As the information systems industry has grown, so has the number of those who want to use it for more nefarious reasons. Spyware, malware, hacking, and identity theft are just the tip of the cyber crime iceberg. From the looks of things it's only going to get bigger. Because of this, computer security has become one of the hottest growing occupations of the last decade.
The thing is, as the need for security experts has grown, so has the field diversified. It's getting to the point where being an expert in the entirety of it doesn't happen overnight. In fact, most security experts didn't start in the field at all. They usually start as support techs, programmers or systems administrators. These people not only understand system fundamentals, but also can get the experience they need to decide which aspect of security they want to enter.
Among the possible responsibilities are detecting and eliminating any viruses or other malicious software slipped into a computer system, creating firewalls and other security programs to prevent such infiltration, repair any damaged systems, perform risk assessments and keep a user's hardware as up to date as possible.
Computer security specialists may also do forensics for the police and other law enforcement organizations. They may also be called in by courts for advice or to testify as experts. These last two areas are rapidly growing places of employment within this profession.
The best way to advance in security is through gaining certifications in one area or another. This usually means one has already gotten a vocational certificate or a minimum two year degree from an online or on campus college. Among the areas one can get certification from are Security Essentials, Firewall Analyst, Forensics and Systems Auditor. The more certificates one earns, the more areas they can work in.
As each different certificate involves different classes, one should sit down and consult with a career counselor before choosing any specific program. Another important thing to discuss is possible financial assistance. If the company one works for won't offer any help (although many do) one can also go for a number of other routes, including private, professional and public institutions. For instance, computer security is considered a STEM profession, so one can apply to the National Science Foundation for S-STEM assistance.
As it stands, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are about 135,000 security experts in the workforce. They project there will be a need for an additional 20%, or 27,000, by the year 2020. The average salary is estimated at $67,000, and that's dependent on the level of certification, years of experience, and where one works. Top experts working in international finance or national security are capable of earning considerably more.