Computer security specialists configure access to computer systems as well as planning and coordinating information security protocols.
The role of a computer security specialist usually includes some network monitoring tasks and the installation of security software on a company's computer terminals. Performing risk assessments, developing effective system-wide security plans and staying informed about the latest trends in computer virus and malware deployment are also principal components of the position.
In the event of an attempted breach or network attack, computer security specialists are on the front lines of response and defense. Sometimes the attack includes malicious code to be rooted out and removed or quarantined, and quick action can help prevent intruders from viewing protected information or sabotaging the system. Information must also be gathered on breach events in order to help protect the system against future intrusion.
There may also be a training element to the position. Computer security specialists often help instruct employees on basic preventative measures in cyber security. Senior members of an IT security team are frequently counted on to educate new recruits on the particulars of a company's security setup.
What is the job outlook for computer security specialists?
As businesses come to rely increasingly on new technologies, computer security specialists are enjoying greater and greater demand in the career marketplace. A 2014 report from GlobalKnowledge.com indicates computer security as one of the top ten IT skills for professionals, citing the appearance of new operating systems and novel methods of coercing personal information from unsuspecting users.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that career opportunities for network systems and data communications analysts, among whom the skills of a computer security specialist can be a large benefit for employers, are expected to increase by 12 percent from 2012 through 2022.
Some of the biggest gains by industry are anticipated to come in principally technical fields, although most employers make use of personal computers in their day to day operations. Here is a short list of some of the industries that should experience significant growth in opportunities for computer support specialists:
- Computer systems design
- Software publishing
- Data processing and hosting
- Health care and related services
- Technical consulting
Unlike those of some other IT careers, computer support specialist positions are not especially vulnerable to outsourcing. Companies who employ computer support specialists understand the value of maintaining these positions on site, allowing them to remain within hands-on distance of the systems they protect and communicate directly with information managers and staff members.
What sort of salary can a computer support specialist expect?
National job posting aggregator Indeed.com indicates an average salary of $49,000 per year for computer security specialists nationwide as of June 2014. A fairly wide range of salaries exists among postings for these positions, from $35,000 to $72,000 in June 2014, since computer support specialist duties are occasionally folded into the job description of another IT security occupation.
According to the BLS, computer systems analysts earned a mean annual salary of $85,320 in 2013, and information security analysts took home a mean figure of $91,210.
The broad salary range among computer security specialist jobs may also be due in part to the influence of geographical location and industry standards on wage expectations.
What training or certification is needed to become a computer security specialist?
47 percent of computer support specialists surveyed had earned an associate or bachelor's degree, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).
Formal education is rarely required by employers, but a degree in computer science, information security or a related field can boost a candidate's chances. Professional certifications, such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) and Certified Authorization Professional (CAP), can also serve to demonstrate information security expertise to potential employers.
The demands of the IT world are changing every day, and computer security specialists who continue to train and study the details and dynamics of their field tend to rise to the top of the heap. Information security is an ongoing fight, and although training is certainly useful to someone trying to become a computer security specialist, it can be especially useful to an established professional who wants to stay on top.
"Top Ten IT Skills for 2014," Global Knowledge, 2014,
Computer Systems Analysts, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013,
Information Security Analysts, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013,
Computer User Support Specialists, O*Net Online,
Computer Security Specialist Salary, Indeed.com,