Computer Security Specialist

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Computer Security Specialist

Education and Training: College

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

As computer networks grow and more sensitive data is stored on computer files, the need for trained, skilled computer security specialists will also grow. Computer security specialists help businesses, educational institutions, and government organizations to control access to their computer networks and protect important data stored there. This is accomplished through a variety of means.

Computer security specialists, who are also known as information security specialists, design and implement network control mechanisms that serve to control users' access to a computer network through such processes as firewalls. Computer security specialists also implement application access controls, such as password authentication, that keep unauthorized users from accessing a particular computer or network or program. Computer security specialists take steps to deny hackers access to a system and set up programs that detect hackers who do intrude onto a system. Computer security specialists also may be responsible for controlling site-specific physical access to computers.

Computer security specialists work with employees at all levels of an organization. Managers communicate the organization's needs to computer security specialists. Management and security specialists then work together to balance the organization's security needs with the security system's ease of use. Computer security specialists also communicate procedures and passwords to users of the systems. This entails keeping up-to-date lists of users and passwords as well as helping workers who have forgotten passwords or accidentally violated security procedures. Computer security specialists monitor who is using a computer network. They also send reports of use to various members of the organization for verification. Finally, computer security specialists are responsible for keeping accurate and up-to-date backup files of all important data shared on a computer network.

Education and Training Requirements

People interested in work as computer security specialists need some training beyond high school. A bachelor's degree in computer science is highly recommended. Computer security specialists must be familiar with a variety of networking technologies, such as TCP/IP, Windows NT, and Unix. They must have a thorough understanding of computer programming, and they should be trained in risk management. Computer security specialists must also be able to communicate technical information clearly and concisely.

The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, a nonprofit corporation, awards a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) accreditation to individuals who pass an exam on computer security procedures. Such accreditations improve a potential employee's prospects greatly.

Getting the Job

Trained computer security specialists are hired by corporations and institutions needing their services and by independent consulting firms. Jobs are posted on the Internet by groups such as theComputer Security Institute (CSI) and the Information Systems Auditing and Control Association (ISACA). Positions also are advertised in trade publications.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer security specialists was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Although most organizations using computer networks have security needs, the number of individuals trained to meet those needs, in each case, is relatively small. Reliable, highly skilled, and well-trained individuals will be in great demand to meet those needs.

Working Conditions

Computer security specialists work in pleasant, well-maintained offices and they usually work a forty-hour week or more. They may work unpredictable hours and be on constant call to handle emergencies. Because of the high level of responsibility, the job can be very stressful. Computer security specialists face the same risks as other computer workers, including eyestrain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and backache.

Earnings and Benefits

The Bureau of Labor Statistics regards computer security specialists as a type of network and computer systems administrator. In their 2006–07 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Bureau reported that the median annual wage for all network and computer systems administrators in 2004 was $58,190. According to the "Computerworld Salary Survey 2005" (Computerworld, October 24, 2005), the median yearly wage for an information security specialist in 2005 was $81,035.

Where to Go for More Information

Computing Technology Industry Association
1815 S. Meyers Rd., Ste. 300
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
(630) 678-8300

IEEE Computer Society
1730 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 371-0101

Because they are in such demand, computer security specialists can expect attractive benefits packages from corporations and consulting firms, although the nature of the work makes it difficult for computer specialists to take advantage of vacations and time off.

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Computer Security Specialist

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Computer Security Specialist