How To Become A Security Specialist?

Learn What To Expect As A Security Specialist

Just as you would set up some security measures like locks and alarms at your home, businesses need to do it too. More importantly, as businesses and other organizations shift their operations to the digital world, security becomes an even greater factor. Locks and alarms just don’t cut it anymore. 

In today’s world, cybersecurity is an ever-growing concern. According to research by Cybersecurity Ventures, it is predicted that there will be around 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs left unfilled across the globe in 2021. Therefore, if you’re thinking of becoming a security specialist, you’re definitely on the right track. 

Furthermore, you’ve come to the perfect place to get to know everything about this position.

What Is A Security Specialist?
Roles & Responsibilities

First things first. If you’ve just started down this path, you might still be confused as to what exactly a security specialist does. In a nutshell, they are responsible for protecting their company on the internet and more generally, the digital world. This could entail protecting data from getting out as well as preventing anyone or anything from coming in.

Of course, it sounds a lot simpler than it is. To go a little deeper, a security specialist has to understand the entire IT structure of the company. Then, according to that, he has to set up security measures such as the proper software and firewalls. 

There have to be anti-virus programs installed to prevent viruses and malware from coming into the system. Some areas might require little security. Other areas might need the highest level of protection with passwords, special software requiring special access, etc. 

If the organization is some kind of business, it would have customers. Therefore, sensitive information such as the customer’s data and trust would be at risk.

What’s more, a security specialist’s job doesn’t end at just setting all this up. He has to monitor everything and keep building upon it continuously. 

He has to know about all the latest trends and keep poking at the different holes within their security system. Other than that, sometimes, this job has additional responsibilities as well. 

You might have to train other employees from different departments. Sometimes, you might have to talk to upper management about new software and recommendations.

Skill Requirements For A Security Speciliast
Getting Started

What makes a great vulnerability assessor

According to a survey of IT leaders and CIOs by TEKsystems, almost 20% believed that the lack of right skills and expertise was the biggest hurdle for them in executing their key technological strategies. 

As the name suggests, the job of a security specialist demands special requirements. While there are things that you can learn as you go, you need some technical knowledge beforehand as well. 

Moreover, the right experience will also help you get this job at a better place and get those promotions quicker. The exact requirements could be different for different industries and various types of organizations. However, these are some of the general requirements:

Skills

Since the job is quite technical, you will need to know some hard skills such as:

  • Fluency in programming languages such as Java, C, C++, C#, PHP
  • Familiarity with different operating systems such as Linux, Windows, UNIX
  • Performing penetration and vulnerability tests
  • Understanding of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Setting up programs and software for protection and firewall configurations

What’s more, this isn’t exactly a one-person job. Depending on the size of the company, you might be working with a team. Therefore, you will need some soft skills too, such as:

  • Working with others
  • Leadership 
  • Managing a team
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Interpersonal skills

Education

Some of the hard skills mentioned might seem quite hard to attain in a short time. However, if you have the right educational background, you might already know some of this stuff. Similarly, for soft skills, certain degrees and qualifications will be helpful, if not necessary.

Considering all this, a college or bachelor’s degree will help you develop skills such as working with others and communication skills. Also, a degree related to IT, such as in computer science or information security, will help you obtain some of those hard skills. 

After that, a higher degree of education, such as a master’s degree will help you develop an understanding of even more skills. During your school, you will probably be involved in lots of projects and internships. These will give you that crucial hands-on experience. 

All this will help you obtain the knowledge and expertise needed to get that first job and start gaining experience.

Experience

Depending on the size of the company and the exact responsibilities of your job, different companies will have different requirements. Companies which require more technical work to be done may ask for at least five years of experience.

Alternatively, some companies might be satisfied with even one or two years of work experience. 

Needless to say, the experience we’re talking about is in the relevant field. You should have experience in dealing with cybersecurity and information security. The more relevant your expertise and knowledge is, the better candidate you’ll seem. 

