How to Become a Security Administrator
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Security administrators play a key information technology (IT) role. Workers in this high-level job oversee the security of their organizations' computer networks.
Security administrators usually need previous IT experience and a bachelor's degree or higher. Typical college majors for these professionals include computer science or a related field. Management-level positions may require a master's degree.
Although it can be a long path to earning the necessary qualifications, becoming a security administrator can offer high salaries and the potential to rise to higher IT positions over time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual salary of $97,430 for computer and IT occupations as of 2021.
The rest of this page explores how to become a security administrator, providing detailed steps and requirements.
What Is a Security Administrator?
A security administrator manages all the security issues related to their employer's computer networks. Chief responsibilities include developing computer security policies, responding to cyberattacks, and identifying data security risks.
Most companies need to use computers today, so security administrators can find jobs in nearly any sector. The role demands a broad understanding of IT, computer architecture, and cybersecurity.
Along with a college degree in an IT-related field, security administrators need relevant professional experience. These professionals often start their careers in other cybersecurity and IT jobs like database administrator, security engineer, or computer systems analyst.
Security administrators interact mainly with other IT professionals. They may also work with their organization's executive team. Major employers include the computer systems design, educational services, and information industries.
Education Requirements for Security Administrators
Education requirements for security administrators vary by job, industry, and employer. Most security administrator roles require at least a bachelor's degree. Applicable majors include computer science, information technology, and cybersecurity.
Management-level security administrators often need a master's degree in a field like computer science, information systems, or business administration. In general, the higher the degree level that you earn, the better and more varied the job opportunities. Average salaries also typically go up for people with higher degrees.
Make sure to research your potential return on investment to see if earning an advanced degree will pay off for you. Some employers may accept professional experience, certifications, or bootcamp attendance as a substitute for some or all formal education requirements.
There are no formal continuing education requirements for security administrators. However, security administrators should keep up with changing technologies, evolving threats, and current issues in the field. Security administrators can do this by joining professional organizations, attending workshops and professional development classes, and subscribing to industry journals.
Completing continuing education shows commitment to your profession. It can also help you qualify for raises and promotions.
Explore Your Degree Options
- Best Online Bachelor’s in Cybersecurity Programs
- Bachelor's in Information Assurance Programs
- Bachelor's in Information Technology Programs
- Best Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs
- Master's in Information Assurance Programs
- Master's in Information Technology Programs
- Online Doctorates in Cybersecurity
- IT Management Degree Programs
- Computer Science Degree Programs
- Information Systems Security Programs
Experience Requirements for Security Administrators
Experience requirements for a security administrator may vary. However, security administrator is generally not an entry-level position. Candidates usually need previous experience in the IT or computer security fields.
Try to get relevant professional experience before applying to security administrator openings. Many college degree programs let students gain experience and education at the same time. Apply for internships, professional development experiences, and co-op jobs while still in school.
Taking an entry-level position in database administration, systems analysis, or IT support can also develop professional skills. Some employers accept education or certifications as a substitute for work experience.
Internships can provide real-world experience for aspiring security administrators. They also offer the opportunity to network and develop relationships, which can lead to job offers after graduation.
Internships may be paid or unpaid. Students usually earn college credit in exchange for their labor at unpaid internships. Internships can last anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the organization and school. They may take place in an office environment or remotely. Interns may sit in on meetings, work on special projects, do research, and give presentations.
Required Certifications for Security Administrators
There are no official certification requirements for security administrators. However, certifications can help you stand out from other job applicants and potentially earn a higher entry-level salary. Certifications can also lead to more career advancement opportunities.
Earning a professional certification can prove that you hold the necessary skills to do the job. Security administrators can use certifications to showcase specialized knowledge in areas like information security management, ethical hacking, and penetration testing.
Aspiring security administrators can consider earning one of the following certifications.
CompTIA Security+ Certification: This entry-level certification shows an understanding of operations and incident response, attacks and vulnerabilities, and risk. Certified Information Security Manager: This certification shows mastery of incident management, information security governance, and program management and development. CISM applicants must pass an exam and complete continuing education to maintain their certification. Certified Ethical Hacker: The CEH credential tests expertise with information security threats, attack prevention, and attack vectors. Certification requires a four-hour exam with 125 questions. Certified Information Systems Security Professional: CISSP certification demonstrates the ability to manage and design cybersecurity programs. Applicants take a test covering topics like asset security, software development security, and security architecture and engineering.
How Do I Become a Security Administrator?
The typical process for becoming a security administrator starts with earning a bachelor's degree in an information technology-related field. Other requirements for security administrators include cybersecurity or IT work experience. Students can often get experience through an internship while still in school.
Earning a professional certification is not required for this career. Still, many employers appreciate certified security administrators. A graduate degree may help security administrators qualify for management positions.
Steps to Becoming a Security Administrator
Earn a Bachelor's Degree. Most employers look for security administrators with a bachelor's degree in a field related to information technology or computer science. These types of programs help build foundational knowledge for careers in tech. Complete an Internship. Many college programs offer opportunities for students to get real-world experience by completing an internship. Get Professional Certifications (optional). A credential is not required to become a security administrator, but employers may prefer certified job applicants. Professional certifications let aspiring security administrators prove their expertise. A certification may help you qualify for better entry-level pay. Gain Professional Experience. Most security administrators start out in other IT jobs, like database administrator or computer analyst. Earn a Master's Degree (optional). Some management roles in security administration require a master's degree in a field like business administration or information sciences. A graduate degree can lead to better advancement opportunities and higher salaries.
