies to protect a business or event, though some work for the government. In contrast, many private inspectors and bodyguards protect an individual person. The BLS notes that private investigators will survey areas to make sure an individual person or group of people are safe in the area, as well as perform background checks or interviews on other people for security clearance. However, it should be noted that private inspectors and bodyguards may investigate legal issues, business investments and identity fraud.

According to the BLS, information security specialists analyze computer networks for businesses, telecommunication firms and computer system networks to see if there are any computer security issues. An information security analyst checks to see if a virus or individual can infiltrate a network and steal private information or data. In addition, they will recommend enhancements and install security protections.

Salary Information and Job Prospects

Each job sector has different prospects and salary rates. In May 2014, the BLS stated that the median salary for security guards was around $24,000 and job prospects are projected to grow by 12% from 2012-2022. The BLS reported that private detectives and investigators earned a median wage of about $44,000 annually with job prospects estimated at 11%. Despite the anticipated growth, competition in some areas will be keen.

Information security analysts earn considerably more than their counterparts. The BLS indicated that the median annual salary for these professionals was $89,000. In the top-paying industries for this profession, you may earn more than $100,000 annually. The BLS projects a 37% increase in job opportunities for this career from 2012-2022.

Career Requirements

Education and Training Requirements

Similar to earnings, educational requirements vary by position. For security guards, many firms only require a high school education or equivalent. However, some firms may require postsecondary education for advancement opportunities. While many private security guards have the same requirements, the BLS indicates these positions are more likely to require some level of postsecondary education. Information security analysts have a range of degree requirements depending on the firm and work responsibilities. According to the BLS, most positions require a bachelor's degree, while some require individuals to hold a Master of Business Administration in information systems or a related area.

On the job training is provided by firms that hire security guards. Varying licensing standards by state are required for security guards, personal bodyguards and specialists. The BLS indicates that information security specialists may only need their academic degrees for entry-level positions, although some employers desire previous work experience with computer software.

Top Skills for Security Specialists

The BLS cites one common trait between all three types of security specialists: the ability to solve problems. This involves the ability to think quickly in instances of an event like a physical threat or cyber-attack. Situations like these also call for good communication and leadership abilities. Security guards and body guards should also have quick physical reflexes.

What Do Employers Look for?

Security specialist employers will be explicit on what type of worker they need, specifically a physical security specialist or an information security specialist. Job candidates should be adept at assessing and evaluating potential physical or system security breaches that could take place. Having risk evaluation techniques, as well as ways to consider the cost-benefit analysis of security investments, should be beneficial. The following job listings are available in April 2012.

  • A Virginia federal government institution needs a physical security specialist who can consult and advise on improvements to security systems. The employer needs the job candidate to regularly improve and update the electronic and physical security systems across the grounds. Several years of security experience are required.
  • A Washington, D.C., utility company needs a security specialist who can review and advise on security threats. This may include everything from trespassing risks to an infrastructural risk for the utility network or building. Knowledge of electrical systems is preferred, as well as instituting security drill exercises with the staff.
  • An Illinois computer software company needs an information security analyst to refine and protect client information. The analyst will install the software standards and programs of the company onto a client's computer network, as well as protect the client from any compromises that might happen to their network.
  • A West Virginia software enterprise needs an information security analyst to help clients with their risk-assessment strategies. The job candidate also needs to incorporate cost-benefit analysis to their projections.

How to Beat the Competition

Physical and private security specialists have the option to be certified by the ASIS International, a professional organization for security personnel (www.asisonline.org). The ASIS includes the Certified Protection Professional (CPP), the Physical Security Professional (PSP) and the Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) certification. The CPP requires nine years of security experience or seven years of experience with a bachelor's degree. In either case, three years of security leadership are required. The PSP requires six years of security experience or a bachelor's degree with four years of security experience. Finally, the PCI requires five years of security work with two years working in the management end.

Other Careers to Consider

Police Officer

If you enjoy protecting people, but want to protect people's lives and well-being on a daily basis, you may consider becoming a police officer. Police officers work daily to enforce the laws of a municipality or state. Typically uniformed, they will patrol geographic areas and report on any suspicious activity. They will also respond immediately to calls asking for help. In May 2011, the BLS indicated that the median annual salary for police officers was reported to be around $54,000.

Detective

If you want to solve problems, but want to help people directly on a case-by-case basis, you can become a detective. Detectives typically begin as police officers before advancing. They investigate crimes by interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence to see how an event transpired and who committed the crime. The BLS projects just a three percent employment growth for detectives and crime investigators from 2010-2020. Despite the low job projections, the BLS does state that the median salary for a detective is around $72,000 as of May 2011.

Database Administrator

If you want to work with computers in more ways than just security, you may want to become a database administrator. These professionals organize and check the software that facilitates information in a network. Their duties include backing up data should it become lost or stolen. The BLS projects that database administrators will see a 31% employment growth rate from 2010-2020. In May 2011, the BLS reported that they earned around $75,000 annually.

Popular Schools

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    2. Keiser University

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    3. Argosy University

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      • Bachelor - Business Administration
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    4. American InterContinental University

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • B.A. - Homeland Security
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security

What is your highest level of education?

Argosy University

  • Bachelor - Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Leadership: Disaster Preparedness & Executive Fire Leadership
  • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor: Public Safety and Emergency Management

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice
  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis
  • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Analysis

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Lewis University

  • MS in Criminal Justice
  • MS in Public Safety Administration

What is your highest level of education?