Inside Computer Security Specialist Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"If you are planning on becoming a future programmer, be very wary of debugging. Many students during my college years drop out of programming courses due to this one single issue. When you first start programming, it is easy to brute force you way through to creating a working software without knowing what is actually the root cause of the error. Brute forcing is not the right way to go about it. Figure out the exact part of the code that is breaking, and fix it properly; don't keep plugging in more codes while praying for an easy fix. While this is of course more time consuming, it will help you more in the long run in your studies." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Information Technology at George Mason University in Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Many Areas Of Research...
I was surprised at how vast the area of information security actually is. The amount of research that is going on in this field is amazing. There are so many niche areas that someone can pick from varying from database security, industrial control systems cyber-security, mobile tech security, etc." (Electrical Engineer; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Kentucky, male
School: Studied Electrical Engineering at University Of Louisville in Kentucky

"Scope Of Security Issues...
I was surprised at the extent of issues within Cyber Security, not just with security breaches, but with legal issues as well. I was also surprised at how much of the Criminal Justice system and Constitution I needed to know." (Computer Forensics Investigator; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Cyber Security (B.S.) And Network Administration (A.S.) at Rasmussen College in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Careers For The Lazy...
Most people don't know I spend most of my time on reddit all day. I work for 8 hours, officially, but work for about 4 of them. During those four hours, I'm mostly analyzing data that programs have generated." (Security Consultant; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, male
School: Studied Mathematics And Computer Science at East Tennessee State University in Tennessee; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Network Administrator Should Still Know How To Code...
Even though I was going into Network Administration, knowing some programming languages is very important. It may not be something you do everyday, but is a very valuable skill to have and will make job searching much, much easier." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, male
School: Studied Computer Information Technology at Marshall University in West Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

"Deep Security Skills Are In High Demand...
I'm surprised at the lack of security skills most Fortune 500 corporations have on staff. There's a real niche in knowing how to do network and/or software security. This field is only going to grow, but so far most of the experienced people work for the US government in defense jobs. Also, it's surprising how uncoordinated most companies are with their IT projects. Chaos and confusion are the norm." (Senior Security Consultant; 2013)

Career: 14 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Management Of Information Systems at Texas Tech University in Texas; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Senior Associate - Computer Security: "The worst part of my career is the uncertainty of my schedule. I can not usually say from week to week what state I will be in. Trying to plan any type of social life is a challenge when I am asked to travel at the spur of the moment. That does make for some interesting trips, through, and I have had the opportunity to see many of the nicest parts of the country. The best part is getting to work with new technology and the challenges that presents. I like learning a new skill each time I get a different project - everything from analyzing malicious code, to gaining access to a building, to the details of new legislation." (2011)

IT Security & Desktop Administrator: "The best part of my career would have to be being able to solve problems. My boss will come to me and say, "We need this system setup, and we'd like it to be cheap." From there I Google solutions, test solutions, and present my findings. It's usually straight forward. Dealing with the users would have to be the worst part of my job. It seems like no matter how many times we say things, they just don't listen." (2011)

Consultant: "The best parts of the job are working with all levels of the organization. I am able to interview the Leaders of the organization as well as the people who do the dirty work. It is fascinating to understand how different companies operate. One drawback of the job is moving from client to client frequently. It is not the sort of job that allows you go to the same desk from 9 - 5, 365 days a year. You are always in a new environment, facing new challenges and performing a new task." (2010)

Sr. Security Engineer: "The best part of my job is I never know what the day will bring. I work in a dynamic environment where the threats are always changing. I can have one day where nothing happens and I have plenty of free time to catch up on projects and the next day I am putting out fires left and right. The down side of my job is that it can be very stressful. Often times I am under a great deal of pressure to fix or solve an issue immediately. The issues I deal with have a great deal of visibility, which means my performance could make or break my career." (2009)

Career Background

Computer Security Specialist

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"People Before Programming...
If you want to be a good computer security professional, knowing psychology is more important than knowing computer science." (Security Consultant; 2014)

"Take Challenging Courses...
Take challenging courses. Don't simply meet the minimum requirements and take the easiest classes. This will not benefit you in your career." (Electrical Engineer; 2013)

"Constantly Learning New Technologies Is The Key To Success In The IT Field...
Always be learning something new in IT. In large part, your job in the IT industry is to rapidly learn very complex systems, and make them work reliably and consistently." (Senior Security Consultant; 2013)

"Love The Industry As You Will Always Be Learning...
As cliche as it sounds, learn how to work well with other people as many of the projects you will do require working as a team. If you have a passion for the industry, it will make it that much more rewarding as it does require a lot of secondary learning." (Software Engineer; 2013)

"Secure Career With Good Pay...
Working in IT is an excellent career choice because it gives you job security and a good solid income. As frustrating and time consuming it may be, get as many certifications in the IT field as you can." (Computer Forensics Investigator; 2013)

"Work Well With Your Peers...
Always try to speak up and get to know your co-worker. Talking with and/or collaborating constructively with your co-workers does not only make work a lot less boring and monotonous but it will help you create better software's for your clients." (Software Developer; 2013)

"Hackers Need Not Apply...
Make sure you are prepared for a lot of outside learning. This field is changing constantly and you need to spend a lot of your own time keeping current. Some of the best jobs in cyber security are with the government - if you go that route, be prepared to undergo a very thorough background investigation. Do not think that hacking into a web site (or your school) is a way to get a job in cyber security. Yes, we do break into computers as part of our job - but only with permission! I will not hire someone if I know that they were hacking on their own into places without permission." (Senior Associate - Computer Security; 2011)

"Need Certifications...
What you need to do is get certified. Most college courses have the end goal of getting you a certificate. Start with CompTIA's A+, Net+, and Security+. These three will open many doors. Also, go after Microsoft certifications. Most corporations use Microsoft, and being certified by Microsoft is a big plus. Don't be afraid to start at a consulting firm. They offer many different work experiences, and experience is what makes employers want you. You are only as good as what you bring to the table." (IT Security & Desktop Administrator; 2011)

"Consider A Master's Degree...
Major in Finance, Accounting, or Information Systems. Don't be afraid to barrel through and get a master's right after you graduate. You will be that much more valuable to the company you start working for. You are right for this job if you are detail oriented and a critical thinker. Try to work for a Big 4 Firm right out of college as they provide some of the best training to start your career. An internship during college is a good way to get your foot in the door." (Consultant; 2010)

"Stay Abreast Of Technology...
You must be familiar with many different types of technology. You must know a variety of operating systems. You must have a knowledge of programming. You must always keep an eye on current developments and trends. You can never stop learning." (Sr. Security Engineer; 2009)