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Information Technology (IT) Security Specialists develop and implement the security measures their organization needs to protect their information assets in a secure system. They analyze the existing security procedures regularly and suggest changes to upper-level management to maximize efficiency and security. Information Security Specialists often report to upper-level management and work on a team of other Security specialists, Computer Systems Analysts, and Network Administrators or alone. They work for: computer systems design companies, consulting firms, private corporations, financial institutions, and enterprise companies.
Information Security Specialists typically work full-time or as consultants, working onsite or remotely. An Information Security Specialist’s day-to-day life will change regularly, but they usually do tasks, such as installing and configuring security software, preventing attacks, informing non-IT and IT employees of data security measures, monitoring computer networks for attacks, protecting against network breaches, responding to cyber attacks, preparing reports on security issues, or conducting penetration testing.
The foundation of an IT Security Specialist’s knowledge is an in-depth understanding of cybersecurity threats, technologies, and countermeasures. They must be able to: make plans for safeguarding the organizations’ networks and data, encrypt data, create firewalls, manage the network and its users, as well as run penetration tests and risk assessments. They must have a deep understanding of networking and network security.
IT Security Specialists should be able to make recommendations to upper-level management for improving and optimizing their systems. They should have a thorough knowledge of antivirus and malware protection systems, and be able to determine the most appropriate one for their organization. They should be prepared to continue business as usual even during disaster recovery, which means maintaining backups for business continuity. They are responsible for risk-management and risk-assessment. IT Security Specialists must stay up-to-date on the latest security systems trends, hack methods, and systems updates to keep their system running smoothly and safely.
IT Security Specialists will interact with both non-technical and technical staff and should be good communicators. They must have the adaptability to educate non-technical staff members on security best practices and awareness, while also being able to communicate with upper-level management in both technical and non-technical ways.
Some IT Security Specialists focus on computer forensics and gather evidence for prosecuting cybercrimes. They also set up and operate an investigator’s lab and process computer crime scenes.
Cybersecurity is a combination of technologies and best practices that protect networks, computers, software programs, and data from attack, damage, or other unauthorized access. Cybersecurity uses computer networking, software, hardware, and standard protocols to protect data.
CompTIA is an information technology industry association that provides certification programs, testing, training, and resources for information technology professionals. Their certifications include IT realms such as infrastructure, cybersecurity, and basic IT best practices and skills.
A IT Security Specialist in the United States makes, on average, $66,599 annually, according to Indeed.com.
Salaries for IT Security Specialists vary by region within the the United States. Listed below are some IT Security Specialist salaries for specific areas with the United States compared with the average national salary:
An associate’s or bachelor’s degree is a common preference among employers in this field in information security, computer science, and information technology. Some employers even prefer a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration on information technology systems. A cybersecurity bootcamp along with a certification is becoming more commonly accepted for this role, but a degree is certainly a smoother pathway. These qualification requirements will vary based on the size and type of organization.
IT Security Specialists are expected to have at least the CompTIA Security+ (CySa+) certification. Recruiters also recommend certifications, like Certified Informations Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). These additional certifications are usually highly-desired but may not be necessary, depending on the employer. If the employer works with Cisco networks, a Cisco Certified Network Associate certification is a plus.
IT Security Specialists can find work onsite or remotely. They usually have jobs that are full-time or on a consulting basis. They work for: computer systems design companies, consulting firms, private corporations, financial institutions, and enterprise companies. There are many IT-specific job boards but IT Security Specialists can find jobs on general job boards, as well.
IT Security Specialists can look for jobs on these sites:
IT Security Specialists can find remote jobs on these sites:
IT Security Specialists might find the job search competitive but understanding what experience is needed can aid in their search. Candidates for the IT Security Specialist position are expected to have some IT job experience. They can gain experience through positions, like Systems Administrator, Network Administrator, or Network Engineer. Junior positions, like Junior Cybersecurity Specialist, are easier to land and provide a generous amount of on-the-job training.
If you have little-to-no experience, aim for a: junior, associate, or adjacent position and work your way up to IT Security Specialist. If you’re already in an IT position, you may want to express your interest in becoming an IT Security Specialist to your supervisor. They might be able to help you work your way up through your current company, fill your skills gaps, or provide you a recommendation if you choose to look elsewhere for promotion.
Certifications are important in information technology. CompTIA and ISC2 are well-respected organizations and one of their certifications will most likely be required for any information technology positions that use switch security. Make sure that you have your certifications and they are up-to-date before you apply for any positions. If you need time to study or save money for your certifications, aim for a junior role first. Some employers will pay for your certifications.
Hiring Managers look at your: coachability, experience, and passion. Know why you’re getting into security because they’ll definitely ask why you’re excited about the position. Aim to secure two or three of your certifications before applying to this position, as these are generally enough to land an IT Security Specialist position, even without a college degree, if you nail the interview.
Do as many mock interviews as you possibly can, to prepare for these questions and the technical questions that will be offered in interviews. These initially slightly awkward experiences with friends or an online mock-interview service will dramatically increase your chances of landing a job. Network with other IT security professionals while you’re job hunting and ask for informational interviews. They’ll have the best insight on the interview process and will be able to assess whether you’re ready for this position. Plus, they might know where you can find a job!
IT Security Specialist is a well-defined field and there isn’t much variation in job titles. There are junior and associate positions at many larger organizations for this role. IT Security Specialists can find full-time work at computer systems design companies, consulting firms, private corporations, and financial institutions.
IT Security Specialists can look for these job titles:
If you’re looking to break into an IT Security Specialist role, consider gaining experience in other IT jobs first, such as Systems Administrator, Network Administrator, or Network Engineer, or junior positions, like Junior Cybersecurity Specialist, which can be easier to land and provide a generous amount of on-the-job training that will be necessary to keep advancing. The education necessary for these roles is similar and will transfer into other roles as you gain experience.
If you have some experience, you might consider a role as a Security Engineer, building security systems, finding vulnerabilities, and making systems more reliable. On top of experience, Security Engineers are required to have a strong foundational knowledge of networks, systems, and cybersecurity, and many require specific credentialing. Pivoting to a Security Engineer role may also reward you with a pay increase.
If you’re not yet qualified to be a Security Engineer, you can aim for a Security Analyst position. Security Analysts identify cybersecurity weaknesses and should become proficient in building firewalls, creating intrusion detection systems, educating non-technical staff, and designing security systems as a whole, to upskill into a Security Engineer role. Moving up to the position of Security Engineer will most likely result in a raise for a Security Analyst. Some smaller companies combine the role of Security Engineer and Security Analyst and this would be a simple way to move into this position without making a big leap.
Security Engineers build security systems for organizations, find vulnerabilities in their organization’s systems, and make current security systems more reliable.Learn about becoming a Security Engineer
Security Analysts monitor their organization’s network to prevent and stop attacks on their private data. Security Analysts must know how to build firewalls, execute penetration tests and reports, and identify new threats and malware.Learn about becoming a Security Analyst