How Do You Become an Information Security Officer?

Now’s an advantageous time to become an information security officer because the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts much faster-than-average job growth at 15 percent for 53,700 new positions by 2024. Information security officers are high-tech, upper-level managers who direct their company’s computer network to install up-to-date defense measures that reduce risk of breaches.

These IT security officers use firewalls, encryptions, two-step authentications, virtual private networks, and other sophisticated methods to patch system vulnerabilities before hackers attack. Important responsibilities include organizing employee cybersecurity training, detecting compromises, setting up incident response plans, hiring IT staff, purchasing security software, reporting policy decisions to executives, and supervise investigations into violations. Here are the three steps you can take if information security seems like your best career match.

1. Graduate with a Tech-Based Bachelor’s Degree

Finishing your high school diploma or GED is only the beginning since IT security staff need at least a bachelor’s degree for entry. Apply for enrollment at regionally accredited senior colleges that are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to ensure credit transfer later. Technical Bachelor of Science programs are suggested in information technology, computer science, cybersecurity, or network administration. Filling electives with courses like cryptography, iOS development, data mining, and cloud computing are great for 21st century skills. Keep your grades up because most graduate schools will require a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher. Also build your resume with internships at hiring tech companies like Amazon, CenturyLink, and Oracle.

2. Work Towards a Master’s Degree in Information Security

Climbing the IT ladder into coveted information security officer positions today increasingly justifies heading to graduate school for a master’s degree. Employers usually prefer candidates who’ve passed the GMAT and completed an MBA at an accredited B-school. Attending a university that’s also a NSA National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense could also add prestige. Finishing a Master of Business Administration can take 12 to 28 months full-time. Colleges offering Information Security MBAs include Saint Leo University, James Madison University, SUNY Albany, and University of West Florida. Graduate study will likely culminate with thesis research, applied consulting work, or capstone strategy seminars.

3. Boost Your Resume with Hot IT Security Certifications

Verifying your analytical, coding, leadership, and technical decision-making skills for information security management to employers is possible with voluntary certifications. For example, (ISC)² offers the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation for individuals mastering eight security domains. This 250-question exam takes six hours at Pearson Vue testing centers for content from security engineering to software development security. The CompTIA Security+ Certification is globally trusted to credential IT security managers who pass a 90-question, performance-based exam with a minimum 750 score. The alphabet soup continues with hot certifications like CEH, SSCP, GSEC, and CISA.

Related Resource: What is an Information Security Officer?

For 2017, CNN Money recognized information security officers for having America’s 50th best job that scores “A” for personal satisfaction and telecommuting. IT security officers land median yearly wages of $147,000 and top salaries at $191,000. Following the three steps above can open lucrative leadership jobs in computer systems design services, private corporations, banks, hospitals, data processing services, telecommunications carriers, and more. Choosing to become an information security officer can be ideal for tech-savvy individuals who can devise plans to thwart cyber attacks from stealing confidential data.