Security Administrator Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A security administrator's median annual salary is around $76,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a security administrator is right for you.
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A Security Administrator Career: the Pros and Cons

Security administrators work within the information technology (IT) field, generally overseeing the daily operations of computer systems for businesses, government and private groups. Read below about the pros and cons of becoming a security administrator:

PROS of a Career as a Security Administrator
Job growth expected (12% increase from 2012-2022 for all network and computer systems administrators)*
Good median pay (about $76,000 annually for all network and computer systems administrators)*
Some entry level jobs available with an associate's degree*
Employment available in many industries, as well as IT firms*

CONS of a Career as a Security Administrator
Many employers seek experienced workers*
Additional certifications needed to keep up with changing technology*
May be on-call at all hours*
Some employers may require a master's degree*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014).

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), organizations that use large computer systems often need security administrators to protect the integrity of its information technology networks and systems (www.bls.gov). Often called a network or information security administrator, this position ensures these networks are working properly, are properly maintained and are quickly repaired when problems arise. A major component of this position is protecting the safety and integrity of the network from intrusion by hackers, malware, viruses and careless use. The security administrator tracks all of the security hardware and software used by a company and usually manages user passwords, firewalls and network audits.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, job opportunities for network and computer systems administrators were anticipated to increase 12% from 2012-2022, which was as fast as average for all other occupations. The BLS noted job growth in this field was attributed to the growing need for greater information security by companies. In May 2014, the BLS reported that network and computer systems administrators earned an annual average salary of about $80,000.

Education and Other Requirements

Generally, you'll need a bachelor's degree to work as a security administrator, although you can often get a job in security administration with an associate's degree or specialized training in network security. Bachelor's and associate's degree programs in network security administration or management information systems may have coursework in Linux administration, SQL databases, Cisco routers and computer forensics. Some programs might even offer classes that teach you how hackers breach established security measures. Certificate programs are also available at many technical schools and community colleges and often focus on specific security measures for operating systems, networks and routers.

Certification Options

Having professional credentials through certifications may give you a boost in finding a job and advancing your career. You might consider earning certifications in popular security tools, such as those from Microsoft, Cisco, Red Hat and others. When security technologies are upgraded and older versions expire, you may need to get recertified in the latest technology.

Useful Skills

Analytic and problem-solving skills are excellent qualities for a security administrator. You should be able to multi-task because you may often work on multiple projects simultaneously or resolve several issues at once. Some other skills important for security administrators include:

  • Ability to communicate effectively with others who do not have an IT background
  • Experience with computers and various operating systems
  • Detail-oriented to spot security issues
  • A desire to learn about emerging technologies and products

Jobs Posted by Real Employers

An April 2012 search of real job postings revealed that employers sought security administrators with experience and good interpersonal skills. Most organizations only ask that you have an associate's degree, but some preferred a bachelor's degree. Read below about job openings posted in April 2012:

  • A software firm in Michigan sought a security administrator with at least two years of experience and an associate's degree in IT. The applicant needs to have good interpersonal and communication skills to provide support for end users. Overtime and on-call hours may be required.
  • A Georgia manufacturing company wants to hire a network security specialist with a bachelor's degree in IT or computer science and at least three years experience with Windows, various networks, protocols, encryption, firewalls, exposure assessment and other security concerns. Cisco security certification is preferred. The candidate should be detail-oriented and have a positive attitude.
  • A military support center in Iowa is searching for an information security specialist with one year of experience working at the federal government level. You must know how to analyze and resolve security concerns, as well as develop materials and teach on security awareness. Applicants must be able to manage others and possess good interpersonal skills.

How to Stand out in the Field

Earning a bachelor's degree may give you an advantage in security administrator jobs, as well as possessing actual work experience. Continuing education is important, too. You'll need to develop top-notch interpersonal and communication abilities, as well as a can-do attitude to impress recruiters.

Continuing Education

Because some employers only require an associate's degree for entry-level employment, you may stand out by pursuing a bachelor's degree in fields related to information science, networking, computer engineering or network design. Obtaining a master's degree in information systems or a related field would fulfill most formal education requirements by employers and give you a hiring advantage over others.

Certification

You can demonstrate your commitment to information technology and stand out from others by obtaining certification in the latest technology. By keeping up with emerging advanced in computers, networks and operating systems, you'll gain a competitive advantage because companies usually require their employees to be certified in the products they use, according to the BLS. You can find certification programs through the various software and product companies.

Develop Related Skills

You can also develop other qualities that may give you a hiring advantage. According to the BLS, some important qualities you need include analytical skills to evaluate network performance and recommend changes, problem-solving skills to troubleshoot network problems affecting profitability and productivity, and strong computer skills to work with different types of equipment and software.

Other Careers to Consider

Information Security Analyst

If you're interested in a more technical position in IT security, you might consider becoming an information security analyst. In this job, you'll develop, recommend and install security measures for computer networks and systems. You'll need a bachelor's degree in computer science or information security, and some employers prefer you have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in information systems. Most organizations prefer to candidates with experience in security, so you may want to gain work experience before pursuing your MBA degree.

The BLS reported that job opportunities in the information security analysis, web development and computer network architecture category were expected to increase by 22% from 2010-2020. Demand for information security analysts is expected to be very high due to growing risks of cyberattacks. In May 2011, these workers earned an average salary of about $82,000 per year, according to the BLS.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Another closely related career option is becoming an IT security manager. Security managers administer network and data security for companies. You'll generally need a bachelor's degree in management information systems or computer science, although employers usually prefer individuals who have an MBA degree because this is a higher-level position. Security managers are often required to work more than a 40-hour work week to resolve network and security problems.

The BLS reported job growth for security managers was expected to increase 18% from 2010-2020. Computer and information systems managers earned a mean salary of about $126,000 annually, according to May 2011 reporting, the BLS noted.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
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      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BS in IT - IT Management
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      • AASIT: Network Admin
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    2. Tulane University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
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  • 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 and Online Programs
    6. South College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Network Administration & Security
  • Campus and Online Programs
    7. South University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Information Systems (MS)
  • Campus Locations:
    8. Altierus

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Computer Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS: Cybersecurity
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      • AA: Cybersecurity
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  • Online Programs Available
    10. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
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    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity
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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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Tulane University

  • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management

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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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American National University

  • Network Administration - Associate

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Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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South College

  • Associate of Science in Network Administration & Security

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South University

  • Information Systems (MS)

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Altierus

  • Computer Information Technology

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