Increasingly, cyber threats put Americans at risk. Protecting sensitive personal and business data, financial information and military secrets from malicious hackers and cyber criminals is crucial for private and public sector organizations.

Computer security specialists use their skills and knowledge to prevent cyber attacks on information systems and to keep criminals from gaining access to financial information, military secrets and other confidential data.

With the number of online attacks increasing, companies large and small are concerned about cybersecurity, hacking and network vulnerability. As a result, computer security jobs are being created in a broad range of industries, such as defense, finance, telecommunications, manufacturing and retail. Healthcare, education and public administration also are fields that may offer opportunities for computer security specialists.

Job Duties for Computer Security Specialists

Computer security specialists typically are involved in day-to-day management of network security hardware and software, as well as in supporting various aspects of technical, installation, operational and performance operations.

These professionals guard against hacker attacks, natural disasters, and malicious and unintentional security breaches, while ensuring that networking systems can bounce back quickly when such events occur.

Specific job duties for computer network defense engineers will vary according to the employer and industry, but some common responsibilities, include:

  • Troubleshooting server and network security-related issues

  • Designing, implementing and testing compliant network security systems and solutions

  • Maintaining security infrastructures

  • Drafting technical documentation and security guidelines

  • Collaborating with management, staff, department heads and external partners or regulators

  • Complying with federal and state laws, regulations and directives

  • Developing business continuity and disaster recovery plans

Job Outlook and Salary for Computer Security Specialists

Professionals in the computer security field are in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of information security analysts nationwide is projected to grow by 18% from 2014 through 2024, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.

The median annual salary in 2015 for information security analysts employed nationwide was $90,120. Potential salary range and employment opportunities will vary according to geographical region, a candidate’s education and experience, and other factors.

Education and Training for Computer Security Specialists

Thestandard qualification for breaking into the computer security field is a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, computer science or a related discipline, the BLS reports. In addition, employers may show preference to candidates with experience, industry certifications or both.

A degree program such as a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems can provide students with the opportunity to learn the basics of programming, systems analysis and network theory, along with information technology (IT) skills. Additional computer security courses can provide in-demand risk management and systems security skills that employers seek.

Additional attributes needed for success in a computer security specialist career can include:

  • Outstanding communication skills

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Self-discipline and focus

  • Creative problem-solving

  • Analytical and organizational skills

Professional certification, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation, can boost a candidate’s prospects for employment and advancement.

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