Cyber Security Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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

Cyber security specialists keep networking systems secure from outside invasions and cyber attacks by determining the security needs of a company and developing and implementing a security system that meets those needs. Reading the pros and cons of working as a cyber security specialist can help you decide if this is the right career choice for you.

Pros of Being a Cyber Security Specialist
Faster-than-average employment growth (expected 37% from 2012-2022)*
Good wage (mean wage of $92,000 as of May 2014)*
Work available in various industries*
May work from home**

Cons of Being a Cyber Security Specialist
Responsibility for security can be stressful*
May work evenings and weekends*
May have to sit for long periods***
Continuing education may be necessary***

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **CNN Money, ***ISEEK

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Cyber security specialists, also referred to as information security analysts or computer security specialists, are the professionals called upon to help companies create and maintain secure computer systems. Their main responsibility is ensuring a company's vital information is safe from cyber attacks. Cyber security specialists have to stay on top of the latest trends in information technology security. By talking to management, they determine the security needs of an organization, such as what information is vital, what information employees should have access to and how to ensure the company's overall network security.

Once they have determined the company's needs, specialists plan and develop a network security system. They may also educate employees on network security and on how to follow security procedures. Additional responsibilities include installing and running protective software, such as data encryption programs and firewalls. When a network has been invaded or compromised, cyber security specialists are the professionals who determine the cause of the attack and monitor the network to ensure it's secure. Cyber security specialists usually work under the chief technology officer in an organization.

Job Growth and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts were predicted to see an employment growth of 37% from 2012-2022. The increasing number of cyber attacks the past few years, along with the federal government's need to provide a more secure system for their information technology systems, contributes to the faster-than-average employment growth. As of May 2014, these professionals - referred to as cyber security specialists - earned near $92,000, reported the BLS.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a cyber security specialist, you're usually required to complete at least a bachelor's degree in computer science with an emphasis in network or Internet security. The curriculum includes classroom studies, lab experiments and internships at local organizations to obtain hands-on training. Students may also work at local businesses where they develop and document a secure computer system as part of a practicum course. Course topics may include security policies and procedures, computer forensics, network security, database management systems, cryptography and operating systems pragmatics. Students also learn about designing secure websites, .NET programming, ethical analysis and reasoning, computer system attacks and perimeter security.

Although a bachelor's degree is often required for a job as a cyber security specialist, associate's degree programs are also available. Associate's degree programs in information systems security can prepare you for entry-level positions in this field, such as security technician, junior IT auditor or junior security analyst/specialist. The importance of Internet security and the emergence of information security as a field on its own have contributed to many schools offering programs specifically geared towards information security.

What Do Employers Look for?

Information and network security are vital to individuals and organizations, so employers are looking for cyber security specialists who have the necessary training to get the job done. While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient to an employer, some prefer their employees to have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Information Systems. They are also looking for employees who have work experience, not just in computer science, but also in systems or network security. Employers typically look favorably on employees who have certifications in their area of expertise.

Job Postings from Real Employers

  • A construction company in South Carolina is seeking a principal cyber specialist to join their information technology department. Job duties include supporting the department with networking solutions, assessing the systems and networks, analyzing incident response policies, exploiting vulnerabilities in the network and performing risk assessment on new computer systems and equipment. The applicant must have a bachelor's degree in computer science or related field and at least five years of experience working in this type of environment. Candidates should also have experience with Nessus, Shavik, DOE Ord. and with security software.
  • A computer hardware/software security company in San Antonio, TX, is in need of cyber security professionals to fill several positions in their firm. Job duties include analyzing technical requirements for cyber security systems, managing the cyber security in the company's operations and designing strategies for an effective and secure workforce. In addition to possessing knowledge of computer network and system security issues, applicants should have experience in DoD operations and computer network attacks and defense. The company is hiring cyber security analysts, information security analysts, intrusion response analysts and digital forensics practice leads.
  • A computer software company in Rockville, Maryland, is in need of an information security specialist to work in one of its several locations. In addition to having a driver's license, applicants must also have TS clearance and security certifications (CCNA, CISSP, etc). Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or four years of experience in network or data application security in environments. Candidates will be responsible for monitoring the networking system against cyber attacks and implementing risk mitigation counter measures to ensure the security of the organization. Candidates will also be knowledgeable of networking protocols, IP networking and security-related technologies.

