Computer security specialists are responsible for planning, coordinating, implementing, installing, and maintaining their employer’s computer and information security system. They usually train the company’s employees or other users regarding computer security. They install security software, oversee the computer network, and check for breaches in security. If a breach occurs, they respond to the cyber attacker and may compile evidence and data that can be used against the perpetrator in future litigation. Computer security specialists are part of a growing trend in the computer services occupations that includes client-server applications, the expansion of the Internet and intranet applications, and the demand for more end-user support.
Computer security specialists need to have good problem-solving and analytical skills, and they need to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively via email, in writing, or even face-to-face. They should be interested in helping others. Well-developed writing skills can prove valuable in preparing manuals for employees or customers.
In 2002, computer security specialists earned a median annual salary of $39,100. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $23,060, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $67,550. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of computer security specialists:
- Wired telecommunications carriers: $59,710
- Computer systems design and related services: $58,790
- Management of companies and enterprises: $58,610
- Data processing, hosting, and related services: $56,140
- Elementary and secondary schools: $48,350
Training and Education
Computer security specialists enter the occupation from many different angles. Many employers prefer candidates with formal college education, such as a bachelor’s degree, although not necessarily a computer-related degree. However, a large number of companies are loosening these restrictions due to the extraordinarily high demand for these types of positions. For those candidates without a college degree, practical experience or certification will be essential. A variety of certification programs offered by vendors and product makers may help some candidates qualify for entry-level positions. In some cases, candidates with relevant, real-world experience may bypass formal education and certification requirements. Click on this link to a list of schools offering Computer Security Training and to contact their admissions departments for more information.
In 2002, computer security specialists held about 251,000 jobs. 35%, the largest percentage, were employed in professional and business services industries, mostly in computer systems design and related services. Others worked in bands, government agencies, insurance companies, educational institutions, and wholesale and retail vendors of computers, office equipment, appliances, and home electronic equipment.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of computer security specialists is expected to increase much faster than the average. Companies and other organizations will continue to adopt and integrate new computer-driven technologies, making the computer system design and related services industry one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy. The increased need for technical assistance will stem from the increasing complexity of computers and software, while mobility technologies like wireless Internet will also add to this demand. Explosive growth in electronic commerce will fuel a strong, specific demand for employees knowledgeable about network, data, and communications security.