Hollywood movies and television shows are a huge source of entertainment for many people, but at times they can influence people and create confusion. One such misunderstanding is how the entertainment industry often refers to those who deal with information security as cybersecurity or information assurance specialists. They often use these terms synonymously, potentially causing confusion for those who are interested in pursuing a career in these growing disciplines.

Although there is similarity between both fields, each has unique attributes that lead to separate educational and career paths. For aspiring students who are interested in one of these careers, it is important to fully understand what they entail so that the proper educational pathway can be established.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity focuses on preventing and defending against attacks and unauthorized use of computer systems, including networks, programs and data. Risk management is a key component of cybersecurity as potential threats are identified, analyzed and evaluated to determine what type of action, if any, should be taken. Prevention, using firewalls and other deterrence measures, is another core aspect of the cybersecurity profession.

Cybersecurity jobs require strong technical skills and most require a technical degree in cybersecurity, computer science, information technology or engineering. Cybersecurity degrees often offer courses in computer forensics and advanced computer security issues and practices in addition to general computer topics. Cybersecurity jobs might include information systems security professional, senior system manager and system administrator.

Information Assurance

Cybersecurity is a relatively new field while information assurance is a more established discipline with a broader focus to include the protection of digital and non-digital information assets, such as hard copy records. Specifically, information assurance is defined as the confidence that information systems will perform as needed when needed and be accessible for authorized users only.

Information assurance degree programs typically include many of the same types of courses as cybersecurity degrees but may also include cryptography, data analysis and information assurance with a broader focus to include electronic and digital information. Information assurance jobs include information assurance manager, information assurance analyst and information security consultant.

Cybersecurity and information assurance professionals require a thorough understanding of security issues and technology. Although there is overlap between the cybersecurity and information security fields, understanding the differences between these two related but distinct areas can help individuals determine the best career path for them and choose the most appropriate educational options to meet their career goals.

The Bottom Line

When deciding on one of these computer security-related career paths, it’s critical to be clear and detailed about exactly what it is you’re looking for in a career. Cybersecurity and Information Assurance are two similar, yet distinct fields which offer a great variety of job options, both early in one’s career and for long-term professional growth. 

By fully understanding the differences and similarities between these two fields of study, individuals will better be able to select the educational path that best matches their skills, interests and career goals. By researching potential professions carefully, you’ll be able to discern the differences and similarities between several possible programs of study. Gathering data about your prospective field and evaluating it carefully will allow you to make an informed choice about the best career path for you.

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