Information Assurance Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of an information assurance career? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary info to see if working in information assurance is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an Information Assurance Career

Information assurance involves the security processes that protect data from being hacked, copied, corrupted or deleted. There are many careers in the IT field that are related to information assurance; you might work as an information security analyst, computer systems administrator or computer systems manager. Compare these jobs at a glance:

Information Security AnalystComputer Systems AdministratorComputer Systems Manager
Career Overview Implement and analyze IT security proceduresSecure data from corruption and maintain security hardware and softwareSupervise IT security departments and set goals for IT workers
Education Requirements Bachelor's in computer science or programming, though some employers prefer a master's degree in information systemsBachelor's degree in computer science, electrical engineering or information science, though some employers accept associate's degreesBachelor's in computer or information science or management information systems; master's degrees are also common
Program Length 4-6 years of undergraduate and graduate education2-4 years of undergraduate education4-6 years of undergraduate and graduate education
CertificationVoluntary certification is available through various organizations, such as the International Information Systems Security Certification ConsortiumCertification not mandatory, but employers often require certification from product vendorsNot applicable
Experience Required Previous IT experienceNot applicableSeveral years of experience (5-15) in a related positions
Job Outlook for 2014-2024 Faster-than-average growth (18%)* Fast-as-average growth (8%)* Faster-than-average growth (15%)*
Median Salary (2014) $88,890*$75,790*$127,640*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts are the information assurance professionals who implement security programs into IT networks. Information security analysts monitor the IT network and update security protections, like firewalls. They also maintain disaster-recovery plans, which copy data into storage backup files that are located outside the IT network. If a hacker or virus destroyed data in the IT network, the data would be safely stored in another location.

According to the BLS, most information security analysts work for computer systems design companies. Other analysts work in the telecommunications and finance industries. Since security concerns can appear at a moment's notice, many security analysts are called in after hours or work overtime to help ensure the defense of systems.

Requirements

Employers prefer to hire information security analysts who hold bachelor's degrees in computer science or programming, though another major related to computer science is also acceptable. Some companies want analysts who hold master's degrees, particularly a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in information systems. Such master's programs help students enhance both their technical and leadership skills for upper-level positions in information assurance. The BLS indicates that, in addition to requiring education, most employers want their information security analysts to have prior experience working in the IT field before they are hired or promoted to an information security analyst position.

The following are examples of what employers of information security analyst looked for in November 2012:

  • A California computer software company needs an information security analyst for its information risk management office. Candidates need a bachelor's degree in information technology or science with at least six years of experience in information security.
  • A Massachusetts information management company needs a senior information security analyst to consult with clients about their IT security. Applicants need four years of experience helping internal or external customers with information security issues, and certifications are preferred.
  • A Georgia information technology firm is looking for an information security project analyst. Candidates must have 4-5 years of experience in information security implementation, which includes data protection procedures like encryption, data logging and data transfer.

Standing Out

As the BLS states, substantial work experience in IT is necessary for a job in information security. Aspiring information security analysts may benefit from concentrating this experience in database administration or computer system analysis, which are particularly relevant fields. Another way to stand out is to obtain certification. The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, for example, offers certification programs for information security analysts at different levels of experience, ranging from less than one year to five years and beyond.

Computer Systems Administrator

Computer systems administrators maintain computer networks, which involves monitoring networks and connected computers as well as making frequent improvements and upgrades. Many of these upgrades are security-related. In addition, computer systems administrators analyze and implement disaster-recovery programs. Many administrators work conventional, 40-hour work weeks; however, overtime is common when security upgrades are required. The computer system design, education and finance sectors employ most computer systems administrators, according to the BLS.

Requirements

Although some employers hire computer systems administrators with associate's degrees, the BLS indicates that most employers prefer candidates with bachelor's degrees. Academic programs related to computer systems administration include computer science, information science, computer engineering and electrical engineering. Such programs teach students how to quickly solve security and data-retrieval issues, and they may include courses in programming languages, computer system design and networking. Alternatively, an individual may qualify for employment in this field with a certificate related to IT and experience in the field.

The following job postings from November 2012 reveal what some employers look for:

  • An Illinois services provider needs a computer systems administrator to conduct occasional data and security upgrades and train staff in pertinent security and computer system procedures. Candidates need two years of experience and a bachelor's in computer science.
  • A Texas utility company needs a computer systems administrator to monitor its computer networks. A bachelor's in computer science and three years of experience is required, though education can be supplemented with six years of work experience. Cisco certification is also required.
  • A Nevada engineering company needs a computer systems administrator with an associate's degree, five years of experience and Cisco certification as well as the appropriate security clearance.

Standing Out

The BLS indicates that certification is one way to stand out from competitors. In fact, the previous job postings reveal that many employers require certification in programs used by their companies. Common product vendors include Microsoft and Cisco, and these companies offer a range of certifications, which usually require completion of a certification exam.

Computer Systems Manager

Computer systems managers are the head coordinators for IT departments at businesses and organizations. In addition to managing department staff, computer systems managers coordinate security implementation and data assurance, as well as crafting security policies and training workers to handle IT issues. These workers also analyze computer systems to determine the needs of their organizations, and they communicate their recommendations to company executives. The BLS states that many managers work overtime, and the financial, manufacturing and computer system design industries are among the top sectors for employment.

Requirements

Employers tend to hire computer systems managers with bachelor's or master's degrees in computer and information science. Another relevant major at the undergraduate or graduate levels includes management information systems. A management information systems curriculum combines business coursework with computer and information science studies. Since this is a managerial position, you can expect to work for several years in lower-level management at an IT department before being promoted to computer systems manager; however, the BLS indicates that smaller companies may be more willing to hire managers with less experience.

The following are examples of what employers looked for in November 2012:

  • A New Jersey IT company needs a computer systems manager to coordinate the IT department. The candidate must either have a bachelor's degree with five years of experience or a master's degree with six months of experience.
  • A Wisconsin city needs a computer systems manager to facilitate the city's IT department. The potential candidate must have five years of experience working in IT and possess a bachelor's degree.
  • A North Carolina company is looking for a computer systems manager who can manage IT architecture for the company. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree and five years of experience in management. Certification as a systems manager is preferred but not required.

Standing Out

As a computer systems manager, you may benefit from demonstrating your communications and leadership skills your employer, since these skills are particularly important for this career. To sharpen these skills, you might want to take speech and writing courses in addition to your required college coursework. You might show off your problem-solving and analytical skills by fixing security issues and suggesting security investments to executives. Business knowledge is also essential for a successful career in computer systems management, so you may want to take additional business courses during college.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

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

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - General
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - Information Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Tulane University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management
  • Campus Locations:
    4. American National University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Network Administration - Associate
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Campus Locations:
    6. Altierus

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Computer Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    7. 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
  • Campus Locations:
    8. CDI College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma in Network & Internet Security Specialist
      • Diploma in Network Systems Management
      • Diploma in Network and Internet Security Specialist - LEA.AE Gestionnaire en Rseautique : Spcialiste Scurit LEA.AE
      • Diploma in Network and Database Management
      • Diploma in Network & Database Administrator
      • Diploma in Network Administrator
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Coral Gables, FL

    University of Miami

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
  • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
  • AASIT: Network Admin

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

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Tulane University

  • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management

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American National University

  • Network Administration - Associate

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Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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Altierus

  • Computer Information Technology

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Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • BS - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

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CDI College

  • Diploma in Network & Internet Security Specialist
  • Diploma in Network Systems Management
  • Diploma in Network and Internet Security Specialist - LEA.AE Gestionnaire en Rseautique : Spcialiste Scurit LEA.AE

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