As the global business environment becomes increasingly complex, organizations around the world face internal and external security threats that can pose significant obstacles to operations, earnings and customer goodwill. To counter these threats, organizations have established the role of Chief Security Officer to lead efforts in fighting security breaches that could potentially cause significant losses.

According to national data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for top executives is projected to remain steady through 2022. With increases in cloud computing, mobile and other technology, keeping data secure and protecting company servers and cloud applications from cyber threats will be paramount, and this trend will likely be reflected in the demand for qualified professionals.

What is a Chief Security Officer?

In many organizations, the chief security officer (CSO) position is a fluid one, with evolving responsibilities defined by the company’s needs. In general, these professionals lead security efforts related to sensitive information and data. They are responsible for setting the procedures, guidelines and direction for information security policies that are meant to protect organizational assets from internal as well as external threats – from employees and vendors to cyber criminals and hackers. Some CSOs are also responsible for the physical security of employees and facilities.

The Importance of a Chief Security Officer

Businesses must be able to utilize and share information, while at the same time keeping it safe. Few can afford the monetary losses or interruption to operations caused by security breaches. They depend on chief security officers to stay ahead of security issues, solve problems and ensure the organization is running smoothly. Proactive CSOs identify risks and eliminate them before they become an issue, instead of reacting to security breaches – saving time, effort, money and goodwill. In addition, federal and other regulations have compelled many businesses to implement safeguards and reporting mechanisms that require the expertise of chief security officers.

Chief security officers perform duties ranging from planning and coordinating an organization’s information security policies, to developing and implementing security solutions, as dictated by a rapidly changing business environment. These professionals also monitor systems to safeguard information and technology infrastructure, while allowing access to authorized users.

Additional duties may include training staff in security procedures, hiring and managing security staff, and supporting an organization’s risk management, disaster recovery and business continuity efforts.

Where Can I Find Jobs as a Chief Security Officer?

Businesses across the globe find value in the role of chief security officer. Aspiring CSOs may find employment opportunities in industries such as financial services, information technology services, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, consulting, education and government contracting.

Education Preparation for Chief Security Officer Jobs

The education and expertise required to land a chief security officer job are usually accrued through formal education and work experience. This senior-level position takes extensive knowledge of IT security technology, architecture, networks and systems infrastructure, as well as a highly developed leadership and management ability. Specific qualifications for CSO positions will vary according to the employer’s needs.

  • Associate’s Degree: The path to a corporate security career could begin by earning a two-year associate’s degree and landing an entry-level IT job. With experience and additional education, you may find opportunities for advancement. Most mid-level security positions will require at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: For many IT security positions, employers will generally require at least a four-year bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, engineering or a related discipline. Many also require industry certifications and work experience. 
  • Master’s Degree: Landing a CSO position may require an advanced degree, as well as extensive 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.

Potential employers may also seek candidates with professional training, industry certifications or related higher education, such as a graduate degree or For-Credit Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. Some employers may require security clearances and additional certifications.

Other Qualifications and Advancement

Effective chief security officers will be intelligent and driven, with solid interpersonal skills, a strong foundation of business knowledge and a combination of in-demand expertise, including:

  • Strong written and verbal communication ability
  • The ability to collaborate and build consensus across departments and among stakeholders
  • Experience with a wide range of relevant systems, and security monitoring and detection tools
  • Extensive ability to plan, design, develop, test, implement and monitor IT security systems
  • Strong leadership, negotiation and persuasion ability

Maintaining a high level of expertise is vital for success and advancement. Continuing education may lead to CSO positions in larger or more prestigious firms. 

Chief Security Officer Potential Salary

According to the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide, the average starting salaries for Chief Security Officers nationwide will range from $134,250 to $204,750 in 2015, which is a 7.1% increase from 2014.

Like employment opportunities, salary potential varies depending on location, education, experience and other factors. Prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research to determine actual earning potential.

The Path to a Chief Security Officer Career

If you’re interested in cybersecurity, results-oriented and driven to succeed, you could aspire to the position of chief security officer. Start with this career guide to help you plan the education and experience you’ll need to work your way into this exciting and challenging career.

 

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