How Can I Become a Computer Security Expert?

Research what it takes to become a computer security expert. Learn about the duties of this job, the education requirements, and salary range to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Computer Forensics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Security Expert?

Computer security experts, also known as information security analysts, plan and oversee the security of their organization's computer systems. Using their knowledge of computers, they devise ways for their company to guard against online intrusion in their files, keeping their users safe from cyberattacks. They may be in charge of deciding what forms of antiviral software to use, as well as what kind equipment upgrades are needed for sufficient security. Given the increasing number of attacks in modern life, it is important that these professionals be flexible and quick thinking to respond to new and unexpected threats as they happen.

The following chart provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Computer science, information security, or related field
Key Responsibilities Plan and develop effective computer security systems; keep the organization's computer systems secure, updated, and functional; investigate and solve security breaches
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)18%*
Mean Annual Salary (2015)$93,250*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Become a Computer Security Expert?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer security specialists usually need at least a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, although some employers may hire you with related work experience (www.bls.gov). In information technology (IT) security, computer science, or information systems security degree programs, you may learn computer forensics, internetworking infrastructures, and operating systems.

If you seek to further your skills, you may opt to earn a master's degree in computer science with a specialization in security. Within master's degree programs, you may learn how to implement and manage operating systems when faced with security attacks. Courses may also focus on algorithms, cryptography, and formal language theory.

What Skills Do I Need?

As a computer security expert, your main function is to develop, coordinate, implement, and install your company's networks and security systems. The Occupational Information Network states that you may do this by encrypting data transmissions, erecting firewalls, reviewing security violations, and monitoring reports regarding computer viruses (www.online.onetcenter.org).

What About Experience?

It may be difficult to land a job as a computer security expert without several years of experience under your belt. Some schools offer professional internships within the bachelor's degree programs, which may allow you to gain knowledge and hands-on experience as a computer security specialist. You may also network with others in the industry through these internships, which may help you to secure a job at your internship location once you graduate.

What Salary Should I Expect?

Compensation may vary based on level of experience and location. In 2015, the annual mean salary for computer security specialists was $93,250, which equates to $44.83 per hour, according to the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer programmers work with computer code, editing existing code and writing their own to create computer applications and software. Computer systems analysts research computer systems used by an organization, and make suggestions on how to update their procedures, equipment and how to fix any existing problems. Database administrators encrypt a company's files using specialized software, keeping it safe from unauthorized users attempting to access the system. All of these careers require a minimum of a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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