The proliferation of cyber crime means businesses and government agencies around the globe face constant threats to their financial information, customer data, and military and trade secrets. It’s the role of cybersecurity specialists to protect organizations and the public from hackers, scammers and other online criminals.

The growing demand for cybersecurity specialists can be seen in national employment projections. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in this category will increase by 36% during the decade ending in 2024. That’s more than triple the average growth rate (11%) for all occupations in the United States.

What is a Cybersecurity Specialist?

Cybersecurity specialists work with organizations to keep their computer information systems secure. They determine who requires access to which information, and then plan, coordinate and implement information security programs. Using a multi-layered approach, they use their specialized expertise and up-to-date knowledge to help protect against Web threats that facilitate cyber crime, including malware, phishing, viruses, denial-of-service attacks, information warfare and hacking.

Why Cybersecurity Specialists Matter

Cyber criminals target financial institutions, businesses of all sizes, government agencies and military organizations across the globe. They have the power to inflict significant damage through interruption of service, intellectual property theft, network viruses, data mining, financial theft and theft of sensitive customer data. Cybersecurity specialists identify and resolve these highly complex issues to keep information secure, allowing business to continue as normal.

Cybersecurity specialists are responsible for keeping cyber crime at bay by using their proficiency in analysis, forensics and reverse engineering to monitor and diagnose malware events and vulnerability issues. They then make recommendations for solutions, including hardware and software programs that can help mitigate risk. These professionals typically design firewalls, monitor use of data files, and regulate access to safeguard information and protect the network.

Staying up-to-date on current virus reports and protecting networks from these viruses is a major aspect of a cybersecurity specialist’s job duties. They often train users, promote security awareness, develop policies and procedures, and provide updates and reports to management and executive staff.

Where Can I Find Jobs as a Cybersecurity Specialist?

Job opportunities for cybersecurity specialists can be found in both the public and private sectors. Potential employers include government agencies, military contractors, IT services companies, the armed forces, professional services firms, financial institutions and cybersecurity consulting firms.

Educational Preparation for Cybersecurity Specialist Jobs

Breaking into the cybersecurity field typically requires a combination of up-to-date computer expertise and educational qualifications. Specific educational requirements for cybersecurity specialist jobs will vary according to the position and employer.

  • Associate’s Degree: Some entry-level cybersecurity specialist positions may require a two-year associate’s degree in computer science or a related field, plus work experience. You may qualify for advancement through additional experience and education. Most mid-level cybersecurity positions will require at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: Pursuing a four-year degree can be excellent preparation for a cybersecurity job. Many employers will require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, engineering or a related discipline. Many also require specialized training, industry certifications and/or related work experience.
  • Master’s Degree: Mid-level and advanced cybersecurity specialist positions often require an advanced degree, as well as work experience. Employers may show preference to candidates holding a Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. An advanced degree typically takes an additional one to two years beyond the bachelor’s level. 

Military and government employers may also require security industry certifications and security clearances. Prospective employers may offer tuition assistance to help their employees obtain an advanced degree.

Other Qualifications and Advancement

Education programs for prospective cybersecurity specialists typically focus on computer and network subject matter. However, success in this field can also require a combination of management expertise and business acumen, including:

  • Strong problem-solving ability
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Experience with a wide range of computer systems and security tools
  • Management and leadership ability
  • Flexibility and the ability to multi-task in a fast-paced atmosphere
  • Dependability and integrity

Cybersecurity Specialist Potential Salary

As of May 2014, the average annual salary for the category of professionals that includes cybersecurity specialists was $91,600, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The top 10% of wage earners had a salary in excess of $140,000.

Because salary potential and employment opportunities may vary depending on factors such as a candidate’s education and experience, as well as regional market conditions, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research.

Are You Ready to Launch a Cybersecurity Specialist Career?

Are you an analytical thinker who’s great with computers and loves to solve puzzles? Do you have a desire to protect the world from cyber crime? With the right education and experience, you could be on your way to a career in this in-demand cybersecurity field.

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