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Information Security Specialist: Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an information security specialist. Get a quick view of the requirements - including job duties, degree programs and certification - to see if this is the right career for you.

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In today's technology-based world, information security specialists prevent computers and digital data from being stolen, infiltrated, or corrupted. Education requirements generally include a bachelor's degree related to the computer sciences, and technology certification is often expected. Professionals in this industry must have good problem solving skills and be able to pay attention to details.

Essential Information

Information security specialists assist businesses and organizations in maintaining computer security by preventing hacks, viruses and unauthorized user access. To achieve this, they design, implement and maintain various computer programs and applications. The minimum education requirement for this occupation is typically an undergraduate degree or work experience combined with certification.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Voluntary certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 18%*
Average Salary (2015) $93,250*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Although a bachelor's degree is not required for all information security specialist positions, it is required by some employers. Degree programs in computer science, information systems or information technology can provide the necessary training for this position. A typical bachelor's degree in one of these majors will take four years to complete.

Coursework offered in these degree programs might include mathematics, computer engineering, programming and operating systems. Students might need to complete prerequisite courses in math and computer fundamentals to be accepted into a program.

There are several technical and community colleges that offer shorter certificate programs for aspiring information security specialists. This training teaches individuals how to identify and remedy security issues, as well as plan and implement network applications.

Professional Certification

Some employers will accept certification along with work experience in lieu of a bachelor's degree. Certification is typically offered through industry groups and associations, training institutions and product vendors as validation of an individual's demonstrated understanding of an area of expertise.

Some such credentials are offered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC2), a leading accreditation organization for information security professionals. Other options include the CompTIA Security+ and Network+ certifications.

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Career Information

Information security specialists create and execute security applications to maintain network security and safety. They accomplish this by setting up firewalls to prevent hacking and computer virus attacks, as well as initiating password protocols to control user access. An individual in this position must be able to perceive security threats and take all precautions to prevent and eliminate them.

Individuals who have acquired expertise in this field often seek promotion to supervisory and management-level positions. They also might transfer into related fields or pursue work as independent computer security consultants.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for information security specialists was projected to be favorable. Overall employment in this field was expected to increase 18% from 2014-2024, which is faster than average. The rising problems of cyber-attacks will likely increase the demand for information security specialists. Additionally, reliance on the Internet, including its use to transmit sensitive data, could improve opportunities for individuals in this occupation. The average salary among information security analysts was $93,250 in 2015, per the BLS.

Employers generally require information security specialist candidates to hold bachelor's degrees in fields related to computer sciences or information security. Beyond education, professionals may need to be certified in the use of specific technology, programming, and/or professional information security practices. Demand for these professionals will remain high, per the BLS, as the majority of our data is stored digitally, which requires employing more information security specialists to keep it safe.

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