How to Beat the Competition

Once you've earned your degree and obtained some work experience, you'll be ready to join the workforce as a cyber security specialist. However, as beneficial as a degree and experience can be, you're going to want to take some steps to help you beat the competition. Obtaining certification may give you the edge you need. Although certification may not always be a requirement for employment, it can help demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to potential employers. Formal training programs usually offer courses that can help prepare you to take certification exams.

The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC) offers several certifications, including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP), Certified Authorization Professional (CAP) and Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP). To obtain these certifications, eligible applicants must pass computer-based certification examinations. Cisco also offers various certifications, including specific tracks for those interested in network security. Some Cisco certifications you may consider include Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA Security), Cisco Certified Network Professional Security (CCNP Security) and Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Security (CCIE Security).

Alternative Career Paths

In spite of the faster-than-average employment growth, you may still be uncertain if this is the right career for you. There are alternative careers you may wish to consider - careers similar yet offering different things.

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers are the professionals who write the codes and programs that make computers perform tasks. When computer engineers and architects design a program, the computer programmers turn their ideas into fully functioning programs. Although a computer programmer usually needs a bachelor's degree, some employers hire individuals who have completed an associate's degree program or have work experience. According to the BLS, computer programmers were predicted to see an employment growth of 12% from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, these workers earned around $76,000.

Software Developers - Applications

Unlike computer programmers who write the code for applications, you can be the one coming up with the ideas for computer software as a software developer. However, in addition to a bachelor's degree in computer science, you also need strong programming skills for this career. The BLS predicted these workers would experience an employment growth of 30% from 2010-2020. Software developers creating applications earned an annual wage of around $92,000 as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BSIT - Information Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
    Associate's
      • Associate: Information Technology
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    2. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Network Security
      • Bachelor's - Cloud Computing
    Associate's
      • Associate's - Network Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS/Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
      • MS/Criminal Justice - Cybercrime and Technology
      • MBA - Information Systems
    Bachelor's
      • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Information Systems
      • B.A. - Business Information Systems
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
      • Master of IT: Project Management
      • Master of Science in Information Technology
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
      • Bachelor of Information Technology - Digital Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Campus Locations:
    5. Lincoln Tech

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Technology and Skilled Trades
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Cyber Policy
      • MBA - Cybersecurity
      • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Intelligence
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
    Certificate
      • Computer Forensics Cert
      • Cybersecurity Technologies Certificate
      • Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate
      • Cyber Operations Cert
      • Cyber Policy Cert
      • Financial Crime and Compliance Operations Cert
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD in Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD-TIM - Cybersecurity
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
    Master's
      • MBA - Computer and Information Security
      • MSTIM - Cybersecurity
      • MSTIM - Computer Science
      • MSTIM - Information Systems
      • MBA - Management Information Systems
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Instructional Technology
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cyber Security
      • B.S. in Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems
      • Bachelor of Science in Applied Business Information Systems
      • B.S. in Computer Programming
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project/Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • Bachelor: Technology Management
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology Admin and Management With No Declared Minor or Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
      • Associate of Science - Technology Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Information Technology
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
  • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
  • Associate: Information Technology

Which subject are you interested in?

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Network Security
  • Bachelor's - Cloud Computing
  • Associate's - Network Security

What is your highest level of education?

Ashford University

  • MS/Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
  • MS/Criminal Justice - Cybercrime and Technology
  • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Information Systems
  • B.A. - Business Information Systems

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
  • Master of IT: Project Management
  • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
  • Bachelor of Information Technology - Digital Investigation

Are you a US citizen?

Lincoln Tech

  • Technology and Skilled Trades

What year did you graduate High School / Receive GED?

Utica College

  • MBA - Cyber Policy
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
  • Computer Forensics Cert

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
  • PhD in Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
  • MBA - Computer and Information Security
  • MSTIM - Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cyber Security
  • B.S. in Information Technology

What is your highest level of education?