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How to Become a Computer Security Specialist

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What computer security specialists do

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer security specialists, also referred to as information security analysts, are responsible for safeguarding an organization’s vulnerable computer systems and networks from deliberate exploitation meant to inflict damage or disruption (sometimes called “cyber attacks”). Such attacks employ malicious code in order to compromise data, which could in turn lead to identity and information theft. These specialists employ measures to ensure this doesn’t happen by putting the proper controls in place. They may also be called on to draft a response to breaches of security and inflicted viruses. As cyberattacks increase in frequency, a computer security specialist’s duties and responsibilities continue to grow (BLS, 2012).

The job of a computer security specialist generally entails the following duties: Keeping abreast of current developments in IT security and implementing those practices that are in the best interests of their organization; vigilantly screening for infiltration and violations of a company’s computer networks and responding appropriately to such occurrences; installing the appropriate software designed to keep a company’s vulnerable information safe; and assisting users with installation of security software and measures (BLS, 2012).

How to become a computer security specialist

The BLS reports that most computer security specialists have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, programming or a similar field. Work experience in the field is also usually required. A number of schools, in response to the burgeoning need for these specialists, are beginning to offer information security programs, which may end up becoming another path to entering the profession.

Steps to becoming a computer security specialist varies but typically include the following:

  • Get high-school diploma or GED
  • Enroll and complete a degree program of study in computer science, programming or a related field at a college or university
  • Apply for employment

Sometimes organizations in need of computer security specialists prefer to hire candidates who have received their Master of Business Administration (MBA) in information systems.

Additional training, qualifications, certification or education may be required for employment.

Career outlook for computer security specialists

Projections estimate that employment of computer security specialists could grow by up to 22 percent nationally from 2010 to 2020 (BLS, 2012). The BLS notes that demand for computer security specialists could be especially high in two industries in which strong privacy concerns exist: the federal government and health care.

In 2011, information security analysts earned a national annual wage of $77,990 median, with the lowest 10 percent earning up to $42,770 nationally and the highest 10 percent earning up to $124,860 nationally in 2011(BLS, 2012).

Quick Facts: Information Security Analysts

*All facts from BLS.gov*

2011 National Median Pay    $77,990 per year
$37.49 per hour
Entry-Level Education     Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 1 to 5 years
On-the-job Training  None
Number of Jobs, 2011    272,670
Job Outlook, 2010-20    22% nationally (Faster than national average)
Employment Change, 2010-20      65,700



Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Information Security Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Standard  Occupational Classification, Information Security Analysts

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