Certifications

If you think you lack some of the right skills or experience and find yourself at a disadvantage, certifications are the perfect way to get yourself back in the game. Even if you’ve got everything, getting a certification can equip you with more skills. It can help you boost up your resume and make you stand out among the crowd. 

Moreover, if you already have a place in mind where you want to work, you can look at that specific employer’s job requirements. Then, whatever you fall short of, you can try to obtain the relevant certifications or licenses for it. 

Even while you’re on the job, certain certifications can help you polish your old skills and stay updated on new ones. Some certifications you can consider are:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • EC-Council Network Security Administrator (ENSA)
  • Certified Wireless Network Professional
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • CompTIA Security+
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

Career Path for a Security Specialist
Moving On

With cybersecurity only gaining popularity in the near future, you can expect lots of opportunities to grow in this field. Even though a security specialist job is usually considered an entry-level position, with the right skills, experience, certifications, you can quickly rise to more senior-level posts. 

On this career path, initially, you might go through some positions such as system administrator, security administrator, network administrator, and other similar roles.

Once you have enough experience or you’ve proven yourself in that role, you might be promoted to more senior-level positions. These could include security consultant, IT project manager, security, architect, security manager, etc. 

What’s more, after these senior-level positions, you can even get to the executive level positions such as a security director or chief information security officer. Of course, getting to these positions will take a lot of time and effort. However, there’s no reason why you can’t aim and plan for it from before. 

Additionally, if you are interested in applying for this position, you need to be mindful of one thing. Sometimes, the job will be the same or more or less similar, but it might have a different title. 

For instance, the position might be of a computer security specialist, information security specialist, network security specialist, or an IT security specialist.

Expected Salary for a Security Specialist
Average Earnings

We saved the best for last. You were probably waiting for this since a while, and the wait will definitely prove to be worth it. 

According to the 2019 technology salary guide by Robert Half, the lowest national average salary for a position related to security in the US was $93,000. You can imagine that if this is the lowest salary being offered, how much you can expect to earn after just a few years of experience. 

If you don’t believe us, you can go and see for yourself. You’ll find most figures in this range only. According to Indeed, the average salary for an IT security specialist in the US in 2020 was around $108,000. Similarly, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an information security analyst in 2018 was $98,350 per year.

As time goes by, this figure will only rise. Furthermore, the average salary also differs from place to place. Certain areas pay more for security specialists than other areas. For example, salaries in places such as New York and Washington D.C. were much higher than in places such as Arkansas and Louisiana. 

Even though a security specialist role seems entirely related to the IT industry, it is a position which is present in many industries. Therefore, the expected salary for this position can vary from industry to industry too. 

For example, a senior security specialist at the Walt Disney Company can expect an average salary of around $138,000. In comparison, the same position at the Boeing Company can expect an average salary of around $175,000 per year.

FAQ

If you still have any questions left about becoming a security specialist, we’ll answer those too.

Does a security specialist have to do coding?

The job of a security specialist doesn’t require you to write codes as much as it requires you to understand codes. You need to be familiar with the basic and most common coding and programming languages. 

Is it hard to get a job as a security specialist?

As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of cybersecurity jobs expected to be vacant in the near future. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too hard to get a job as a security specialist. However, it is a technical position, so it’ll be hard to get there without the right skills and experience. 

How much do security specialists make?

It depends on many factors, such as where you are and which industry you’re working in. However, you can expect it to be somewhere around $90,000. You can see the exact salary range according to the area and industry here

Conclusion

You might be thinking a security specialist’s job is to simply protect the organization from hackers and prevent any information from leaking out. However, it’s also about keeping the whole system running smoothly. 

Sometimes, a simple system error in one place could affect a whole business production line, resulting in delays and millions of losses for the company. 

Therefore, if it seems simple, it’s not. Moreover, if you find it scary, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to build your skills, and most importantly, the pay will make it all worth it.

Finally, to answer your question: how to become a security specialist? You’ll need the right college degree, a bachelors and master’s degree. After that, you will have to build the right skills and experience. Then, get those certifications and you’re good to go.