Careers in IT and data security are vital parts of today's information economy. Check out this quick breakdown of how to become a computer security specialist, career details and more.

In the process of becoming a computer security specialist, you'll learn how to tackle a range of issues at all layers of an organization's IT framework. Here's a quick list of the sort of responsibilities you might be expected to manage in your computer security specialist career:

  • Installing and using firewalls, data encryption programs and other software designed to protect privileged information
  • Monitoring an organization's networks for abnormal activity that might constitute a security violation
  • Organizing and implementing penetration testing exercises to identify and expose security vulnerabilities
  • Developing an organization's IT security standards and practices
  • Discussing security protocols with management, end-users and other personnel

Where do computer security specialists work?

Most computer security specialists work as part of the IT department at a public- or private-sector organization, joining forces with systems analysts and network administrators to craft the best security solutions possible. Check out this list of the industries where you might work over the course of your computer security specialist career:

  • Computer systems design and related services
  • Finance and insurance
  • Enterprise management
  • Information
  • Administrative and support services

How to become a computer security specialist

A large majority of computer security personnel have completed at least a baccalaureate degree program, with around one-third of working pros holding educational credentials that go beyond the four-year bachelor's. Any IT pro who wants to become a computer security specialist should enter the application process with substantial prior experience in the field, as well, although a work history that includes related occupations like computer systems administration is often acceptable. Check out the top schools for network administration degree programs for more insight.

Exams and licensing

While an official license is not required for computer security specialists in any state, numerous industry-recognized certifications outside of the computer security specialist degree requirements can help boost your profile with certain employers. Here's a list of some of the top certifications in the IT security field:

  • Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP)
  • Certified Security Analyst/Licensed Penetration Tester (CSA/LPT)
  • Cybersecurity Forensic Analyst (CSFA)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Credentials aren't a guaranteed route to the job you want, but they can introduce you to vital new concepts and make your resume more attractive. Several institutions make online courses available for professionals looking to skill up before taking a certification exam.

Important skills and abilities

  • Active listening skills are essential when it comes to interfacing with management and other professionals on your IT team
  • Complex problem solving is vital for IT security personnel, particularly those tasked with keeping networks secure in the face of emerging threats
  • Critical thinking allows you to better identify the strengths and weaknesses of a range of security solutions before choosing which approaches to use
  • Problem sensitivity can help IT security pros effectively determine when something is wrong or likely to go wrong in a security setup
  • Inductive reasoning, or the synthesis of various pieces of information to derive general conclusions and rules, can help streamline the IT security effort

Career outlook and salary for computer security specialists

Most jobs vary in job outlook and pay, depending on factors like experience, education level, and location. Computer security specialists, noted in the BLS as information security analytics, might expect to see the following salary and career outlook numbers in the coming years:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Information Security Analysts125,570$104,210
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Professional cybersecurity organizations

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, some of the organizations to explore if interested in the field of computer security include:

  • The SANS Institute: SANS is a source for information security training and security certification in the world. It also develops and maintains a collection of research documents about information security and operates the Internet Storm Center.
  • Center for Internet Security: A nonprofit organization that help companies achieve security goals through expert guidance and cost-effective solutions.
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Article Sources
  • Information Security Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed July 29, 2018,
  • Information Security Analysts, Occupational Information Network, accessed July 30, 2018,
  • 8 most in-demand IT security certifications, CIO, IDG Communications, accessed July 30, 2018,
  • Cybersecurity Industry Associations, Cybersecurity Ventures,