In today's era of rapidly escalating threats and sophisticated cyber warfare, organizations need to be vigilant in combating attackers and protecting information assets. IT security specialists leverage an in-depth understanding of cyber security threats, technologies and countermeasures to ensure secure computer systems. This often includes tasks like installing and configuring security software to prevent attacks, educating employees on data security, monitoring and protecting against network breaches, and responding to cyber attacks with the appropriate countermeasures.
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Workforce demand for computer security specialists is high in all verticals, including corporations, schools, medical practices, and government agencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the IT security specialist job market will grow by 33% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the 8% average for all occupations, placing it among the nation's fastest growing career paths.
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a.k.a. IT Security Analyst | Information Security Analyst | Cyber Security Analyst
IT Security Specialist Skills & Responsibilities
Typical day-to-day duties and marketable skill sets for information security specialists include the following. IT security specialists:
- Develop plans to safeguard computer files against unauthorized modification, destruction or disclosure.
- Choose, implement, monitor and upgrade computer anti-virus and malware protection systems.
- Encrypt data transmissions and erect firewalls to conceal confidential information during transmit.
- Implement password authentication to keep unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data files.
- Modify security files to incorporate new software, correct errors, and change user access status.
- Perform risk assessments and tests on running data processing activities and security measures.
- Educate workers about computer security and promote security awareness and security protocols.
- Keep accurate and current backup files of all important data on the shared corporate network.
- IT security pros who specialize in computer forensics gather evidence for prosecuting cyber crimes.
- Computer forensics specialists can set up & operate an investigator’s lab, and process computer crime scenes.
IT Security Specialist Salaries
The median annual wage for IT security specialists in the USA is $104,000, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Average salaries for IT security specialists and related career paths by job role, seniority and technological expertise:
- Information Security Consultant: $80,000
- Information Security Analyst: $84,000
- Computer Forensics Investigator: $88,000
- Certified Ethical Hacker: $89,000
- Vulnerability Analyst: $89,000
- Cyber Security Analyst: $98,000
- Cyber Intelligence Analyst: $98,000
- Information Technology Auditor: $99,000
- Firewall Engineer: $100,000
- Network Security Engineer: $109,000
- SAP Security Administrator: 115,000
- Lead Digital Forensics Examiner: $115,000
- Director of Information Security: $134,000
- Security Solutions Architect: $150,000
Top paying US cities and metropolitan areas for information security specialists:
- San Jose / Sunnyvale, CA $147,000
- San Francisco / Oakland, CA: $137,000
- New York City Metro (NY/NJ/PA): $130,000
- Houston / The Woodlands, TX: $119,000
Although this is typically a full-time salaried position, the hourly wage for IT security professionals in the U.S. can range from $29 to $100+ per hour, dependent upon employee location, job-or-project role, certifications held and experience level.
Deep dive comparison of information security analyst salaries.
Sources: Indeed.com • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
IT Security Specialist Education Requirements
Hiring managers for IT security specialist positions generally require at least bachelor's degree in information security, computer information systems, computer science or a related field of study. IT job experience and security-centric certifications will aid candidates in securing IT security specialist positions.
Specific coursework and in-demand skill sets to look for in an IT security specialist education program include networking and network security, operating system administration, business continuity & disaster recovery, intrusion detection, hardware & software configuration, risk management and digital forensics. IT security specialists need strong communication skills, as they are responsible for educating technical and non-technical staffers on computer security protocols and raising information security awareness.
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IT Security Specialist Training Programs
Browse the top-reviewed undergrad & graduate degrees, professional certificates, online courses and self-paced training programs matching the IT security specialist education requirements and career path.
- Design, Manage & Secure Networks
- Detect and Prevent Network Breaches
- Cyber Incident Response & Investigation
- Prepare for In-Demand IT Certifications
- Identify and Manage Cybersecurity Risk
- Secure Network Design and Engineering
- Network Architecture and Cyber Ops
- NSA & DHS Approved Security Program
IT Security Specialist Certifications
There are marketable certifications for just about every cyber security role and experience level. Here are some of the most desirable certifications for IT security specialists:
- CompTIA - Security+
- CompTIA - PenTest+
- CompTIA - CySA+
- (ISC)2 - Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- EC-Council - Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- ISACA - Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Google Cybersecurity Certificate
- IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Pro Certificate
IT Security Specialist Job Outlook
Employment of IT security specialists is expected to increase by thirty-three percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the 8% average for all U.S. occupations. Security will remain a top concern for IT hiring managers as the frequency and impact of cyber attacks continues to rise.
Aggressive government mandates are helping to drive demand for IT security specialists, for instance the DoD 8570 initiative, which requires Department of Defense (DoD) employees, military personnel, homeland security officers, and private contractors with access to sensitive data to get trained and certified in information security topics relevant to their access and position.
"Security is the only area of certified IT skills that has never had a negative quarter throughout this recession," says David Foote, CEO and Chief Research Officer of leading research firm, Foote Partners. "We've never had a three-month period with a loss or decline in premiums for IT security specialists."
Sources: Foote Partners IT Labor Report, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook
IT Security Specialist Jobs
Your specialized IT security training, experience and certifications qualify you for a range of positions including:
- Cybersecurity jobs
- Network Security jobs
- Info Security Analyst jobs
- Homeland Security jobs
- Security Engineer jobs
- Security Architect jobs
Frequently Asked Questions
Technology insiders answer common questions from people considering the IT security specialist career path.
What does an IT security specialist do?
IT security specialists defend an organization’s data and information systems. They accomplish this through a mix of managing security software and educating personnel on cyber security best practices to prevent data breaches, and responding with the appropriate countermeasures should a cyber attack breach the defenses.
How much do IT security specialists make?
Information technology security specialists, a.k.a. cyber security analysts, take home a median annual wage of $103,590, according to the latest salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How long does it take to become an IT security specialist?
Most entry-level IT security jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in cyber security, information assurance, or a related field of study; these programs typically take 4 years to complete as a full-time student.
How do I become an IT security specialist?
Simply put, the process of becoming an IT security specialist can be broken down into three steps: get educated, gain experience, and earn certifications.
- Education: Most positions for IT security specialists require at least a bachelor’s degree in cyber security or a related field of study. Early on in the education process, you will likely zero-in on which security discipline is the best fit for you.
- Experience: Many IT security positions require previous work experience in a technical role. Common jobs to have before becoming an IT security specialist include network administrator, systems administrator, and help desk technician.
- Certifications: Either during your degree program or while you’re working in the field, earning cyber security certifications can help grow your skill set and improve your job prospects. Marketable certifications for IT security specialists include CompTIA Security+, EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and ISC2’s CISSP.