Should I Become a Security Administrator?
A career as a security administrator can provide challenging work earning good money. As organizations depend more on computer networks, the demand for skilled security administrators may grow in coming years.
The path to becoming a security administrator can be long and takes hard work. Security administrators usually need at least a bachelor's degree plus IT work experience. Once you land a security administrator job, it can sometimes be stressful and other times repetitive.
After gaining professional experience, security administrators can find advancement opportunities and make higher salaries. Some security administrators become computer network architects, computer and information systems managers, and security directors. Earning a master's degree or completing a cybersecurity certification can increase your chances of advancing to these types of positions.
The Job Hunt
There are many places to look for security administrator jobs. Places to look for openings include job fairs, networking events at annual conferences, and professional organizations. Many people land jobs through their connections, so ask for recommendations and leads from professors, former classmates, supervisors, and mentors.
Online job boards post many tech jobs each day. Search the job boards below for security administrator openings.
Professional Spotlight: Michael Silbernagel
What prompted your journey to become a security administrator?
Working in cybersecurity as a senior security analyst/lead was a natural progression in my career. IT and technology are the fields I have always been passionate about and where my talent lies.
I aim to make a difference by helping people and organizations stay secure and protected in cyberspace.
If you work in a particular industry, what prompted this choice and/or how did it evolve?
One of the exciting aspects of working for a managed service provider is that I can work with clients that span multiple industries and locations. As a result, you learn a lot from them.
What educational path did you take to become a security administrator?
After high school, I pursued a computer science degree. Then, I earned many different certifications, both vendor-neutral and specific. Most recently, I have earned my ITIL4, CISSP, CCSP, and Sophos certified architect.
“I aim to make a difference by helping people and organizations stay secure and protected in cyberspace.”
—Michael Silbernagel, Senior Security Analyst
Did you have to pass any certifications or tests to enter the field or progress in your career?
I have passed numerous tests and certifications to enter the field of cybersecurity. However, the most important and game-changing certifications that helped me enter the field of cybersecurity were the CISSP and CCSP.
What advice do you have for individuals considering work in cybersecurity administration?
It is essential to know that entering the field of cybersecurity is exciting but also very challenging. There is no shortage of things to learn, and trends shift quickly. As cybercriminals get smarter, so must you. So rely on your team, take your time, and always be open to approaching things differently and more effectively.
What do you wish you'd known before pursuing work in cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is a field that consists of many different roles. The one thing I wish I had known first was the difference between the red team (offensive) and blue team (defensive). Learning about these different teams would have clarified what I wanted to do early on and helped me identify the certifications I needed to take.
Michael Silbernagel is the senior security analyst at SysGen, a client-focused IT consulting organization for small and mid-sized businesses. Michael is the cybersecurity consulting and incident response team leader and created SysGen's Enhanced Security Services — a holistic and comprehensive cybersecurity offering focusing on people, technology, policy, and process.
He is a lifelong technology enthusiast, passionate about cybersecurity, cloud computing, IoT, and blockchain, with over 20 years of industry experience in both the public and private sectors.
Michael holds a bachelor of science degree in computer information systems. He is a certified information systems security professional and a certified cloud security professional.
Resources for Future Security Administrators
Questions About Becoming a Security Administrator
How do I start a career in security administration?
The most common way to start a career in security administration is to earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Consider majors like computer science, information technology, and cybersecurity.
Can I learn how to be a security administrator without going to college?
It is possible to learn how to be a security administrator without going to college. You can attend a bootcamp, get IT work experience, and earn professional certifications. However, some employers will only hire security administrators with a bachelor's degree.
What are the minimum requirements for becoming a security administrator?
Education requirements for a security administrator vary by employer and position. Generally, security administrators need at least a bachelor's degree. Some organizations prefer security administrators with a master's.
Do I have to be certified to work as a security administrator?
No, a certification is not required to work as a security administrator. However, earning a professional certification can help highlight your skills and knowledge. Some employers prefer certified applicants.
Darnell Kenebrew is a first-generation graduate from San Francisco State University's class of 2020. He graduated with a bachelor's in computer science, which helped him kick off a career in tech and pursue roles within data and engineering.
Currently, he's a data analytics engineer at Meta and an executive captain for COOP Careers — a nonprofit for overcoming underemployment. Kenebrew strongly believes in giving people a chance and that everyone should have an equal opportunity within the job market. He believes that COOP Careers helps this equality materialize.
Kenebrew is passionate about how the industry is shaped with data and how data can be leveraged in many aspects of business decisions to meet goals. In addition, he's passionate about inclusion, community, education, and using data for good. He hopes that he can pivot business decisions to make a positive, meaningful impact and that his work will positively impact end users, as well as meet business goals.
Darnell Kenebrew is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.
Page last reviewed Aug 11, 2022
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